Bluegill North American Freshwater Sunfish

December 30, 2019

North American Freshwater Sunfish - Bluegill

The Bluegill is a species of freshwater fish in the Centrarchidae family, in the Perciformes order. Native to North America. Other names for the fish include Bream, Brim, Sunny and Copper Nose. While, most closely related to the Orangespotted Sunfish and the Redear Sunfish. Further, is the state fish of Illinois.

Description of the Copper Nose

Bluegill

The body of the Bluegill is deep and flattened. While, the color varies from population to population. However, they have very distinctive coloring with deep blue and purple on the face and gill cover, fiery orange to yellow chest and belly.

As well as, 5 – 9 dark olive vertical bands down their sides. While, they have a black spot on the side of the posterior edge of the gills resembling and ear and at the base of the dorsal fin. Further, they have a dark shade of blue under their chins.

Generally, reaching 12-inches in length and approximately 4.5 pounds. Has three anal spines and 10 – 12 anal fin rays. While, the dorsal fin has 6 – 13 spines and 11 – 12 rays. Further, the pectoral fins have 12 – 13 rays.

Biology of the Bluegill

Generally, a schooling fish, living with 10 – 20 fish in one group. However, these groups may include other panfish such as crappie, pumpkinseed sunfish and smallmouth bass.

Habitat

The sunfish inhabits streams, rivers, lakes, creeks and ponds where is hides around inside old tree stumps and other underwater structures. As well as, aquatic plants and the shade of trees along the banks.

While, living in either deep or very shallow water often moving between the two depending on the time of day and season. In summer they tend to move to deep waters where they suspend just below the surface preferring water temperatures from 60°F - 80°F. While, they enjoy the heat but do not like direct sunlight. However, they may tolerate some salinity.

Diet and Feeding Behaviors

Omnivores that feed mainly on small aquatic insects and fish. However, Copper Nose consume rotifers, water fleas, insect larvae, mayflies, caddisflies, dragonflies, crayfish, water bugs, leeches, snails, other small fish and even aquatic vegetation.

Generally, feed during daylight hours with feeding peaks during the morning and evening. Using their gill rakers and their bands of small teeth to ingest their food. While, they use a suction system to accelerate the water into their mouths. Generally, sunfish consume approximately 3.2 percent of their body weight per day.

Adaptations

Travel and change directions at high speed by means of synchronized fin movements. While, specialized notches in their caudal fins, soft dorsal fins, pectoral fins and body undulations move them forward. The caudal fin accelerates them quickly.

While, their forward speed depends on the strength of which they abduct or adduct their fins. Further, the slender body lowers water resistance allowing the Bluegill to move through water effectively. Large, flexible pectoral fins assist with quick deceleration. Therefore, allowing the Bluegill to move and escape predators successfully.

While, the Bluegill may even swim backwards utilizing a plethora of fin muscles located in various parts of their bodies. Generally, utilizing the pectoral fins to provide a rhythmic beat while the dorsal and anal fins produce momentum to push the fish backwards.

Meanwhile, the pectoral fins’ asymmetric rhythmic beat aids balance in the slow, backward movement. While, their lateral line system and inner ears are receptors for vibration and pressure changes. Furthermore, they have optimal vision during daylight hours.

Generally, when escaping predators, the Bluegill used a C-start escape response generate by large neurons called Mauthner cells. These cells operate as a command center for the escape response and responds quickly once activated by an initial stimulus from the neural pathway.

Generally, triggering a contraction of muscles that bends the fish’ body into a “C” and then aids them in propulsion away from the predator. A high variable trajectory allowing the fish to alter their escape response each time, lowering the chance of successful predation. Therefore, an evolutionary advantage allowing a quick, unpredictable nature that evades predation.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Generally, sexual maturity is reached at a year of age. Spawning season starts in late May and extends into August. Generally, peaking in June when water temperatures range from 67°F to 80°F.

Males with their bright orange breasts, arrive first at the mating site to make spawning beds of six to 12 inches in diameter in shallow waters clustering as many as 50 beds close together. Gravel and sand are scooped out and males become very protective chasing everything away from their nests. Possibly even attacking divers that come too close to their nesting sites.

Females approach the nest and the male begins to circle making grunting noises. While, the male relies on the motion and the sound to attract the females which are choosy and usually pick males with larger bodies and ear markings.

Further, if the female enters the nest, both male and female will circle each other. Furthermore, the male expressing very aggressive behavior toward the female, should she remain, the pair enters the nest and come to rest in the middle. Touching bellies in an upright posture, they quiver and spawn.

While, these actions are repeated at irregular intervals several times in a row. However, once spawning is done, the male chases the female from the nest and guards the eggs. External fertilization occurs with the male and females sperm and eggs combining in the water.

While, the size of the female determines how many eggs are produced these may vary from 1000 to 100 000 eggs. Meanwhile, the male guards the nest until the larvae are hatched and swim away on their own.

The Bluegill grows quickly in the first three years but slows considerably once the fish reaches maturity. Generally, live five to eight years. However, some specimens have lived up to 11 years.

Predators

Eaten by Muskellunge, Walleye, Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Salmon, Chars, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Striped Bass, White Bass, Hybrid Striped Bass, Herons, Kingfishers, Turtles, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, Catfish and Otters. However, the shape of the fish makes it difficult for the predators to swallow.

Distribution

Native to the United States east of the Rocky Mountains from Virginia to Florida, west to Texas and Northern Mexico, Western Minnesota and New York. However, have been introduced to almost everywhere in North America, Europe, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Asia, South America and Oceania.

Management and Commercial Value

Important in the ecosystem of ponds and lakes in managing crustacean and insect populations, keeping them low. While, Bluegill are used in aquaculture and aquarium trade as a popular pan fish. Meanwhile, they are also a popular fish for anglers and are good to eat with a firm white meat.

Fishing

A popular sunfish caught on small crankbaits, spinners, fake worms, bare hooks or live baits. Namely, worms, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, minnows, maggots, small frogs and small shrimp. As well as, kitchen scraps like bread and corn. While, vibrant colors are popular including orange, yellow, red and green.

Fishing during spawning season is very successful as the Bluegill becomes extremely aggressive attacking anything including a hook that comes near the nesting site. The record Bluegill caught was 4 pounds 12 ounces. While, anglers may use Bluegill as bait for larger fish like Blue Catfish, Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish and Largemouth Bass. Generally, in all states, Bluegill over 10 inches may be kept.

Important lakes and dams where the fish may found in Texas include Bonham Lake, Bryson, Kirby Lake, Big Creek Reservoir, Lake Cypress Springs and Davy Crockett Lake. As well as, Gibbons Creek Reservoir, Lake Somerville, Lake Texoma, Lake Bob Sandlin, Brandy Branch Reservoir, Lake Conroe, Lake Gilmer, Gladewater City Lake, Lake Holbrook, Houston County Lake, Lake Livingston and Lone Star Lake.

Further, Lake Monticello, Lake Murvaul, Lake Quitman, Lake Raven, Lake Welsh, Coleta Creek Reservoir, Lake Corpus Christi, Lake Houston, Sheldon Lake, Lake Findley and Choke Canyon Reservoir.

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