Get off the beaten path and use these expert tips to fill your ice chest with chunky North Louisiana bream.
Everything a bream fisherman would need was within easy reach of Dr. Ray Jones in the front of his fishing boat. As he eased his boat though the waters of Black Bayou Lake in Monroe, that became apparent rather quickly.
He reached for the redneck bait keeper, grabbed a wiggling red worm for his trusty No. 6 hook and lowered the bait down by a clump of tupelo gum trees with his Uncle Buck’s fiberglass pole.
In two minutes, four spunky dark bluegill bream were in the cooler.
Next thing you know, he was scrambling for yet another pole, this one armed with a cricket and he was fishing the outside edge of a ceratophyllum demersum bed.
Just as before, another bream was tossed into the cooler.
Like a crafty football coach, you could see in Jones’ eyes that he was already thinking about his next move, not totally content with the success of the last play against Team Bream.
It turned out to be a mini-cast with a small bream-sized black spinner on the end of the rod. It, too, produced.
On the surface, it seemed apparent that this retired college botany professor loves bream fishing. But his long-time friends know it is much more than that.
“Jones,” they say to him. “you don’t love bream fishing. You just love the process.”
You don’t have to be a college professor to figure this one out. They are absolutely correct.
Meet Dr. Bream.
Ray doesn’t conform to “normal.” He goes off the beaten path and fishes like he was leading the first expedition of bream fishermen into the new world. That approach leads to some pretty interesting fishing finds.
“I do love bream fishing,” Ray said. “But they are right: I do love the whole process. There are just so many places to fish and so many ways to fish; I like to enjoy them all.”
Although he has traveled all over the country and fished for bream in lots of places, he is most at home chasing North Louisiana bream — from chinquapins to bluegills — on river lakes, reservoirs, brakes and bayous.
He could have forgotten more than most bream fishermen have learned, but it doesn’t seem he’s forgotten any of it. And he’s glad to share what he knows.
“I like to help teach people how to catch bream, and then I like to see them go out on their own, get some equipment and become good fishermen themselves,” Jones said, patiently waiting for his partner to raise the ice chest lid once again. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
One of the best ways to learn to bream fish, or to reap the rewards of knowing how, is to try lakes Jones likes for summer bream fishing. Two of his top local favorites are Black Bayou Lake in Monroe and Cheniere Lake in West Monroe.
Both these lakes are basically shallow, have plenty of structure and aren’t overcrowded.
And they are hot summer bream spots.
Jones said the key to boxing numbers of fish is understanding what bream are doing.
“Bream spawn pretty much most of the year during the warm months in Louisiana, usually on or around the full moon,” Jones said, “so when you catch one, work that zone well and you may catch 10 or 20 in one spot.
“If they aren’t on the beds, then move along through the area and you’ll pick up fish in certain places. Go back to those places and keep working the producing area. Bream are likely to be in the same spots every time you go to one of these lakes.
The good thing about Black Bayou and Cheniere is that there is no lack of cover on either water body. Brushy banks, lily pads, hundreds of cypress and tupelo gum trees and stumps, and open water grass beds are easy to find. Oh yes, that ceratophyllum demersum we mentioned earlier? That’s coontail moss.
For the record, Dr. Jones never says “grass” or “moss” like most fishermen, but most fishermen haven’t spent a lifetime learning scientific names, either.
Cheniere Lake pretty much looks the same everywhere.
Find clusters of tupelo gum trees that form good shade. That inhibits the growth of submerged aquatic plants and makes room for the fish. They’ll take advantage of that.
At Black Bayou, the trees are good for fishing, but so are the button willows and open areas around the bank.
Fish won’t spawn up in the button willows, but they frequently bed a few yards out from those bushes.
There are also lines of cattail plants along some of the banks, and those are good for fishing, too.
Bream usually relate to the bottom, or pretty close to it, so fish accordingly.
That brings to bear another popular Jones summer technique: Getting close to the bottom isn’t easy with a cork, so he uses a drop-shot rig for bream much as bass fishermen use for largemouth.
His rig has a hook about 10 to 12 inches up the line, and at the end of his line is a sinker. The sinker sits on the bottom, and the bait is in the bream zone no matter how deep the water.
Much of the time, you can find fish in the open water around grass or pads, but for the most part the little clumps of trees seem the best in the hot summer months. With so many trees to choose from in these lakes, and others like them, Jones said look for six to seven in a bunch surrounded by a bit of open water.
“I think it’s a combination of the cover and the shade,” Jones explained. “And of course, there’s always an available food source there.”
One of the best things about these two lakes is that all the trees offer protection from the wind. Unless there’s a hurricane somewhere close by, you can always find a place to fish.
And North Louisiana has dozens of other spots like these two lakes.
Finch Lake near Marion located off the Ouachita River and Lake St. John near Newellton offer excellent summer bream fishing.
Corney Lake near Spearsville is on Dr. Jones’ list of summer spots to try, and even Bayou DeSiard where he grew up is a prime summer bream hotspot.
If you want to get away from the crowd, enjoy some good fishing and bring home some good eating for the table, don’t hesitate to go off the beaten path for summertime bream.
Follow some of Dr. Bream’s suggestions and you’ll have a trip you’ll be glad you took.