Black Bream (Spondyliosoma cantharus)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught black bream can weigh 2.25 Kg (5 lbs) or more. The average black bream weighs around 0.70 Kg (1½ lbs).

Also known as

Porgy or Seabream

IUCN Status

LC – Least Concern


The black bream is identifiable by its thin, oval-shaped body with a purple-grey back and silver-grey sides. It has characteristically dark, broad vertical lines across its sides and dark spots on both its dorsal and anal fins. It has a single, long dorsal fin with ten or eleven sharp, short spines and also a small anal fin and forked tail. The black bream’s jaws are equipped with 4-6 rows of thin teeth which are larger at the front. It is commonly found in schools feeding on seaweeds and is typically no bigger than 60 cm in length.

Warning: Avoid the dorsal spines when unhooking black bream as they are particularly sharp.


So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

Fish strips, preferably mackerel, pilchard and squid. Ragworm, lugworm, shellfish, shrimps and small sandeels are also effective for catching black bream.


Black bream is a summer only visitor and can be commonly caught throughout May, June, July, August and September. During the winter months black bream migrates to the Mediterranean.

Favourite Feeding Places

Deep water, around 10 fathoms (18.5 M) in depth, especially around weed covered rocks where seaweed and invertebrates live and act as a food source. However when the tide is rushing in or out black bream can be found feeding closer to the surface.

Best Locations

Black bream is prevalent across the south coast of England, the West Country and the Channel Islands. Black bream is especially found in Sussex and Littlehampton and fine catches have also been reported from the Isle of Wight, Hampshire and Dorset.

Best rigs for black bream fishing

Shore fishing

If you’re fishing from the beach, a basic leger rig or a running paternoster rig is effective for black bream fishing.

Basic Leger Rig

This rig is used to lay hookbait on the seabed. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft). This rig works so well because your line is able to pass through the weight’s “eye”, meaning that shy or suspicious fish can tug the bait without instantly sensing the resistance.

Running Paternoster Rig

This rig allows you to anchor your hookbait above the seabed and also lets fish take the bait without instantly sensing resistance from the weight. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches). The space between the weight and swivel on connecting line is also variable, but should generally be about 610 mm (2 ft).

Boat fishing

When boat fishing for black bream, a sliding float rig, boat leger rig or a two hook paternoster rig are the best options.

Sliding Float Rig

For this rig you want to use a narrow float. Tie a stop knot onto the main line at the position where you want the float to stop. Modify when necessary to account for the rise and fall of the tide, etc. A ball or barrel shaped weight is perfect for this rig, attach the smallest weight needed in order to cast the distance you are aiming for and hold your bait against any strong current(s) at the depth you expect fish to be feeding. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft).

Boat Leger Rig

This is one of the simplest and most effective rigs for boat anglers. The space between the hook and swivel can vary, but should generally be about 1 m (3 ft). The bait is presented on the seabed and the line is able to move through the boom without hitting the weight which would otherwise scare off a bait-biting fish.

Two Hook Paternoster Rig

This is a flexible rig which allows you to present two baited hooks above the seabed, with two different hookbaits being able to be used should you desire. Beach casting anglers reduce seabed wear and tear on the knot by clipping a small split ring onto the weight’s “eye” and tying line to the split ring. Alternatively, the line can be tied straight to the weight. 3 way swivels can be used instead of the blood loops. The distances between the weight, 1st blood loop, 2nd blood loop and top swivel/or split ring, can vary but each should generally be 460 mm (1½ ft). Similarly, the distance between hook and blood loop can vary but should be about 200 mm (8 inches).

Top tips

  1. The black bream sucks food into its small and sensitive mouth, therefore you should use the smallest hook possible for whatever bait you are using.
  2. Keep your bait moving, lively bait will provoke black bream to attack. Whilst fishing bait on the seabed, try to sporadically jerk and wiggle the line with your rod – elevate the bait by one or two metres and occasionally wind bait, in a hesitating fashion, to the surface. Black bream will trail the bait and snatch it as it approaches the surface.