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Fact File

Scientific Name: Lepomis gulosus

Classification: Fish, Order Perciformes, Family Centrarchidae

Size: Warmouth can reach about 10 inches in length in Virginia; a quality specimen typically reaches 6-8"

Life Span: Up to 8 years

Identifying Characteristics

An image of a warmouth for identification purposes

Warmouth on a measuring board. ©Photo by Scott Herrmann

  • A large-mouthed, robust fish with mottled sides and stripes on the gill plate
  • More elongated than many other species of sunfish
  • Spotting on body bleeds into the base of fins
  • Dark opercular flap on the gill plate, with a small off-color margin that is often white and red
  • Dark in color, alternating between tans and browns
  • Spines on dorsal and anal fin
  • Spawning individuals often have a peppering of green spots along their sides


Warmouth feed upon aquatic and terrestrial insects, snails, crayfish and small fishes.


Warmouth in Virginia are native to many streams east of the Blue Ridge. They are an introduced species to the Big Sandy watershed in southwest Virginia.


Warmouth are coastal plains fish preferring Virginia's swampland and marshes

Backwaters such as these are premier habitats for coastal plain fishes such as the Warmouth.

Warmouth thrive in backwaters of slow-moving rivers, small lakes and ponds, and can inhabit especially acidic, swampy waters throughout Virginia’s low elevation coastal plain. Warmouth are often solitary, preferring to isolate in thick submerged vegetative cover near hard structure or undercut banks.



Warmouth spawn in the summer in Virginia, often more than once. Warmouth spawn near cover, and unlike other species of sunfish, they prefer areas with rubble and detritus atop silty substrates. The male and female lay sideways on the nesting site during the egg fertilization process. Males guard the nesting site and newly hatched fish.

A dark-colored Warmouth collected during an electrofishing survey.

A dark-colored Warmouth collected during an electrofishing survey.

Last updated: April 30, 2024

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Species Profile Database serves as a repository of information for Virginia’s fish and wildlife species. The database is managed and curated by the Wildlife Information and Environmental Services (WIES) program. Species profile data, distribution information, and photography is generated by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, State and Federal agencies, Collection Permittees, and other trusted partners. This product is not suitable for legal, engineering, or surveying use. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources does not accept responsibility for any missing data, inaccuracies, or other errors which may exist. In accordance with the terms of service for this product, you agree to this disclaimer.