Text Size: A  A  A

Bluegill

Lepomis macrochirus

The bluegill is a colorful sunfish with an olive green, saucer-shaped body. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
The bluegill is a colorful sunfish with an olive green, saucer-shaped body. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The bluegill is a colorful sunfish with an olive green, saucer-shaped body. It lives in lakes, ponds, streams and other freshwater bodies throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Compressed, saucer-shaped body
  • Mostly olive green
  • Bluish-purple iridescence on cheeks
  • Orangeto yellowish belly
  • Black earflaps
  • Faint vertical bars on the sides
  • Slightly forked tail fin with rounded lobes
  • Dorsal fin has about 10 spines on the front portion. The back portion is rounded with a dark smudge at the base.
  • Usually grows to 4-6 inches long, but can grow to 12 inches long

Habitat:

  • Lives in shallow, protected freshwater tributaries such as lakes, ponds, reservoirs, streams, creeks and river coves
  • Prefers quiet, slow-moving waters with lots of vegetation and a sandy, muddy or gravel bottom
  • Usually stays close to the shoreline
  • Found in brackish waters as well
  • Schools in deeper river channels in winter

Range:

  • Common in freshwater tributaries throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed

Feeding:

  • Eats a variety of small organisms, including insects, crayfish and bits of vegetation

Predators:

  • Larger fish
  • Fish-eating birds such as hawks, herons, cormorants and waterfowl
  • Fish-eating mammals such as raccoons
  • Humans, particularly young anglers

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns from April-September, once water temperatures warm to about 54 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Often spawns more than once per season
  • Males build nests in shallow areas by making a round hole in the sand or gravel. Bluegills will often build nests close to one another, creating colonies.
  • The female lays several hundred eggs into the nest
  • The male fertilizes the eggs, then guards them from other fish and predatory insects. He uses his tail to fan away any particles or detritus that could smother the eggs.
  • Can live to 11 years old

Other Facts:

  • Can be confused with the pumpkinseed, another sunfish. Bluegills can be distinguished by their black earflaps and the dark smudge on the back of their dorsal fin. However, bluegills and pumpkinseeds often interbreed, resulting in some confusing hybrids.
  • A favorite of young anglers because it is playful and very easy to catch. Bluegills will eagerly bite onto nearly any small natural or artificial bait.
  • Well-known for being a delicious fish to eat

Sources and Additional Information:




Click tabs to swap between type and habitat.

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved