This bream, officially known as the redear sunfish, is named for the red-margined flap extending rearward from its gill cover.
It’s the darling of bream fishermen.
It grows to 10 inches, large for a bream, and its thick body is easier to fillet than a bluegill’s, and it yields more meat.
Like bluegills, they form dense spawning beds, which the males aggressively guard against intruders, including baited hooks.
What probably adds to their esteem among fishermen is the challenge of their short spawning season. Unlike bluegills, readears spawn once a year. April is the peak month, and spawning is over in May.
After spawning, they disperse widely throughout their habitat, although a few can always be caught while fishing for bluegills. Redears are most common in sluggish waters such as lakes and the backwaters of streams. Good populations of redears also occur in some brackish marshes.
Wherever they occur, redears seem to strongly favor weedy environments, probably because that is where they find their favorite foods. They are known in some places as “shellcrackers” because their favorite food is small snails. The gill arches deep in their throats have evolved heavy bones just for the purpose of crushing snail shells.
In spite of this adaptation, redears do perfectly fine in habitats with few snails. Aquatic insect larvae and aquatic worms are heavily consumed, but probably the all-time best bait for redears is grass shrimp or small river shrimp. Crickets also work, but earthworms are better.
Least effective are artificial lures, especially minnow imitations, which are seldom taken by the fish. Surface popping bugs are also a poor choice for fishermen targeting the species, as redears seldom feed at the water’s surface.
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