Shellcracker Fishing

Catching Shellcracker Bream Is Fun

The redear sunfish, otherwise known as a shellcracker
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

I went fishing for shellcracker at Clarks' Hill the week after Easter last year. Although we caught only a few fish on that trip since it was too early, it did bring back memories of how much fun bream fishing can be.

We would anchor the boat, put a gob of red wigglers on the hook and cast out about six different outfits, put them in rod holders and then sit back and watch for the line to twitch. It was very relaxing and fun. We did catch shellcracker, bluegill, white perch, and catfish. It was a great way to spend a day.

Using live worms for bait also brought back many memories of getting bait for fishing trips. Growing up, I always dug my own worms. Since I lived on a chicken farm, there was lots of fertilizer and worms everywhere. The best spot was where the water troughs drained outside the chicken house. The ground was permanently wet and the red wigglers were thick. It didn't take long to fill up a can for a trip to a local farm pond.

We also caught grasshoppers for bait although they never did work too well. And the black wild crickets we were able to catch didn't seem to be as effective as the bought brown crickets others sometimes used.

One bait still makes me laugh when I remember it. My mom raised "meal worms" in a container. She would put corn meal in a big can, moisten it and wait until flies laid eggs in it. She then put a cover over the can and waited for the worms to get big enough to use for bait. The cover was to keep the flies inside since the worms eventually changed into them.

Those "meal worms" were nothing but maggots. The meal they lived in kept them from smelling so bad, and I can't imagine my mother admitting they were maggots. They were great bait though.

I often tried to catch my own minnows but nothing was as good for crappie as the bought shiners. Small bream we caught were good bait for catfish and we used them on trot lines and bank hooks. Linda and I would seine the banks just after dark and catch all the small bream we could use in a few minutes. Seining was an experience like no other.

I saw my first cast net in the early 1980's while fishing on the coast. I bought one and used it there to catch "pogies," a saltwater baitfish that looks like a shad. When it became legal in Georgia to use a cast net in fresh water, I caught my own shad for bait. That is a very common practice now but it was illegal until the mid-1980's.

I always thought crawfish would be great bass bait and I sometimes caught them in the branch near the house and carried them to the lake. The first problem with a crawfish is how to hook it. I read you should hook them through the tail but that seemed to kill them when I tried. They were also a problem when they stayed alive because they grabbed anything they could and would get torn off the hook. I didn't ever catch anything using them. I guess I should have eaten the crawfish!

Salamanders or spring lizards were a bait I read about but could not find to use. For some reason, I never found any in the branch I spent hours in during the summer. I don't know why they didn't live there. I found everything else in that branch except leeches, something else that made good bait but another one I somehow avoided. The only leech I remember seeing while I was growing up was on a turtle I caught on a trot line at Clarks' Hill. I pulled it off the turtle and put it on the hook.

One last bait I used without much success was mussels. They were very plentiful at Clarks' Hill and I tried several times to crush them and use them on trot lines. They would not stay on the hook.

I even tried eating them myself once. They looked a lot like the oysters and clams we got from the coast, so I steamed a couple open and popped one in my mouth. It was just about as good as dipping up a handful of lake bottom mud and eating it. So much for eating the bait! I think I will stick with artificials.

What baits do you like for bream? What are your experiences? Tell us about them on the forum. Do you have some fishing stories related to bream fishing? Share them with us.