Bream are a medium sized fish found throughout Europe. They are a shoal fish and relatively easy to catch.
Once you have found a shoal you can catch them with abandon, which is a reason why they are a favourite amongst match anglers!
Common bream (scientific name Abramis brama) are a freshwater fish of the Cyprinidae family.
Many of you will probably be familiar with this family as it includes carp, minnows and barbel.
Other names for the common bream include freshwater bream, bronze bream and carp bream.
It is commonly referred to as simply “bream” by freshwater anglers in the UK, although sea fisherman are more likely to refer to bream as the saltwater variety.
Bream have been introduced to many countries as an angling fish such as Ireland, Spain, Italy (North East), Turkey and Russia.
It is likely that they were also introduced as food when eating freshwater fish was common in that past.
As with many fish of the Cyprinidae family, bream were grown by monks in their stew ponds for food in the Middle Ages.
Larger manor houses with ponds, moats or artificial lakes are likely to have utilised them for bream as an eating fish too.
They are still eaten in parts of Europe. In the UK freshwater bream are considered an angling fish and are returned to the water once caught.
There is a separate species of bream found in the UK which is known as the silver bream (scientific name Blicca bjoerkna).
There are several differences in appearance compared to the bronze bream which can be found in the “appearance” section below.
Small bream are known as “skimmers” as they don’t put up a fight when hooked and simply “skim” along the water to the net.
Their colouration is slightly different to adult bream and they can be confused with silver bream.
The distinction between them can again be found in the “appearance” section below.
Distribution and Habitat
Bream are common across most of Europe, north of the Alps and Pyrenees mountain ranges, below the colder northern areas and as far east as the Aral, Caspian and Black Seas.
They are not naturally located in the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Scotland and the Northern areas of Norway and Finland.
Bream can be found in canals, ponds, lakes and slow-moving rivers.
They prefer muddy waterways which are high in both nutrients and algae. Their shoals will keep away from heavily boated areas.
Bream are known to live in the brackish waters where the freshwater meets the sea in locations such as the Black Sea.
The natural predators of bream include pike, zander and fish-eating birds such as heron.
The skimmers tend to be slower than other silver fish which makes them easier prey.
Bream are noticeable by their flattened sides and high-back body.
They are known as “dustbin lids” for their size which looks almost squashed (similar to saltwater round fish).
Bream have small heads in comparison to the rest of their bodies. Their mouths protract out of their heads slightly.
The fins of bream are either a dark grey or black colour, never red or pink (this is important).
They have a large anal fin and smaller dorsal fins. Their tail fin is large and a nice “V” shape.
Bream are mainly a silvery colour with a blue, dark brown or grey on the back. In clearer water they are a bronze colour which matches one of the names they are given as the “bronze bream”.
It is easy to confuse common bream with silver bream.
Silver bream are silver all over and are generally smaller in size. They have pink or red anal and pectoral fins in contrast to the common bream.
The other way to tell the difference is to count the scales going downwards, as the common bream with have 11 or more scale lines and the silver bream will have 10 or fewer.
This is the main difference between the species.
Common bream are a silvery colour when young as their colour develops as they age.
It is incredibly difficult to identify the difference between a small common bream and a silver bream, however counting the scales should always hold you in good stead.
If that wasn’t complicated enough bream can easily form hybrids with other Cyprinidae and are known to cross with roach.
It can be incredible difficult to identify these fish as they are very similar to pure bream.
The average size of bream depends on where you land them.
In reservoirs they can grow to up to 10lb (approximately 4.5kg) and 4lb in canals (approximately 1.8kg).
In larger areas of water with plenty of food they can even grow up to 19lb, however this is the exception rather than the norm. A fish of 10lb is thought to be a specimen.
Bream are usually found at between 30 to 55cm (12 to 22 inches) long. Some specimens have been caught at 75cm (approximately 30 inches), and exceptionally 90cm long fish have been caught (approximately 33.5 inches).
Again, this is the exception rather than the norm. The lateral line scale count is 51 – 60.
The British record for bream is 22lb 11oz from 2015.
The average lifespan of bream is around 15 years, although they have been known to get as old as 20.
How They Feed
Bream are shoal fish and will live together in large shoals with other bream of a similar size and age.
The shoals become larger during the winter months.
The shoals live close to the bottom of the water. They are bottom feeders and will sift the floor whether is it silt or gravel by using their protruding mouths.
