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Bluegill Sunfish

Overview

Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) are an important and abundant sport fish in the United States. They are also one of the most common species in Ohio and can be found in almost every body of water throughout the state. Larger fish are usually caught in late spring or early summer while they are spawning in large colonies near shore.

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Description

A deep slab-sided fish with a small mouth and a long pointed pectoral fin. They have 5-9 dark bars on their side and an overall dark green body color. When caught in muddy water, they can appear more silver in overall coloration. The ear flap (opercle) is always black without a red tip, like redear sunfish. Bluegill sunfish often have a black blotch near the back of the soft dorsal and anal fins. They have blue along the bottom edge of their jawline and rear bottom edge of their gill covers. They do not have any wavy blue lines on the cheek like pumpkinseed, green and longear sunfishes. Their belly is white in young, yellow in females, and orange to a rusty red in breeding males. They are in the Centrachidae family with other sunfishes and are also known by the name "bream." They are typically 6-10 inches long, but can reach up to 12 inches, and can typically weigh less than one pound, but can weigh up to two pounds.

Reproduction

Bluegill sunfish typically build nests in large groups or colonies. They spawn multiple times between May and August. Peak spawning, in Ohio, usually occurs in June. Males select an area in one to four feet of water and sweep out a saucer-shaped nest with their tails. The females then lay between 10,000 and 60,000 eggs in the nest which is guarded by the male. The eggs usually hatch in about five days. Young bluegills eat primarily zooplankton or microscopic animals.

Habitat & Behavior

Bluegill sunfish appear throughout the state in nearly every body of water. They are most abundant in clear lakes and ponds that have some rooted aquatic vegetation. They are usually not the dominant sunfish species in most streams but do make up a portion of the overall sunfish population in nearly every stream. Both bluegill and green sunfish readily hybridize with other species of sunfish, most often each other. Hybrids between two other sunfish species are relatively rare. Zooplankton, insects and other invertebrates make up their diet.