up to 8″, most 3-5″
Largely insectivores, they feed on small insects and insect larvae.
Also known as “stumpknockers,” spotted sunfish are in the family Centrarchidae (the sunfish family.)
Distinguishing features: Spotted sunfish are covered with small freckle-like spots. They reach up to 8” but most are 3-5”. To the underwater observer, a particularly distinctive characteristic that easily differentiates them from other sunfish is a blue iridescence that lines the area under the eye.
Range, habitat and behavior: Spotted sunfish can be found from North Carolina to Texas and up the Mississippi River as far as Illinois. Similar to other sunfish, a single male builds a nest by fanning a circular “nest”, attracts multiple females, and guards the nest until the young swim away.
Diet: Spotted sunfish are largely insectivores, feeding on small insects and insect larvae.
Fun facts: Spotted sunfish are also known as “stumpknockers,” as they are often found hiding around submerged logs.
Dr. Howard T. Odum, the “father of springs ecology,” noted in 1957 that the spotted sunfish was the most abundant sunfish in Silver Springs during his study. Other biological surveys have found these fish to be the most commonly found sunfish in the panhandle rivers and streams.
Getting to know your sunfish in Florida springs:
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: 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!