The shoals will move from area to area finding the most resource rich areas before moving on.
Bream can sort through silt in their mouths to find their food and even large bream will eat small edible food.
Bream are omnivorous and they will feed on vegetation, plankton, worms, larvae and bivalves.
More specifically, known foods include mosquito larvae, freshwater shrimp, snails, pea mussels and pondweed.
Amazingly, in faster flowing water where there is less food, and if the shoal is large enough, bream can even resort to filter feeding by using their gill rakers to find edible morsels!
Bream reach maturity between the ages of 3 and 5, however this is dependent on the availability of food and the temperate of the water in which they live.
In comparison to other species the males and females mature at similar ages.
Spawning in bream is determined by the environment.
Spawning begins when the temperature reaches 17 degrees Celsius, which is generally between April to July.
Bream spawn in their shoals and the shoals can grow to very large sizes during spawning.
Bream generally spawn during the night and the female can produce up to 500,000 eggs which attach to vegetation under the water.
The eggs take approximately 7 – 14 days to hatch, depending on the temperature of the water.
Once the juvenile bream has consumed their yolk sac, they will feed mainly on zooplankton in the water.
As they mature, they will start to feed at the bottom and feed on insect larvae and molluscs before moving on to variety of foods.
How To Catch Bream
Bream are not known to be good fighters. They have been termed “slabs” as they do not put up a fight and the only resistance you will find is their body weight – they can grow to quite a size though.
Some of the bream hybrids such as roach and rudd are a real treat on the line and put up much more of a fight relative to their size.
If you are looking for a larger bream then those that live in gravel pits are known to grow extremely large as they tend to live longer.
Bream are extremely common, however shoals will not be present in all locations.
You can identify shoals by noticing a clouding of the water which would suggest that a shoal is rooting through the silt at the bottom.
A shoal may also be identified by rolling or topping around the water where you are fishing.
You generally catch bream at length in the water, however they can be caught near the banking in spring.
In terms of bait, you can really get creative with bream as they are not fussy eaters.
Popular baits include maggots (try to make sure they are wriggling well), pinkies, castors, worms, lobworms, bread and sweetcorn.
Although their mouths seem small, they will actually go for larger bait such as boilies (as many carp anglers know!).
Before casting out a line it is always good to attract a good shoal of fish with groundbait.
Even better would be to pre-bait but we know this is time dependent. Try to mix up a good groundbait – we like to include breadcrumb, sweetcorn and castors with ours.
Once you have left the groundbait for a short time, start with casting your line.
In terms of techniques, if you are going for smaller fish then light float fishing is perfectly adequate, however use slightly sturdier tackle than you would for roach.
Bream are unlikely to take the bait hard so if you see your float bobbing then chances are that one may be on the line!
A 4lb main line and 2.5lb hook length should be perfect.
Your hook size depends on the fix you expect to catch, but sizes 14 to 18 should be ideal.
Keep casting over your groundbait for good results. A hook length of 18 – 24 inches is recommended here.
If you are going after larger bream (as we like to on occasion) then the feeder is probably the most preferred and, in our view, the best method.
Use an open-ended feeder which you can fill with some of your groundbait mix and some of your hookbait.
Once you have caught a bream, try to stop the using groundbait as the fish will be spooked if it falls on top of them whilst eating.
Try to bring the bream in relatively quickly once caught as, again, the shoal could get spooked to see one of their friends being dragged out of the water!
Although bream are not particularly good fighters, they are beautiful fish as their fins contrast so stunningly with their bodies.
The larger specimens are lovely fish and they are perfect if you fancy an easier day to relax and take in the scenery.
Alternatively, if you get a shoal feeding then you can pull them out one after the other, so they really do offer a lot depending on your mood for the day.
Whichever method you prefer, happy fishing!
Bream are not particularly delicate, but like all fish they should be handled with care to ensure that their fins, skin and scales are undamaged.
A good fish unhooking mat for larger fish is a must to make sure that they are protected. Use a good landing net to bring the fish in, if you wish to handle the fish you could use the wet netting to protect the fish as they are protected with thick slime and this will give you a firmer grip.
Remember, a bream can swallow their food whole, it is recommended to have a disgorger on hand in the event that they are hooked in their gullet.
If you would like more information on how to fish for bream, or would like some further information on angling techniques, check out our fishing tips page for more information!