Leggett: It’s a bream, not a perch

May 27, 2017
Mike Leggett
This is a crappie. It could be called a white perch (mostly in East Texas), and it’s a sunfish like bream, but it’s no perch. Bream aren’t perch either. MIKE LEGGETT PHOTO

I’ve spent more than 30 years writing about hunting and fishing in Austin, and there’s something that’s bugged me throughout that time.

It’s a little thing, I know, but the truth is, I hate it when folks use the “P” word in reference to bream.

I got a lotta problems with you people!!

In East Texas, where I grew up (and we all know how correctly they use the English language over there), the only perch were white perch, that fish people around here call crappie. That’s still hard for me to say.

Bream were the other small fish that weren’t bass. Bluegills and redears were bream, and the prime time for fishing for them was right around Memorial Day. I’d get out of school and dig a bunch of nightcrawlers, and my granddad and I would head out to 3H lake to catch a bunch of them for the family to eat.

And I can hear people saying, “What’s the big deal?” A perch is a perch. But perch, to my ear, is a kind of demeaning word for a bream. A perch is not worth eating, but a bream, scaled and scored and fried whole, is the best fish that swims in Texas.

A perch might be trotline bait but wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

Of course, they’re all sunfish: redears, bluegills, crappie, longears and chinquapins; even the mighty largemouth bass is a sunfish. Just a perch.

And it’s spelled B-R-E-A-M, pronounced like B-R-I-M, but never spelled that way.

Redears are sometimes called shellcrackers, because there are times when they’re feeding on small mussels and snails in shallow water that you can hear them cracking the shells of those creatures.

Here in the Hill Country, we are blessed with an abundance of species of these colorful and great-tasting fish. The rivers are full of them, and they are easy pickings for an angler with a fly rod and a girdle bug tied on.

A hand-sized bluegill on a fly rod is a worthy opponent, and he’s always willing to bite. Take a canoe or kayak down the Guadalupe, and you’ll land 50 or more of them in a single day.

Never once will you be tempted to say, “Aw, it’s just a perch.”