Spotted Sunfish, February 2015, Fish of the Month!
Spotted bream, Scarlet sunfish, Stumpknocker, Red perch
6 to 8 inches
Distinguishing Field Marks:
(See the illustration.)
The body is deep and strongly laterally compressed.
The light colored, dark bordered scales appear as rows of spots along the fish's sides.
The "ear flap" is small and dark.
Dark lines radiate backward from the eye to the "ear flap."
The pelvic fins have pointed tips.
The pectoral fins are long with broadly rounded tips.
North American Range:
Map to the right shows approximate range in North America.
Immature and adult aquatic and terrestrial insects make up the bulk of the diet of the Spotted sunfish. These fish are often observed jumping repeatedly at the side of a stump or other object protruding above the water's surface in an attempt to dislodge insects into the water. Other aquatic invertebrates and occasional small fishes make up the remainder of the diet of this species.
In its spawning behaviors, the Spotted sunfish is typical of the small members of this family which breed from late spring into mid-summer. Males defend nesting sites, clear the nest by fanning the bottom with their fins, actively select and court females, and typically spawn with several of them. At the end of each spawning, the male drives his latest date from the nest and courts another.
The male parent remains at the nest site, aerating it, and guarding the newly hatched brood until the fry have become free swimming.
Fly Fishing for Spotted Sunfish:
This species prefers the clear water of lakes, reservoirs, and small quiet streams, all with ample growths of vegetation.
Spotted sunfish are more solitary than are Pumpkinseeds or Bluegills, and will require some patience for those specifically targeting them.
Like all the small sunfish species, the Spotted sunfish makes a good account of itself when attached to the business end of 3 to 5 weight fly rod systems. Because of their solitary lifestyle, Spotted sunfish require a bit of patience to find and hook, otherwise they're very similar in their behaviors.
The Spotted sunfish's stump-knocking behavior may well allow us our most productive means of locating it. Landing a terrestrial imitating fly near the base of the knocked stump should make for some exciting targeted sun fishing.
Small wet flies and surface bugs and poppers will take the lion's share of these elegant little fish.
This is another of our native sunfish species that will thrive and make a pleasant addition to a large well-kept home aquarium.
Significance to Humans:
Of concern in some of its range, but generally maintaining.