Green Sunfish – The Complete Fishing and Species Guide.

Green Sunfish - The Complete Fishing and Species Guide.

About Green Sunfish

Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), is a small freshwater panfish found throughout much of North America. It is one of the most widely distributed and common of all sunfish species and known for its small yet aggressive stature. They are very popular among anglers and often caught alongside other species of panfish such as Bluegill and Redear Sunfish.

Description

The Green Sunfish has a larger mouth than many of its sunfish cousins; This is one of the key identifying factors when trying to distinguish the species. It also has a small compressed gill plate, with a dark black opercular ear flap and white or lightly colored edge.

How to Identify a Green Sunfish
How to Identify a Green Sunfish

The body shape is thick and semi-elongated; closer to a warmouth body shape than a traditional round panfish shape. Coloration is usually olive green on the back or upper portion and gradually lighter toward the belly with tones of yellow and brown. Along the face and gills may be vivid streaked colors of turquoise, green and yellow.

Size

Considered a small panfish, The typical size of Green Sunfish ranges between 3-7 inches and less than one pound. Individuals may reach up to 12 inches in length and nearly two pounds.

Native Range

Distribution of the Green Sunfish
Distribution of the Green Sunfish

Green Sunfish are native to much of the Southern, Midwestern, and Northern United States, as well as portions of Canada and Northern Mexico. Accidental and intentional populations have been introduced in nearly every other US state, as well as regions in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Green Sunfish is a well-adapted, hardy sunfish capable of strong reproduction rates.

Diet

Green sunfish are Omnivores which means they consume both plant and animal matter. They readily eat insects, larvae, zooplankton, eggs, snails, crawfish, and other small forage fish.

Habitat

Green Sunfish prefer slow-moving, lakes, ponds, and creeks with ample cover. They are often found in the backwaters of sloughs, swamps, and drainages or along vegetated shorelines of lakes. To find Green Sunfish, look for weedy cover, docks, stumps, rocks, or other structures- chances are they will be nearby!

Spawning

Green Sunfish spawning begins when water temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit, usually in the summer months. Females prefer a rocky or gravel bottom to fan away silt and make a nest. Males will defend nests once eggs are deposited. Green sunfish will often nest in ‘colonies’, with many nests located in shallow water.

Eggs only take 1-3 days to hatch. Green sunfish are prolific spawners, capable of spawning every 8-10 days through the summer spawning season. For this reason, Green Sunfish often get ‘stunted’ due to overpopulation, and they are notorious for over taking small ponds or streams.

How Do You Catch A Green Sunfish?

Green Sunfish can be caught using the same methods as when trying to target other sunfish species. Try using a small, #6-#10 long shank wire hook under a cork or small bobber. Popular baits include crickets, worms, nightcrawlers, corn, bread balls, and small minnows.

Often times you can locate Green Sunfish by doing a little scouting. Walk the weedy edges of lakes or ponds, looking for 5-7 inch sized fish. Throw in some bread or crushed crackers to get them stirred up and active. Docks, fallen trees, stumps, and rocky gravel creeks are other good places to look.

To catch Green Sunfish on artificial lures try using your favorite ultralight rod and reel and tie on a flashy slow-moving lure. Johnson Beetle spin, Rebel CrickHopper, 1/16th ounce jig head or even a dry fly should all produce results. My personal favorite is the Panfish Magnet.

Green Sunfish are not a particularly difficult species to catch. The most important thing is to be sure you are on a body of water that contains Green Sunfish. Otherwise, these small and feisty panfish are usually plentiful and easy to catch year-round with a little bit of work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Green Sunfish Good to Eat?

Yes, Green Sunfish are good to eat. Although they are small and not often targeted by anglers for food, the meat is white, flaky and mild flavored. Any panfish recipe can be used when preparing Green Sunfish.

Are Green Sunfish Invasive?

Green Sunfish are native to North America, but in certain states and provinces, they are considered invasive. Due to their prolific spawning habits and adaptability, they are considered a nuisance by some fisheries managers and biologists.

For more information on the status of Green Sunfish and where they are considered invasive, visit https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=380

Are Green Sunfish Good for Ponds?

No, Green Sunfish are not considered a good species to stock into ponds or small Lakes. This is because Green Sunfish can quickly overpopulate, which leads to competition among more desirable game fish species such as Bluegill and Largemouth Bass.

Is a Green Sunfish a Hybrid?

The Green Sunfish is not a hybrid species, although it is known to hybridize in the wild with other sunfish such as the Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus).

Fish biologists and private pond managers often stock hybridized green sunfish. When a female Green Sunfish is crossed with a male Bluegill, you get a domestic and Hyrbridized Green Sunfish. These fish grow very quickly and reproduce slowly. This is seen as a great forage fish for game species such as Largemouth Bass and even used in some cases to control population growth.

Can You Keep Green Sunfish in an Aquarium?

Green Sunfish may be kept in an aquarium, but be wary of their aggressive nature. They are known to harass other smaller species of fish and even dislodge artificial cover and decorations.

What do Green Sunfish Eat?

Green sunfish are Omnivores which means they consume both plant and animal matter. They eat insects, larvae, zooplankton, eggs, snails, crawfish, eggs, fry, and other small forage fish. In Aquariums or residential ponds, they are also known to eat commercial fish food, bread, and corn.

Are Green Sunfish Aggressive?

Green Sunfish are not aggressive toward humans and do not have sharp teeth. However, they are known to be aggressive toward other sunfish species especially in small ponds or aquariums. They are a competitive species and have aggressive feeding patterns.

Do Green Sunfish have Teeth?

Like many species of sunfish in the Centrarchidae family, they have rows of Palatine teeth in the roof of the mouth. These do not pose a threat to humans.

What is the Difference Between aBluegill and aGreen Sunfish?

What is the difference between a bluegill and a green sunfish?

Will Bass Eat Green Sunfish?

Yes, Largemouth Bass will eat Green Sunfish. Many species of fish prey on Green Sunfish, including Northern Pike, Musky, and Flathead Catfish.

What is the World Record Green Sunfish?

The World Record Green Sunfish is 2 lbs 2oz (0.96kg) and was caught by Paul Dilley in Stockton Lake, Missouri USA on June 18th, 1971.

Conclusion

Green Sunfish are a very common species of panfish found throughout North America. Many kids and young anglers get their first taste of fishing when catching Green Sunfish off grandpas dock or at the local pond.

Although they don’t have the angling reputation of their cousin the Bluegill or Black Crappie, they pack quite the punch in a small package. They are easily caught on a variety of live baits such as insects and worms, or on artificial lures like small tube jigs and flies.

Interested in learning more about the bigger cousin to the Green Sunfish? Check out my article on the Redear Sunfish, also known as the “Shellcracker”.

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