Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
The green sunfish is a widespread and commonly caught member of the Centrarchidae family. It has white, flaky flesh and is a good food fish.


The green sunfish has a slender, thick body; a fairly long snout; and a large mouth, with the upper jaw extending beneath the pupil of the eye; it resembles the warmouth and the smallmouth bass. It has short, rounded pectoral fins, connected dorsal fins, and an extended gill cover flap, or “ear lobe,” which is black and has a light red, pink, or yellow edge.

The body is usually brown to olive or bluish green with a bronze to emerald-green sheen, fading to yellow green on the lower sides and yellow or white on the belly. An adult fish has a large black spot at the rear of the second dorsal and the anal fin bases, and breeding males have yellow or orange edges on the second dorsal, the caudal, and the anal fins.


The average length is 4 inches, ranging usually from 2 to 8 inches and reaching a maximum of 12 inches, which is extremely rare. Most weigh less than a half pound. The all-tackle world record is a 2-pound, 2-ounce fish taken in Missouri in 1971.

Spawning behavior

This species becomes sexually mature at 2 years old, spawning from April through August, when water temperatures range from 68° to 84°F. Males build saucer-shaped nests in water usually less than 1 foot deep and often in areas sheltered by rocks or logs. The yellow, adhesive eggs are guarded by the male until they hatch in 3 to 5 days. Green sunfish spawn simultaneously with other species of Lepomis, and hybridization is not uncommon.


Green sunfish prefer dragonfly and mayfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae, midges, freshwater shrimp, and beetles and will occasionally eat small fish such as mosquitofish.

Other Names

green perch, black perch, pond perch, creek perch, sand bass, bluespotted sunfish, rubbertail.


In North America, green sunfish occur from New York and Ontario through the Great Lakes and the Hudson Bay and the Mississippi River basins to Minnesota and South Dakota, and south to the Gulf of Mexico. They also occur from the Escambia River in Florida and Mobile Bay in Georgia and Alabama to the Rio Grande in Texas, as well as in northern Mexico.


Green sunfish prefer warm, still pools and backwaters of sluggish streams, as well as ponds and small shallow lakes. Often found near vegetation, they are known to establish territory near the water’s edge under brush, rocks, or exposed roots. They often become stunted in ponds.