Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus)

Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus)

The pumpkinseed is one of the most common and brightly colored members of the Centrarchidae family of sunfish. Although small on average, it is especially popular and good to eat.

Identification

A brilliantly colored fish, the adult pumpkinseed is olive green, spotted with blue and orange and streaked with gold along the lower sides; there are dusky chainlike bars on the side of juveniles and adult females. A bright red or orange spot is located on the back edge of the short, black ear flap.

Many bold dark-brown wavy lines or orange spots cover the second dorsal, the caudal, and the anal fins, and there are wavy blue lines on the cheeks. The pumpkinseed has long, pointed pectoral fins that usually extend far past the eyes when bent forward. It has a small mouth, with the upper jaw not extending under the pupils of the eyes.


Size/Age

Most pumpkinseed sunfish are 4 to 6 inches long, but some reach a length of 12 inches and are believed to live to age 10. The all-tackle world record is a 1-pound, 6-ounce fish taken in New York in 1985.

Spawning behavior

Males and females reach sexual maturity at 2 years, spawning during the spring and the summer when waters are in the mid-60°F range. Males construct nests in water less than 5 feet deep, often near shore and aquatic vegetation; the circular nests are 4 to 16 inches in diameter and are built separately or in small groups. Eggs hatch in about 3 days, and the male guards the young for a week or more. There is frequent hybridization between this and other fish in the genus Lepomis.

Food

Pumpkinseed sunfish feed on a variety of small foods, including crustaceans, dragonfly and mayfly nymphs, ants, small salamanders, mollusks, midge larvae, snails, water beetles, and small fish.

Other Names

bream, common sunfish, round sunfish, pond perch, pumpkinseed, punky, speckled perch, sun bass, sunfish, sunny, yellow sunfish.

Distribution

Although pumpkinseeds occur from Washington and Oregon in western North America to New Brunswick, Canada, they are most abundant in the northeastern United States. Their range extends as far south as Georgia on the east and includes most of the United States, except for the south-central and southwestern regions. It includes Ontario and southern Quebec.

Habitat

Pumpkinseed sunfish inhabit quiet and vegetated lakes, ponds, and pools of creeks and small rivers, with a preference for weed patches, docks, logs, and other cover close to shore.
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