It could be said that these wonderful little fish migrate north from the Bay of Biscay and the temperate coastal waters of Spain and Portugal for something of a summer holiday - lasting from April through to the back end of October, sometimes even later if the Autumn weather remains warm.
First indications that the bream have arrived is often over the reef and deep water rock marks off the far west coast of Cornwall. Then within a few days they will be found way up-channel on the shallow reefs of Dorset, Isle of Weight, Hampshire and Sussex.
Ports such as Littlehampton and Weymouth have charter boats which specialise in bream fishing, their skippers expert at finding black bream along the reefs and mussel beds that are so much a feature of this coastline. Once upon a time it was considered OK to come ashore with a plastic sack full of Bream. Nowadays most anglers have a more enlightened attitude, just taking what they need to eat and returning the rest, especially the smaller fish.
Bream seem to feed better on the smaller tides when the flow of the current is not so strong. A 12lb class outfit will be more than adequate to handle the weight of sinker required, especially if superbraid line is used. The speed and vigour of these fierce little fighters will test your knots and your fish playing ability to the full on such tackle, add this fierce fighting ability to an exquisite taste when cooked and it is not difficult to see why bream attract such a devoted following of dedicated Sea Anglers.
Bream are not big fish but they do inhabit areas where it is likely that you could easily pick up a cod, pollack or even a ling of a serious size, so the tackle which you choose to use should be on the light side of sporting, but capable of dealing with a double figure pollack or cod.
A 12 lb. class outfit such as the Daiwa Powerlift or Shimano 12/20 Ultegra or the super little Steve Starling Calcutta 15/25 rod. Match these rods with reels about the size of the Daiwa SL175H or the Shimano Calcutta 400, loaded with 12lb monofilament or superbraid, will do the job superbly well, as well as being an outfit which can be used for Bass, general reef fishing and light wrecking.
My personal preference is to fish a single hook on short flowing trace about four to five feet long. Use just enough weight in the sinker to be able to tap the bottom and then be able to "walk" the sinker down the tide till you find the fish. Use a fine wire boom that will offer the least amount of water resistance to five feet of 10lb breaking strain monofilament, or better still, fluorocarbon trace line.
I have found the Mustad 70921 hook in sizes between #1 and 2/0 to be an excellent and reliable hook for this sort of fishing, but check its sharpness every now and again, because the Bream is well known for its ability to shred a bait and spit the hook out in a fraction of a second. If you find that your trace line is coming up badly twisted, this is because your bait is not presented as well as it could be. Try and present the bait so that it flutters in the tide rather than spinning, maybe also incorporate a small swivel a foot or two up the trace from the hook. The traditional "easy fishing" method for Bream is to use a set of feathers baited with small strips of mackerel, squid or even worm and bumped along the bottom as the boat drifted along. This method is still as effective as it ever was.
But! We have come to realise that fish like bream are not a resource that can be endlessly abused for the sake of a macho vanity. Take a few fish for the table by all means, this is after all, a significant part of the reason why we go fishing, but return any fish that are not needed and are not damaged by deep hooking or excessive "manhandling". Shake the fish free over the side of the boat by using a disgorger if you can, every moment a fish spends out of the water every time it is handled will lessen its chances of survival when returned to the sea.
Bream bagging baits!
Some of the largest bream I have ever seen caught have been taken on huge baits meant for Conger and Ling on 8/0 and 10/0 hooks over deepwater wrecks, these big bream have always been solitary fish, rarely have I seen more than one or two of these large wreck bream caught during a days fishing. It is much more likely that bream will be found over an outcrop of rock leading on to sand, maybe some mussel or worm beds will be in the vicinity to hold the shoal of fish in that area. Best baits are mackerel and squid strips cut about three to four inches long by about half an inch wide - or maybe king ragworm or lug. Often a cocktail bait of mackerel strip and king rag worm will prove irresistible to these ever hungry fish. Cut the squid or mackerel so that it is tapered to a point at one end. Pass the hook just once through the pointed not the thick end, if you pass the hook through the thick end, the bait will inevitably spin as it sinks into the depths.
If you are going to add worm to give some smell to the bait, thread the worm on first then the squid or mackerel strip, so that the point of the hook is not masked by the quantity of the bait.
Although I am a firm believer in the maxim that "big baits catch bigger Fish", the bream can often prove the exception to this rule. It is a fact that sometimes a big bait will be rejected in favour of quite a small bait nicely presented on a smaller hook.
I can remember what seems like just a few short years ago when the sun would set like an orange red fireball behind Dodman Point, turning the oily slick sea into rivers of red, gold and purple. Those were magical hours over reefs such as the Hands Deeps and Phillips Rocks, when the red bream would come right up, virtually to the boat if we fed a steady stream of chopped mackerel down the tide.
Light rods and the smallest of sinkers would take a worm or small mackerel strip down to 20 feet, just about out of sight, when it seemed within seconds, the rod tip would rattle with a bite from a red bream which could weigh just a few ounces or maybe three or four pounds.
Maybe, hopefully, we might see those halcyon days again.