The Bronze Bream

This is possibly one of South Africa’s best loved recreational fish. 

Identification

  • The bronze bream is easily identified as a round plump fish
  • The colours range from a deep bronze colour to a pale brown depending on size and habitat. 
  • In the colder waters of the Eastern Cape they tend to have an almost blueish sheen. 
  • It is also noticeable that fish caught off the beach are far lighter than those caught in deeper water.
  • The bronzy ranges in size from 20cm to 58cm but grows to over 70cm equivalent to 6.5kg. 
  • A good specimen would be anything over 2kg.

About

Bronze bream or pachymetopan grande, its scientific name, is possibly one of South Africa’s best loved recreational fish. It is distributed from Mozambique in the north all the way down the eastern seaboard to George in the south. As with the size of its distribution area so does the bronze bream go by numerous localised names… ie copper bream in Transkei, blue fish in border area, Jan bruin/j.b in the PE area and even hottentot further south. All these names seem to mystify this simple fish and create much misidentification and confusion, none of this detracts from the fact that by whatever name or wherever this fish is caught it has provided countless anglers with hours of good sport and for those who fish for the pan, an unforgettable meal, as the firm white flesh has been liken to that of crayfish.

Where to Find

Bronze bream are found around rocky outcrops, in gully’s along the edge of ledges and off beaches with broken rock in the water. They feed primarily on the red and green seaweeds found growing on reef in shallow water. 

Best angling times

Bronze bream are found throughout the year but are most prolific and of best size in late winter, early spring. This is apparently coincides with their breeding season. My favourite conditions for bronze bream is the first day of south west on a pushing tide, the fish tend to feed most vigorously during the initial push of the tide. The fish will also feed in most temperature ranges but seem to be susceptible to a sudden temperature change in either direction. 

Recommended water – structure

When hunting Bronze Bream water reading is of utmost importance, good signs to look out for:

  • Broken white water
  • Blue/Green water and foam mixing
  • Any sign of green/red seaweed that comprises bronzy’s main diet
  • Very little or better no sand as they tend to stay clear of the sand
  • Deep holes between the broken reefs on beaches. 

When fishing off a deep point or in a gulley, do not throw too far as the fish tend to stay close to the rocks. When fishing off the beach into broken reef a long throw could be employed. Because bronze bream are a shoaling fish, never fish one area too long, move and find the shoal as soon as the bite slows down. If practising catch and release move away from your location down the beach as releasing the fish close to where you are hooking them may spook the shoal, causing them to move off.

Recommended bait

Because of its vegetarian eating habits the bronze bream can often be inexplicably ‘off the bite’. But when they are ‘grazing’, well presented bait thrown into the right water will generally produce ample action. My no 1 bait for bronzes would without doubt be pink or red prawns, usually readily available at most tackle dealers and really does produce bites. Other baits that work well in order of my preference are:

  • Chokka and prawn combo bait (sausage style)
  • Crayfish-good in warm, clean water
  • Cracker shrimp, use 3 or 4 on a hook
  • Chokka blob bait works very well in the colder water

Recommended tackle

When fishing off points or in gulley’s I fish a light 10 to 11 foot rod matched with a suitably sized grinder loaded with 20lb braid which is perfect for bronze bream fishing as it is very direct, feeling every twitch on the bait. On the beaches if I need a longer throw I use a 12 to 13 foot rod, matched with a suitably sized grinder loaded with 30lb braid just in case you encounter a brusher or mussel cracker. 

The fight

The bite of a bronze bream is very characteristic although some fish will pull you flat, most bream will bump the bait and just come straight in towards you giving heaps of slack line. This is the time to wind and hit. This is where a reel with a fast retrieve ratio gives you the edge and will definitely increase your success rate. One thing you cannot afford to do is sleep/lose touch while bronzy fishing. 

Recommended traces

Because of the timid nature of the bronze bream it is important to fish as light and invisible as possible. I prefer using a 20lb fluorocarbon hook line +/-25cm, with an anti-tangle sleeve and bright orange 10mm float secured above the bait (see trace provided). Hooks need to be extremely strong and small. I like a no 4 hook in the Mustard chinu range. My sinker line would be lighter than my hook snoot and +/- 40cm long with a knot in it, so that if your sinker gets stuck in the rocks your sinker line will break and you will get the fish out. One can also use a double hook trace which is good for fishing deeper water. Sinker size will depend on your rod and the current etc. normally fish a 3oz. bottle sinker on calm days or a 4oz. nylon grapnel sinker when it’s washing. 

Conclusion

In conclusion here are a few tips to help make your next bronze bream trip a much more enjoyable one and hopefully those who were mystified by this fish will give it a bash. 

  • When securing your bait use as little cotton as possible. Thin latex cotton is the best bet.
  • Fish as light as the conditions will allow.
  • When you get a bump and sudden slack line… wind and strike.
  • Make sure that your hook sticks out proud in the bait. 
  • Keep in constant contact with your bait.

Angling Restrictions

Being such a good eating fish, this fish is definitely vulnerable to over fishing however if we stick to size limits and restrictions, this amazing fish will remain one of the most popular and sought after reef fish for years to come, size limits are 300mm and bag limit is 2 per person per day.

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