Green Sunfish vs Bluegill – What Is The Difference

By Get Fishing •  Published: 12/22/22 •  6 min read

At first glance, the Bluegill and Green Sunfish look strikingly similar. That’s because they belong to the same family, but are not the same species. In this post we’ll take a look at what makes both fish stand out and how they differ. 

Green Sunfish vs Bluegill

Is a Green Sunfish the Same as a Bluegill?

No, the Green Sunfish is not the same as the Bluegill. The Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) and the Bluegill (Lepomis marochirus) both belong to the freshwater sunfish family. However, they are two different species with different habitats and preferences. 

What is a Green Sunfish?

green sunfish

Green Sunfish are freshwater panfish native to North America. They’re carnivorous and aggressive, but a bit small for your “average” freshwater fish. Green Sunfish are edible, however most anglers don’t go after them for food. They’re still fun to catch and live in a variety of habitats. 

What is a Bluegill?


Like their cousin the Green Sunfish, Bluegill are native to North America and also a variety of panfish – meaning they’re edible and easy to fry up in a pan. The big difference here is that Bluegill are considered some of the tastiest fish in the sunfish family! This species has a wide distribution. 

What’s the Difference Between Green Sunfish and Bluegill?

how to tell the difference between a green sunfish and bluegill
Key differences between a bluegill and green sunfish

Most differences are related to physical characteristics. We’ll dig into them later, but here are some highlights:

Green Sunfish vs Bluegill Size Differences

There are two aspects to size differences here. To start, Green Sunfish have larger mouths than Bluegills. However, Bluegills are larger than Green Sunfish. They run anywhere from 4-12 inches and can reach 2 lbs. Green Sunfish are smaller in both length and weight. 

Green Sunfish vs Bluegill Mouth Size

The Green Sunfish has a noticeably larger mouth than Bluegills. This is important not just for identification, but for planning when it comes to tackle and bait. You may want to go with hooks on the larger end of the spectrum if you’re going after Green Sunfish and on the smaller end if you’re going after Bluegill. 

Green Sunfish vs Bluegill Head Shape

Bluegills have a more “rounded” body and their head follows that shape. Green Sunfish, on the other hand, have a pointier snout that elongates their shape.

Green Sunfish vs Bluegill Coloration Differences

This is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to tell these two species apart. The Bluegill stands out, without a doubt, against many fish in the sunfish family. They appear deep blue/purple in coloration around their gill and head. The body of the Bluegill has green bands running down it toward an orange-yellow belly.

In contrast, Green Sunfish are blue-green on the backs and sides of their bodies. Blue stripes run over the gill area. Green Sunfish will also have red edging on their opercular flap.

Where Can You Find Bluegill? 

Bluegill are one of the most widely-distributed species in the sunfish family. They’re found throughout the east coast down to Florida, west to Texas, down into northern Mexico, and reach into the northwest. They’ve also been introduced in non=native areas of North America and outside of the country.

Bluegill stick to shallow water in lakes and ponds when it comes to habitat. They use underwater structures for cover. 

Bluegill Fishing Tips

If you’re looking to track down some Bluegill, there are a few things to keep in mind. These fish are carnivorous and stay in shallow water that is most likely shadowy from underwater structures. Therefore, you’ll need attention-getting lures, so for the best Bluegill lures check out our detailed post on the subject! 

It’s important to use a good-quality rod and line, as Bluegills might be small, but they’re mighty! Look for abrasion-resistant line and ultralight fishing gear. 

Where Can You Find Green Sunfish

Green Sunfish can be easily found in the Rocky Mountain area of North America, but also reach to the Appalachians. Their range extends up to the Hudson Bay area of Canada as well as the Great Lakes, northern Mexico, and the Mississippi River. Like the Bluegill, they’ve also been out-sourced to countries such as Europe, Africa and Asia. 

Green Sunfish hang out in creeks and streams. They can also be found in lakes and ponds, but will crowd toward vegetated areas where they can find cover. It’s not uncommon for Green Sunfish water sources to be muddy as they can tolerate poor water conditions. 

Green Sunfish Fishing Tips

Due to their draw to muddy water, it’s important to make sure you’re using lures and bait that will draw attention when fishing for Green Sunfish. Anything mimicking live bait (such as minnows or crawfish) will go a long way with these sunfish. 

Of course you’ll also need the right rig, and because Green Sunfish like areas heavy in vegetation, options like a micro drop shot can set you up for success in tricky spots. Make sure you’re bringing along a durable, lightweight rod and a dependable line as well.  

Interested in seeing if you can catch some other sunfish/panfish species in the same area? Look into some proven and well-loved panfish kits that come with a variety of bait and tackle. They’ll go a long way in keeping you stocked up and ready for whatever’s on the other end of the line. 

What is a Green Sunfish and Bluegill Hybrid? 

Hybrid Bluegill Green Sunfish
Small Hybrid Bluegill Green Sunfish

Known commonly as a “Hybrid Bluegill,” this hybrid is a cross between a female Green Sunfish and a male Bluegill. These two species hybridize easily as they often spawn in the same area; however, Hybrid Bluegill don’t reproduce successfully on their own. Therefore, hatcheries will breed the variety themselves to stock water sources.

The Hybrid Bluegill are darker in coloration than their parent Bluegill and less rounded in shape. Otherwise, they have all of the same preferences as their predecessors!


Maybe you and a buddy are arguing over whether the fish on your line is a Bluegill or a Green Sunfish. Or perhaps you just want to be able to tell the difference so you’re prepared for when you go out on your next trip. Whatever the reason, you’re bound to run into Bluegills and Green Sunfish, often in the same water sources. Hopefully our tips help you differentiate between the two and you feel confident in making a claim to whatever you catch!