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Redear Sunfish

Redear SunfishScientific Name

Lepomis microlophus

Other Common Names



Yellow-green or olive, with faint vertical bars and random dark spots. During spawning, the margin of the male’s gill cover flap turns bright red. Body is rounded like other sunfish and has a relatively small mouth. Pectoral fins are long and pointed. They grow faster and larger than other sunfish; 1 lb. fish not uncommon and often reaching 2 lbs.

Best Fishing

Lakes: Cohoon, Meade, Prince, Little Creek, Chickahominy, Robertson, Western Branch, Lone Star, and Briery Creek. Rivers: Nottoway.

Fishing Techniques

Best time to catch redears is in the spring when they come up to the spawning beds. Being bottom feeders, most redears are caught by letting live nymphs, red wigglers or garden worms lie on the bottom near shore. Artificial jigs and grubs fished slowly and near the bottom will work as well.

Feeding Habits

Redears feed off the bottom. They have grinding (pharyngeal) teeth in their throat that enable them to crush the shells of little snails and small mussels. From this habit they get their common name, shellcracker. They are able to spit out the shell, retaining only the flesh of the shellfish. Redears also feed on nymphs and other aquatic insects.


Introduced into Virginia waters, redears prefer cleaner water lakes and ponds than other sunfish, and quieter waters that have an abundance of submerged vegetation. They gravitate to stumps, logs, submerged brush and roots. A favorite of pond owners, because they grow fast and do not overpopulate.

Spawning Habits

April spawners and colony nesters when water temperatures reach about 70°F. They do not spawn into the summer. Nest is a saucer-shaped depression near shore in mud or sand bottom that is formed by the male who guards the eggs until fry hatch out and reach free-swimming stage. Following spawning, they move back to inhabit water between shoreline cover and deep holes.