Monday, August 25, 2008


© 2008, Dave Spier
The Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) is a member of the Sunfish Family. Based on technical characteristics, it is related to Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Rock Bass, Black Crappies and the Pumpkinseed (or Common) Sunfish. Bluegills are identified by blue edging on the gill cover and a dark "earflap" plus a dusky thumbprint-like marking on the rear of the top (dorsal) fin. They are colored dark green on the back, white on the belly and yellow or orange (or sometimes dark gray) on the breast. Down South, they are called bream. They are now widespread in New York as a result of being stocked to serve as food for bass in farm ponds.
Bluegills spawn in early summer. The male builds a nest by fanning his tail to create a circular depression in shallow water. This removes silt that might smother the eggs. The female then joins him and they slowly swim around the nest while emitting eggs and sperm which settle to the bottom. The male guards the nest until the young disperse. At this stage, the third-inch long juveniles are transparent and move about freely. When they reach an inch in length, they return to hide in the vegetation of the lake, pond or slow-moving stream where they were born. They feed on tiny animals collectively called zooplankton. As they grow, they eat insects, crustaceans, other invertebrates and sometimes smaller fish. Older fish also consume plant material. Bluegills have been known to live 10 years and reach a length of 10 inches. In warmer climates they grow to a record 16 inches and just under five pounds.
All sunfish have sharp spines on four of their fins. These points help protect them from predators like bigger fish and large birds. If you've ever caught a sunfish and carelessly grabbed it, you know about these spines.
Send your comments to
(This copyrighted article and photo first appeared in the Times of Wayne County, August 11, 2008. All rights reserved.)

No comments: