Red Belly Bream: Weirdest Fishing Contests in Florida You’ve Never Heard!

Deep in the heart of Florida, an unusual event captures the attention of locals and visitors alike – the Red Belly Bream fishing contest. This unique competition is not just about the thrill of the catch; it’s an integral part of Florida’s distinctive lifestyle. It adds a quirky twist to the traditional pastime of fishing, setting the state apart from others.

The contest centers around the Red Belly Bream, a vibrant fish that’s as much a part of Florida as the sun-kissed beaches and the Everglades. The competition is a celebration of this local species, bringing together communities in a spirit of friendly rivalry and shared appreciation for nature’s bounty.

In the coming sections, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of these contests, exploring everything from the peculiarities of the Red Belly Bream to the techniques used to catch them. So, buckle up as we embark on this exciting journey, revealing a side of Florida you’ve probably never seen before!

What Is the Red Belly Bream Fishing Contest? 

The Red Belly Bream Fishing Contest is a distinctive event that takes place in Florida, particularly celebrated during Red Belly Day organized by the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce. This event is not just a typical fishing contest; it’s a blend of community gatherings, friendly competition, and a celebration of Florida’s natural beauty. (Dixie County Chamber of Commerce)

The contest revolves around the Red Belly Bream, also known as the redbreast sunfish. According to Bass Online, this species is found throughout the freshwater canals, lakes, rivers, and ponds in the U.S., and is renowned for being a great eating and hard-fighting fish. The bright red belly of this sunfish is what gives it its name and makes it a favorite among anglers.

The competition involves participants trying to catch the biggest and heaviest Red Belly Bream. But it’s not just about the size; it’s also about the experience. Participants get to enjoy the lush environment of Fanning Springs Park, making it a truly immersive experience. The contest has categories for adults, kids, and seniors, making it a fun-filled event for all ages.

In essence, the Red Belly Bream Fishing Contest is more than just a fishing competition. It’s a testament to Florida’s rich biodiversity, a celebration of its unique species, and a chance for the community to come together and appreciate their shared heritage.

What Makes Red Belly Bream Unique? 

The Red Belly Bream, officially known as the redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus), is a unique species of freshwater fish. Its distinct characteristics and preferred habitats make it a fascinating subject for anglers and nature enthusiasts alike. According to Bass Fishing Florida, this fish is also known by several other names, including redbelly, robin, yellowbelly sunfish, river bream, longear sunfish, and sun perch.

Now, let’s delve into some of the distinguishing features that make the Red Belly Bream stand out:


The Red Belly Bream is one of the most vibrantly colored members of the sunfish family. Its body color ranges from green to yellow-brown with reddish spots scattered across its sides, giving it an almost mosaic-like appearance. 

But what truly sets it apart is its belly, which is a striking shade of reddish-orange, a feature that not only gives this species its common name but also makes it easily identifiable in the water. This vivid coloration, as detailed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, is particularly pronounced in males during the breeding season.

Habitat Preference

Unlike many other sunfish species that prefer calm, still waters, the Red Belly Bream has a penchant for flowing water environments. Rivers and creeks are their typical habitats, especially areas with rocky or sandy bottoms where they can find food and shelter. 

However, they’re also adaptable creatures and can be found in backwater areas with less flow, such as ponds and lakes. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, this adaptability allows them to thrive in a variety of freshwater habitats.

Nocturnal Activity

Another unique trait of the Red Belly Bream is its nocturnal activity. While many sunfish species are primarily active during the day, the Red Belly Bream is known to consistently bite after dark. This behavior, as reported by Bass Online, adds an extra layer of challenge and excitement for anglers, making night-time fishing trips potentially rewarding experiences.

The Red Belly Bream’s unique features and behaviors make it a noteworthy species within the sunfish family. Its vibrant coloration, preference for flowing waters, and nocturnal activity truly distinguish it from its sunfish cousins.

How Do You Catch a Red Belly Bream? 

Catching a Red Belly Bream, or redbreast sunfish, can be an exciting experience for both novice and seasoned anglers. Known for their fighting spirit and the challenge they pose, these fish are prized catches. 

