Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus)

Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus)

The redbreast sunfish is the most abundant sunfish in Atlantic Coastal Plain streams. Like other members of the Centrarchidae family of sunfish, it is a good fighter for its size and excellent to eat.

Identification

The body of the redbreast sunfish is deep and compressed but rather elongate for a sunfish. It is olive above, fading to bluish-bronze below; in the spawning season, males have bright orange-red bellies while females are pale orange underneath. There are several light blue streaks radiating from the mouth, and the gill rakers are short and stiff. The lobe or flap on the gill cover is usually long and narrow in adult males and blue-black or completely black all the way to the tip. The pectoral fins are short and roundish, and the opercular flaps are soft and flexible.

Size

Redbreast sunfish grow at a slow rate and may reach lengths of 6 to 8 inches, although they can attain 11 to 12 inches and weigh about a pound. The all-tackle world record is a 1-pound, 12-ounce fish from Florida in 1984.


Spawning behavior

Redbreasts spawn in the spring and the summer when they are 2 to 3 years old and as small as 4 inches long. Spawning peaks when water temperatures range from 68° to 82°F. Males build nests in water 1 to 2 feet deep near stumps, logs, rocks, or other protected areas over a sand or gravel bottom; the nests are 30 to 36 inches in diameter and 6 to 8 inches deep.

Food

Their primary food is aquatic insects, but redbreasts also feed on snails, crayfish, small fish, and occasionally on organic bottom matter.

Other Names

longear sunfish, redbreast bream, robin, redbelly, sun perch, yellowbelly sunfish.

Distribution

Generally occurring in rivers across the United States and Canada, the original distribution of redbreast sunfish is the Atlantic slope of North America from New Brunswick, Canada, to central Florida, and westward to the Appalachian Mountains; the range now extends to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kentucky. They have been introduced to waters in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Italy, where they are considered a nuisance due to stunting.

Habitat

Redbreast sunfish inhabit rocky and sandy pools of creeks and small to medium rivers. They prefer the deeper sections of streams and vegetated lake margins.
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