Redear Sunfish

Last updated: November 16, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Ltshears / Public domain – License / Original


Redear Sunfish Scientific Classification


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Redear Sunfish Locations

Redear Sunfish Locations

Redear Sunfish Facts

Redear Sunfish Physical Characteristics

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The Red Ear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) is a game fish that’s native to the Southeastern United States. Some of the more notable names that it goes by include “Shellcracker,” “Georgia Beam,” “Sun Perch,” and “Chinquapin.”

This fish has some useful culinary and sporting characteristics. It makes for good eating and, beacuse of it moderate size, it is relatively easy to catch. These qualities make it quite attractive to an errant angler man.

The Redear Sunfish fills some interesting ecological niches due to its diet and behavior. Some of the qualities have even made it an asset in the fight against invasive species.

If you’re interested in the Redear Sunfish and where you can find one yourself, then take a look at this summary of some pertinent information surrounding this fascinating fish.

Facts About Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish are a member of the Centrarchidae family. This family of fish includes several other species of fish, like the fisherman’s favorites Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) and Walleye (Sander vitreus).

The Redear Sunfish was first described and identified by a scientist named Albert Karl Ludwig Gotthilf Gunther. Gunther cataloged the Sunfish in 1859 after observing the fish in the St. Johns River in Florida. The largest Red Ear Sunfish ever caught was six pounds and four ounces, caught in Arizona’s Lake Havasu.

One of the common names for this fish is “shellcracker.” This is due to the fact that its diet consists primarily of hard-shelled crustaceans and mollusks. The fish routinely snack on critters such as freshwater snails and mussels.

These attributes have sometimes come in handy in slightly unexpected ways. One example is that introducing Redear Sunfish to waterways that have been plagued with invasive Quagga Mussels (Dreissena rostriformis) tends to sharply reduce the populations of these invasive species. These qualities have quite proven useful. In fact, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has purposely begun to introduce them to waterways infested with quagga mussels as pest control.

redear sunfish

The Redear Sunfish has a pair of nominal red “ears” on its side.

©Raver, Duane / Public domain – Original / License

Redear Sunfish Size Range

The Redear Sunfish is native to the Southeastern region of the United States. It is quite common along the Carolina coasts, down to the southern tip of Florida. The fish’s range also extends beyond the United States and into the Caribbean. This makes it easy to find in Puerto Rico and Guam.

For many decades, the Redear Sunfish was limited to these regions in terms of its range. However, due to its popularity as a game fish, it has been introduced to other waterways in the country.

On the East Coast, the fish’s range extends up into Pennsylvania and New York. There are even populations in waterways in Vermont and New Hampshire. West of the Mississippi, the Sunfish lives in Oregon, California, Colorado, Arizona, and many other states. However, it’s not native to any of these states.

Redear Sunfish Flavor

Redear Sunfish has a light and mild flavor that many describe as being similar to herring or sardines. Like those other species of fish, the Sunfish is a white fish.

One thing to keep in mind if you plan to catch and eat Redear Sunfish is that they tend to spoil quite rapidly after you pull them out of the water. The fish is ultimately best as a same-day meal.

This species of fish and other fish that it’s related to are called “panfish.” This is because they’re usually petite enough to fit the whole fish into a frying pan. Many fisherman enjoy their Sunfish catch as a pan-fried meal.

Because the Redear Sunfish is native to the Southeast and the South of the United States, it has occasionally found its way into Southern Cuisine. Like many other whitefish, fried Redear Sunfish can make a great ingredient for fish tacos.

Long eared sunfish

The Redear Sunfish is often described as a “panfish.”

©H.M. Cotton/

The Best Places to Catch Redear Sunfish

The preferred habitats to catch Redear Sunfish are typically still and deep ponds, lakes, and reservoirs.

Like many species of fish, the best time to catch Redear Sunfish is during their annual spawn, which occurs around March or April. Casting a rod with a heavy weight so it will sink to the bottom will increase your chances of catching a Sunfish. This is because this type of fish likes to prowl the bottom of lakes and ponds for crustaceans and snails.

Many fishermen consider live bait to be the best type of bait to catch this type of fish. Some examples of live bait include worms, mealworms, and crickets. In the past, you would have had to travel to the Southeast to catch one of these fish. Now, these fish are found all over the contiguous United States.

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