The key to successfully catching them lies in understanding their behavior, choosing the right bait, and using effective fishing techniques. Based on information from multiple trusted sources, here are some tips and techniques that can enhance your Red Belly Bream fishing experience:

  • Choosing the Right Bait: Crickets and earthworms are considered the best natural baits for Red Belly Bream according to All Fishing Buy. These baits mimic the insects and larvae that form a significant part of the bream’s diet.
  • Using Artificial Lures: If you prefer using artificial lures, the Red Belly Bream will bite on spinners and topwater plugs. They are also known to bite on flies and small lures, as noted by Bass Fishing Florida.
  • Fishing in the Right Habitat: Red Belly Bream prefers slack water environments and tends to feed primarily at the bottom. So, it’s essential to focus your efforts in these areas and adjust your bait depth accordingly.
  • Staying Quiet: As suggested by Arkansas Online, being quiet is crucial. Red Belly Bream can be sensitive to noise and disturbances, so keeping movements and noise to a minimum can increase your chances of a successful catch.
  • Fishing Equipment: The type of rig you use can also influence your success. As per Bad Angling, a sliding float rig, a boat leger rig, or a two-hook paternoster rig can be effective when fishing for Red Belly Bream.

By following these tips and techniques, you can enhance your chances of successfully catching a Red Belly Bream and enjoy a rewarding fishing experience.

Where Are the Red Belly Bream Contests Held? 

Florida, known for its abundant freshwater bodies and a wide variety of fish species, is a hotspot for fishing contests. Among these, the Red Belly Bream contests are particularly popular, drawing in enthusiastic anglers from all over. These contests are held in several locations across Florida, including Sandy Point and Sea Hag Marina. 

Here’s a closer look at these specific locations and what they offer:

  • Tenoroc: Located just south of Interstate 4 on Highway 659 (Combee Road), Tenoroc is a well-known fishing spot where Red Belly Bream contests are held. According to MyFWC, this location offers an excellent chance for anglers to reel in a sizeable catch.
  • Fanning Springs Park: The park hosts the annual “Red Belly Day,” which includes a two-day Red Belly Fishing Contest. As stated on Basingstoke Farms, admission into the contest also allows access to the beautiful Fanning Springs Park.
  • Blackwater and Yellow Rivers: Another popular location for Red Belly Bream is the Blackwater and Yellow Rivers in northwestern Florida. According to Bass Fishing Florida, the species has been introduced here, making it a common catch.
  • O’Leno State Park: Situated on the Santa Fe River in High Springs, Florida, the park provides opportunities for fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking, and equestrian activities. Red Belly Bream fishing is a highlight here as per Hunt Fish Travel.

Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner looking to reel in your first catch, these locations offer some of the best opportunities for Red Belly Bream fishing in Florida. Happy Fishing!

What Other Fish Are Caught During These Contests? 

Fishing contests aren’t just about the Red Belly Bream. They also provide a platform for catching and showcasing other panfish species that are equally exciting to reel in. The diverse aquatic habitats of Florida teem with a variety of panfish, including bluegills and redear sunfish. Let’s explore more about these species:

  • Bluegills: Known for their vibrant colors and fighting spirit, bluegills are a favorite catch among anglers participating in these contests. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, bluegills are abundant in Florida’s lakes and rivers, making them a common catch during fishing contests.
  • Redear Sunfish: Another popular catch during these contests is the redear sunfish. Also known as shellcracker, the redear sunfish is a larger cousin of the bluegill and is particularly prized for its size and taste. As per Take Me Fishing, redear sunfish are often found in slower-moving waters where they feed on snails and small invertebrates.
  • Largemouth Bass: While not a panfish, the largemouth bass is another common catch in these contests. Known for their large size and aggressive behavior, they offer a thrilling experience for anglers. Bassmaster often features articles and tips on how to catch this sought-after fish.

Participating in these fishing contests isn’t just about winning; it’s also about the thrill of the catch, the camaraderie among fellow anglers, and the joy of being in nature. Whether you’re reeling in a feisty Red Belly Bream, a vibrant bluegill, a hefty redear sunfish, or a formidable largemouth bass, the experience is sure to be memorable.

A Treasured Florida Tradition

Florida’s fishing contests are much more than simple competitions; they are vibrant social gatherings that embody the state’s rich angling culture and love for the great outdoors. They deliver memorable moments on the water, deepen bonds within the community, and provide exciting challenges for anglers of all levels. 

These contests are a testament to the beauty and bounty of Florida’s aquatic ecosystems—celebrations that both honor tradition and promise an invigorating experience beneath the Florida sun. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a curious novice, participating in these events offers a captivating glimpse into a cherished Floridian pastime that is as exhilarating as it is rewarding.

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