THE BRONZE BREAM

This month we showcase one of the east coast’s most popular catch cook
shore species, the bronze bream. This wily adversary can be difficult to catch but
its firm white flesh is tasty and worth all the effort

The bronze bream is an iconic, endemic fish with scientific name Pachymetropon Grande. It belongs to the sparidae family and is also known as copper bream [KZN], pens-en-derms [Southern Cape], bruin hottentot and bluefish [Eastern Cape]. The legal size is 30 cm total length and the bag limit is 2 pdpp and this is not a commercial species.

The range of this species is from Mozambique all the way down to Struisbaai in the Western Cape, it is abundant between Stanger and Jeffreys Bay. Bronze bream are found from the shallows to a depth of about 25m – they favour rocky shores and reef areas.

TARGETING

The bronzy is an omnivorous feeder – grazing on algae; weed; small crustaceans and invertebrates found in an around the fodder. This makes the bronzy difficult to target as it can be a very fussy feeder and dictates the use of very specific baits in different areas.

They can be caught all year round but are most abundant in winter through spring. Unfortunately, as with most species, this also coincides with the breeding cycle so restraint is required to make sure we don’t contribute to localised overfishing.

There are a number of theories on the best tide to fish for bream. This will sometimes change from spot to spot but as a generalisation I prefer a pushing tide. The fish tend to come onto the reefs and actively feed as the tide pushes. I also prefer the spring tides and a bit of a bigger sea.

HABITAT

This fish loves reef and rocky shores – gullies and intertidal rock pool are home to many a bream.

In KZN we always look out for reefs with patches of green weed – it is said that if you look at low tide and the bream have been around you can see how they have “mowed” the weed. My favourite water to target these fish is off a beach with broken and scattered reef that breaks up the swell, creating mixing blue and white water or a deep gully with working foaming water at the mouth.

In KZN the bream tend to stay clear of working sand but the further south you go the less this seems to matter – possibly because the sand is finer further south.

BAIT

Bait is all important to this fussy feeder – good old pink or red prawns work well when the fish are actively feeding but in clean, calm conditions when they are shy one may have to resort to more exotic baits, such as cracker shrimp [sand prawn] or crayfish.

In the colder waters of the Eastern Cape – these fish tend to love a chokka blob bait – beating your prawn shells into the blob bait really improves the effectiveness of this bait.

TACKLE

Medium to light tackle is best to target the bream – depending on how far you need to throw or the structure you are fishing. Traces are all important and diameter of hook snoods, length and size of swivels and hooks will all play a role in success.

As a rule of thumb – the calmer conditions, the lighter the hook. Snoods need to be between 0.35mm & 0.50mm. I use perlon fluorocarbon as it is bit harder and the bigger bream have the ability to bite through normal mono.

Hook sizes will also vary – in KZN we tend to use a smaller hook, between no 2 & 1/0, whereas further south they will go with 1/0 – 2/0. My hook of choice for this fish is the Mustad Chinu. I like to keep my hook snood about half the length of my sinker line – in deep water I will use a longer trace, in shallower working water I will go shorter.

An innovation that really increases success is the use of a foam float above your bait – these come in numerous shapes and sizes. I have been testing the ones from Inova – they are excellent. You can tie the trace using no swivels or, if you are casting far, you may have to use a tiny power swivel – the bigger the swivel the better chance you have of scaring off the fish. I find that using an anti-tangle sleeve on my hook snood stops twist ups and lets the bait stand out nicely.

With regards to sinkers, I try and fish as light as my tackle and the conditions will allow. Free movement of the bait is what you are after. If the sea is running and you need to stay in the zone, you can use a weed eater sinker.

Fishing tip... Use a rubber stopper on your hook snood to stop the float from travelling up to swivel

THE BITE

These fish can be notoriously difficult to hook. You will often see an angler running backwards, striking as he goes. This is normally a bream. For the most part, when it picks you up it will bump then run towards you. You need to take up the slack and set the hook – this is one of the reasons I still use j hooks for targeting these fish.

COOKING...

On the braai, steamed, grilled or my best – fried in nuggets, bronze bream is a tasty firm-fleshed fish.

conservation

This species is an important recreational target and the need to make sure we conserve the resource is paramount. Although there is a buffer zone between the shore anglers and ski boat anglers the bronze bream is extremely slow growing and is susceptible to localised overfishing.

We tend to use slot limits for these fish – between 38-42cm we keep. Anything under 38cm has very little flesh and over 42cm are breeding stock fish. We also limit our catch… one bream will easily feed your family, so we eat what we can fresh and return the rest to procreate.

According to the South African Marine Line Fish Species Profiles there is high need for research on the Bronze Bream

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