Warmouth vs Bluegill – What Is The Difference

By Get Fishing •  Published: 02/07/23 •  6 min read

Whether you’re a beginner or an old hand when it comes to angling, the Sunfish family can be confusing. There are so many species within this family that it can be hard to tell them apart. This article will help you positively identify, and tell the difference between a Warmouth vs Bluegill.

warmouth vs bluegill

Is a Warmouth the Same as a Bluegill?

The Warmouth and Bluegill are not the same fish, however they share similar features so it’s unsurprising that you might confuse the two. Both fish belong to the Sunfish family, meaning they have sharp rayed fins. These species are also freshwater fish native to North America, so there’s some crossover when it comes to their range and habitats. 

What’s the Difference Between Warmouth vs Bluegill?

There are several ways to tell the Warmouth and Bluegill apart. For starters, they have distinct physical features that will make them easy to identify. While there is some crossover when it comes to habitat, Warmouths are a bit more hardy in terms of environmental conditions. 

There’s enough of a difference in sizes that you’ll know if you have a Bluegill or a Warmouth on the line. Keep in mind the items listed above, as well as range, and it will be easy to tell which species you’ve caught when you’re out and about.

What is a Warmouth? 


The Warmouth, Lepomis gulosus, is a freshwater fish native to North America. It also goes by the common names warmouth bass, warmouth perch, redeye, and goggle-eye. Many fishermen enjoy going after the Warmouth because this species has a surprisingly hard hit for its smaller size. It can be found easily, isn’t picky about bait, and is also a versatile fish when it comes to the gear you use.

What is a Bluegill?


The Bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus, is another freshwater species native to North America. This little fish is a fighter with beautiful, unique coloration. They’re small enough not to require cumbersome gear, but are still fun to catch. 

How to Tell the Difference Between Bluegill vs Warmouth

how to tell the difference between warmouth and bluegill

At first glance these fish look very similar in shape. However, there’s some variety in sizes that may attract you to one more than the other. Physical characteristics such as dorsal and anal spines are a key component of telling the two apart. Warmouth and Bluegill also have very distinct coloration, so even if you’re fishing within the range of both species, patterns and color along the body will help you tell them apart.  

Warmouth vs Bluegill Size Differences

Both the Warmouth and Bluegill reach, on average, anywhere from 4-10 inches. This is the perfect size for a panfish, meaning a fish that can be easily fried in a pan due to its smaller size and shape. However, Bluegill are almost double the weight of Warmouths, so if you’re looking for a meal they may be the better bet.

Bluegill: 4.5 lbs

Warmouth: 2.25 lbs

Warmouth vs Bluegill Dorsal Spines

If you have a few moments, take a look at the dorsal spines of the fish you’ve caught. Warmouths have a more “streamlined” dorsal fin with 10 spines. Bluegill, on the other hand, have a dorsal spine that stands up a bit more toward the back. The Bluegill has anywhere from 11-13 dorsal spines.

Warmouth vs Bluegill Anal Fin Spines

While we’re on the topic of spines, anal fin spines can also be a great way to tell these two species apart. Warmouths will have a more rounded anal fin with 3 spines. Bluegills have a spikier-looking anal fin with 5-7 spines. Side by side, these differences are very apparent.   

Warmouth vs Bluegill Coloration Differences

Warmouths have an almost prehistoric coloration. They are dark brown in color with some golden areas on the body. Red-brown streaks radiate outwards from the eye and mottled bands of darker color run vertically down the body. Male Warmouths have an orange spot at the base of the dorsal fin. Their common name, redeye, is apparent in the red coloration around their eye and gill flaps.  

Bluegills stand out more when it comes to color. The majority of this species’ body is a darker gray or silver, with beautiful dark to bright blue around the gills and head, giving them their name. At the base of the dorsal fin and the edge of their opercular flap, these fish have a dark spot that is very noticeable. Bellies/breasts are often a bright orange. 

Where Can You Find Bluegill? 

Bluegill have the widest range of all the fish in the Sunfish family. They can be found down the entire east coast, west to Texas, into northern Mexico, northwest to Minnesota and back to New York.

These little fish love hanging out in vegetation. They’ll populate shallow water in ponds and lakes but can also be found in the slow-moving areas of rivers and streams. They use underwater structures for cover and prefer warmer temperatures out of direct sunlight.

Bluegill Fishing Tips

Fisherman holding a big bluegill

Bluegill have a varied diet, so you won’t have to worry much about what kind of bait you choose. They feed on insect larvae, crustaceans, small fish, winged insects, crayfish, worms, snails and more. 

This species hits bait fast, so be ready to react. Most anglers swear by live bait or artificial bait in colors of orange, red, green or yellow. They’re active at dawn or dusk. Due to their love of hiding in vegetation, make sure you have gear that can punch through mats of weeds and won’t get tangled up easily. It’ll have to stand out in the darker water they prefer. 

Where Can You Find Warmouth? 

Warmouths have a smaller range than the Bluegill, sticking to the Mississippi drainage area and reaching to the east. They span from the Great Lakes, to the east coast, and south to Florida. 

Warmouths can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. They love muddy bottoms and think vegetation. This species can handle water with low oxygen levels, so you won’t have to worry so much about whether or not you’re fishing a pristine pond. They stay away from fast-moving water, so look for calm and quiet areas in the water source.

Warmouth Fishing Tips

What is a Warmouth

When Warmouths hit your hook, they hit hard, often breaking the surface of the water. Like the Bluegill, they eat a wide variety of bait and will take both live and artificial. Jigging will catch their attention and they’ll move quickly, so be ready. Use ultralight gear that will give you both sensitivity and strength. Like the Bluegill, these fish will hang out in areas of heavy vegetation, so you’ll need tackle that won’t get tangled and can come out clean.


No matter which species you’re fishing for, catching a Warmouth or Bluegill is bound to put a smile on your face. These small but mighty fish are true fighters and easy to catch no matter what gear you’re stocking. Happy fishing!

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