Sunfish are a group of fish that anglers love for countless reasons. They come in a variety of colors, habitat preferences and personalities. The Green Sunfish is one of the most popular (and aggressive) fish in this family. Let’s take a closer look at this species!
What is a Green Sunfish?
The Green Sunfish, scientific name Lepomis cyanellus, is distributed throughout North America. Often confused for a warmouth, it’s such a fan favorite that some even keep them at home in aquariums. This sunfish (also a panfish) is tiny, but mighty.
Why is it Called a Green Sunfish?
What gives this fish its name? First of all, it belongs to the sunfish family–a group of 38 different species with a few traits in common. Sunfish have “compressed” bodies and anywhere from 6-9 anal spines and two dorsal fins. Dorsal spines can be anywhere from 6-13.
The “green” in Green Sunfish comes from this fish’s coloration, which is a blue-green along the back and sides.
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What Type of Fish is a Green Sunfish?
This is a freshwater, North American species under the sunfish family. It is a carnivorous and aggressive fish, but on the smaller side. The Green Sunfish is also a panfish due to the small size; they’re big enough to fry in an average pan!
Green Sunfish Habitat
Like many other sunfish, the Green Sunfish loves creeks and streams. It will also inhabit lakes and ponds, but will stick to areas with coverage, such as vegetation, where it feels safe. They prefer gravel, sand, or rocky bottoms. Due to their ability to tolerate poor water conditions, they also have no problem in muddy ponds or lakes.
Where Can I Find Green Sunfish?
These fish are widely distributed throughout the midwest of the United States. They populate the Rocky Mountain area, but reach to the Appalachians as well as the Hudson Bay area of Canada. Green Sunfish can also be found in the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, and northern Mexico.
Due to their popularity, Green Sunfish have been introduced to non-native areas of the US as well as Europe, Africa, and Asia.
What Do Green Sunfish Eat?
Due to their small size, the carnivorous Green Sunfish focuses mostly on larvae and aquatic insects. They’ll also eat crayfish, snails, and small molluscs. When large enough, they will consume smaller fish or fish eggs as well. They’re omnivores and will feed on vegetation in the water.
How to Catch a Green Sunfish
Catching a Green Sunfish is all about finding that sweet spot. These fish prefer shallow water with sandy or gravel bottoms, but be prepared for obstacles just under the surface – they’ll also hang out near outcroppings, heavy vegetation and submerged logs.
One of the more aggressive species, they have a deep prey drive. They’ll go after anything that looks, sounds, or smells realistic. This might take the form of live bait or artificial rigs like soft plastics, mule jigs and prey-mimicking lures.
Best Green Sunfish Fishing Rigs
Mule Fishing Mule Jigs
Mule has become one of our favorite fishing tackle companies, and there’s a good reason for that. The Mule Jig is known for being tough, holding up against aggressive fish on the bottom of the water column. It’s a no-bobber option that will bring in some huge fish despite its small size.
Micro Drop Shot
Micro Drop Shot jigs present both soft plastics and live bait as a tempting option. Drop shots allow anglers to control just how deep you’re putting your bait without a bobber. It gives realistic movement to softbaits and gets your line right where you want it.
Z-Man Flashback Mini Chatterbait
What’s the draw of a Flashback Chatterbait jig? The vibration! This will be a hard jig for fish to miss, as it’s small but powerful. Chatterbait jigs also mimic the side-to-side motion of baitfish, a prime prey item for many panfish species.
Best Green Sunfish Fishing Lures
Mule Fishing Donkey Tail Jr
The Donkey Tail Jr. is a fishermen favorite, perfect for any species feeding on small baitfish. It’s durable and can take a bite from those aggressive fish who come at you hard and fast. Mule’s Donkey Tail Jr. also pairs perfectly with many other pieces of tackle and jigs, including Mule jig, Drop Shots and Split Shots.
Berkley Gulp Minnows
Berkley’s Gulp Minnows are a great addition to any tacklebox, no matter what you’re fishing for. This soft-bodied bait comes in several different sizes and colors, making it a versatile option across species. They’re also scented to draw extra attention from fish in the immediate area.
The draw of the Wee-Craw is all about realism. This lure is made to mimic crawfish down to that perfectly detailed coloration. It’s small enough to work on a variety of sunfish species and simulates a fleeing crawfish like no other.
What Kind of Gear Do You Need for Green Sunfish Fishing?
When it comes to fishing for sunfish, it’s important to have the right gear on you. Especially since you may be trekking between different bodies of water, looking for the perfect habitat and school of Green Sunfish.
