Redear Sunfish

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FISH PROFILE

COMMON NAME

Redear Sunfish

Scientific name

Lepomis microlophus

FAMILY

Centrarchidae

LENGTH

Up to 10 inches

DIET

Snails, insects, mussels, and clams

Play Video

FISH PROFILE

COMMON NAME

Redear Sunfish

Scientific name

Lepomis microlophus

FAMILY

Centrarchidae

LENGTH

Up to 10 inches

DIET

Snails, insects, mussels, and clams

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

The name of the redear sunfish stems from a red-orange spot observed on the rear edge of its black operculum. This red spot, however, can sometimes be very difficult for the underwater observer to see. If the red spot is not visible, redear sunfish are similar in appearance to other springs-dwelling sunfish like bluegill, redbreast, and spotted. Redears would lack the typical dark spot at the rear dorsal that bluegills have, the long earflap of the redbreast sunfish, or the brilliant blue iridescence under the eye of the spotted sunfish. Redear sunfish can be large with some weighing up to two or more pounds. Common lengths for these fish are between 7.8 and 9.5 inches.

RANGE, HABITAT, AND BEHAVIOR

The native range of the redear sunfish is Texas to Florida, but they can also be found in California, the Midwest and the Carolinas. These fish prefer warm and quiet waters such as ponds, streams, springs, and lakes. They can be found in groups around vegetation or logs. Redears favor snails, smaller fish and aquatic insects.

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 sunfish: Look 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

With a diet consisting mostly of mussels, snails, and other shelled prey, the redear sunfish is also known as a “shellcracker.” They are able to crush the shells of their prey, blowing out the hard shell and consuming the soft flesh.  

Redear sunfish are communal spawners; they can sometimes be seen nesting together, with 30 or more nests adjacent to each other in protected coves. Males court females by snapping their jaws together to make a “popping” sound.

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