Anyone that’s ever went freshwater fishing in multiple locations across the US has likely noticed there are many interchangeable terms for the many species inhabiting the country. Perhaps one of the most popular species of fish – and one with the most names – are the sunfish family.
Crappie vs Bream Fish
Known by their scientific name Centrarchidae, sunfish make up some of the most popular gamefish in the country, with black bass, rock bass, bluegill and crappie being very popular to catch.
Furthermore, each member of the sunfish family has their own set of subspecies, such as there being both white and black crappie.
There are multiple subspecies within the Centrarchidae species, typically belonging to the genera Lepomis and Ennecanthus, resulting in dozens of different sunfish that often have unique names depending on where they are located.
One term that is often used to describe certain types of sunfish is bream fish. In fact, you have heard an angler refer to many types of sunfish as bream fish, leading to a fair amount of confusion as to what exactly this term refers to!
The Difference Between Crappie and Bream Fish
The main difference between bream fish and crappie is that the term bream usually refers to bluegill fish. These terms are often interchanged because bluegill and crappie share many physical similarities due to both being part of the sunfish family.
As a result, most people that are referring to bream fish are in fact referencing bluegill, which are roughly the same shape and size, featuring similar dorsal fins and often the same types of patterns across their bodies.
Colors of bluegill and crappie are notably difference however, with bluegills have dark greenish colors combined with browns and oranges Gi, along with blue gills for which they are named for.
Crappies tend to have lighter greenish tones to their bodies, while white crappie have dark bars across their fins whereas black crappie have black spots. Crappies often grow a bit bigger than beam fish too, although only by a few inches.
Of course, this is just comparing one type of bream fish with crappie, as the term is used colloquially to refer to any type of sunfish.
Why Beam Fish?
The origin of the term beam fish is unknown, although it is mostly used in southern regions of the United States. When fishing in the south, it’s not uncommon to hear any type of sunfish, from crappie to bluegill, referred to as bream fish.
In fact, there are certain management agencies that use bream as a collective term for all sunfish, highlighting how common the term in is in these parts of the country. Interestingly, there is a species of freshwater fish in Europe that are officially known as the common bream – these are not related to our native sunfish of course!
So, you may find that most people that use the term bream fish are referring to bluegill or similar members of the sunfish family. In rare instances, crappies are often known as breams, although this is more common in certain southern regions of the United States.