The term “bream” is familiar to any Arkansan who has fished and also to others who have partaken of the small, tasty fish at the dinner table.
But the term bream is a label, a catch-all word. There isn’t a fish living in Arkansas that carries the official name of bream. Still, the species covers several varieties that collectively comprise the largest number of gamefish in the state.
Bluegill, red-ear, green sunfish, flier, long-ear, pumpkinseed – these are all bream. Many fishermen include “goggle-eye” in the bream family, although goggle-eye is another vague name that includes warmouth, Ozark bass and shadow bass.
Bream of all the Arkansas species are members of the sunfish category which also includes crappie and black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted).
“Perch” is an old and often used term for bream, but it is inaccurate, as the perch family is separate from sunfish. Walleye and sauger are perch.
What is the most numerous of the bream species in Arkansas? It is debatable. Bluegill are seemingly everywhere, found in all 75 counties. Colorful, the males especially, and hard fighting, they may be rivaled in numbers by the green sunfish, a variety that is not as striking in appearance but which is also found in most of the state and in some unlikely places.
Green sunfish many times are called ricefield slicks or just slicks. Yes, they are sometimes found in flooded rice fields and often live in the ditches and other waterways surrounding or adjoining the rice growing lands.
The red-ear sunfish is extremely popular with Arkansas anglers who go after bream, and the red-ear may hold the record for different nicknames – shellcracker, chinquapin, stumpknocker, yellow bream, government improved bream, G.I. bream, strawberry bream, Texas improved bream, Georgia bream, cherry gill, sunny, sun perch, rouge ear and tupelo bream.
Pumpkinseed, long-ear and flier are all smaller on the average than bluegill, red-ear and green versions of sunfish. Bug they have the same fighting ability when hooked and tastiness when prepared for the table.
Pumpkinseeds are among the most colorful bream and are somewhat similar in appearance to bluegill and are often found in the same habitats. One difference is their opercular flaps. The flap is black in both species, but the pumpkinseed has a crimson spot in the shape of a halfmoon on the back portion of its opercular flap.
Arkansas records for the various bream species:
- Bluegill, 3 pounds, 4 ounces.
- Red-ear, 2 pounds, 14 ounces.
- Green sunfish, 1 pound, 11 ounces.
- Long-ear, 1 pound, 2 ounce.
- Flier, 14 ounces.
- No pumpkinseed has been submitted and certified for a state record.
photo: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission