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.
Compressed, saucer-shaped body
Mostly olive green
Bluish-purple iridescence on cheeks
Orangeto yellowish belly
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
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
Common in freshwater tributaries throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed
Eats a variety of small organisms, including insects, crayfish and bits of vegetation
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
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:
Fishes of Chesapeake Bay by Edward O. Murdy, Ray S. Birdsong and John A. Musick