Having an ultralight rod and spinning reel will go a long way, especially if you’re hiking in. You’re guaranteed a good fight on these lines with additional sensitivity to those shy biters. Make sure you pack a variety of tackle as well as fishing line that can stand up to abrasion and fish of many different sizes and weights. Ultralight jigs will go a long way in snagging you a sunfish and ultralight fishing is a great way to fish..
What is a Good Green Sunfish Fishing Kit?
Leland’s Lures Panfish Magnet Kit
Whether you’re new to panfish or an old hand, this kit is a great fit to check off all your panfishing needs. It’s designed to play to a variety of species under the panfish umbrella. Leland’s Lures combines 70 split tail bodies in a variety of colors as well as 15 size 8 hooks. It’s a great start for both new and experienced anglers.
What is a Good Green Sunfish Fishing Rod?
13 Fishing Defy Silver
The Defy Silver is a popular rod for fishermen who go after a variety of species. It’s strong enough to hold up against those hard-hitting fish, but soft enough to keep more subtle species on the line as well. Available in a variety of lengths, this is a fast-action rod great for ultra light or light fishing.
What is a Good Green Sunfish Fishing Reel?
13 Fishing Source K Size 1000
13 Fishing’s Defy Silver Spinning Wheel is a perfect accompaniment to your rod. It’s made of graphite and aluminum for a strong, but light-weight body. This reel packs and carries easily and has a smooth castability that fishermen love.
What is the Best Fishing Line for Green Sunfish?
Berkley’s Trilene Sensation line
A 2-4 lb Trilene Sensation line is perfect for these fish, which tend to be on the smaller size but can still put up a fight. The sensation line will guarantee that you feel the hit, and will also hold up against abrasive bites (and habitats).
When Do Green Sunfish Spawn?
Throughout North America, these sunfish spawn at varying times depending on the water temperature–but it’s usually summer. Males create nests along the substrate near sheltered areas, if possible. Females can lay anywhere from 2,000-26,000 eggs, which the males will then watch over until they hatch in 3-5 days.
How Big Do Green Sunfish Get?
These are some of the smaller sunfish and average 3-7 inches and roughly less than a pound. However, in the right conditions, these fish can reach up to a foot long.
What is the World Record Green Sunfish?
The world record Green Sunfish was caught by Paul Dilley in June, 1971 and weighed in at 2 lbs, 2 oz. Paul caught the fish on a 12 lb Trilene line with a worm (keeping it simple!). This sunfish was caught at Stockton Lake in Missouri.
What is the Lifespan of a Green Sunfish?
In nature, Green Sunfish average 4-6 years in age. They can be kept longer in home aquariums but rarely reach more than 8 years.
Are Green Sunfish Fish Good to Eat?
If you’re so inclined, you can eat a Green Sunfish as you would any other panfish – by frying it up in a pan. However, it doesn’t stand out for its taste. They’re also bony, smaller, and hard to eat. It’s recommended that children stay away from this fish due to the dangers of consuming small bones.
What’s the Difference Between a Bluegill and a Green Sunfish?
The Bluegill is another species under the sunfish umbrella. While Bluegills are very similar to the Green Sunfish, these are two very distinct fish. Here are two keys to telling them apart:
The Bluegill has a distinct deep blue/purple coloration on their face and gill area, with dark green bands down the body and an orange-yellow belly. Green Sunfish, in contrast, are blue-green on the back and sides with bright blue stripes on the gills. This is what causes them to become easily confused with the Bluegill. However, they have dark spots near the back of the dorsal fin and on their operculum.
The Green Sunfish has a larger mouth, but Bluegills are longer and can reach up to 2 lbs, while the average Green Sunfish weighs in at under 1 lb.
Are Green Sunfish Rare?
Green Sunfish are very common in the midwest, but may be hard to find in the far west and east. It’s not impossible, but it isn’t their natural range of distribution.
Are Green Sunfish Invasive?
This question is debatable. In most places, no, the Green Sunfish isn’t invasive-and is actually native. However, New Jersey and Florida consider this fish invasive. In both places, it is illegal to have this fish in your possession and anglers should kill them on sight.
Are Green Sunfish Good for Ponds?
Part of why Green Sunfish are so well-loved as game fish is because of their aggression. They’ll really put up a fight on your line. However, this aggression means they take over ponds quickly and will thrive where other species begin to die off, creating a limited ecosystem.
Is the Green Sunfish a Hybrid?
The Green Sunfish isn’t a hybrid, but it does hybridize with other sunfish. In fact, it’s one of the sunfish that hybridizes across species the most, so you may see their traits here and there as you go looking for sunfish varieties.
This is an incredibly interesting species of the sunfish family, and Green Sunfish are sure to be a family favorite when fishing. They have some fight to them and may be a challenge to find in some areas of North America. But for the fisherman with ambition, knowledge and a perfectly curated tackle box, these fish are by no means impossible to catch!
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