BLUEGILL SUNFISH

FISH PROFILE

COMMON NAME

Bluegill Sunfish

Scientific name

Lepomis macrochirus

FAMILY

Cyprinidae family

LENGTH

4-16 inches

DIET

Insect larvae, crustaceans, small fish

FISH PROFILE

COMMON NAME

Bluegill Sunfish

Scientific name

Lepomis macrochirus

FAMILY

Cyprinidae family

LENGTH

4-16 inches

DIET

Insect larvae, crustaceans, small fish

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

The bluegill, also known as a “bream”, is part of the Centrarchidae family, commonly known as the sunfish. The most commonly observed size is 4-12” but has a max length of 16”. In Florida, the appearance of bluegills can vary, but are typically silver with vertical stripes on their sides and a spot/dark smudge on the posterior of the dorsal fin (the fin that runs along the fish’s back). The silvery-blue coloration around the gill cover (operculum) and head that gives this fish its name can be subtle and very difficult to see underwater. Breeding males may have red coloration on fins or breast.

RANGE, HABITAT, BEHAVIOR, AND dIET

The bluegill is native in freshwater habitats all over the eastern US. Due to their popularity as a food item, they have been introduced into other environments and can now be found in every US state except Alaska. Bluegills are omnivores and will eat insect larvae, crustaceans, small fish and even algae by using a suction technique to capture the prey.

IDENTIFYING VARIOUS SPECIES in THE sunfish FAMILY

While there are other sunfish species that can be found in Florida’s springs, the four that are the most common and the best for a beginning fish-watcher to start with are bluegill, spotted sunfish, redear sunfish, and redbreast sunfish.

Bluegill sunfish: look for that spot at the rear base of the dorsal fin.
Spotted sunfish: look for the iridescent blue under the eyes.
Redbreast sunfish: look for the long ear flap.
Redear sunfishlook for the red spot on the ear. That spot is not always visible so if your sunfish lacks any of the characteristics of the other three species, it might be a redear!

FUN FACTS

Bluegills have some sneaky breeding strategies. Traditionally, a male will mature around age 7 at which point they will build nests of sand and gravel, which they guard vigorously. Females will lay eggs in the nest and the male will fertilize the eggs and remain at the nest to care for them. Smaller and younger males, dubbed “sneakers,” have been documented sneaking in just as a female is laying eggs in another male’s nest. This sneaker will attempt to fertilize the eggs, allowing the other male to care for the nest. Some sneakers go one step further and develop to look like females, so they can sneak into a nest site without being recognized as a rival male!

FISH GALLERY

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