SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lepomis auritus
CHARACTERISTICS: The dorsal fin on this beautiful species contains 10 to 11 spines and 10 to 12 rays. The anal fin has three spines and nine or 10 rays. Lateral line scales number 41 to 52. Palatine teeth are present in the roof of the mouth. The cheek has six to eight rows of scales. The pectoral fin is short and does not reach the nostril when bent forward beside the head. Breeding males have a bright orangish red breast and venter. Membranes of the dorsal and anal fins have elongate, bright orange blotches. Margins of the soft dorsal and anal fins and much of the pelvic and pectoral fins are yellow. The back and head are olive green. Bright, bluish green stripes originate near the mouth and extend backward obliquely toward the base of the elongate, black ear flap. Females are less colorful, having a light orange to yellowish breast and venter.
ADULT SIZE: 6 to 8 in (152 to 203 mm). The state angling record (1-pound, 4-ounces) was caught June 12, 2010 from the Choctawhatchee River by Archie Russ. This replaced the former record (13 oz) caught on June 15, 1996 from the Pea River.
DISTRIBUTION: Lee (1978c) notes that the redbreast sunfish occurs naturally along the Atlantic Coast and across southern Georgia and northern Florida to the Chattahoochee River. It may also be native to the Coosa and Tallapoosa river systems, based on its widespread and common to abundant distribution in both. Scattered collections of only a few individuals in the Black Warrior and Choctawhatchee river systems and in the Tennessee River drainage suggest an introduced status in these locations.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Redbreast sunfish occur in a wide variety of habitats, from small steams to large rivers and reservoirs. Spawning occurs in North Carolina in June, when water temperatures reach 68ºF (20ºC) (Davis, 1972). Our collection of two brightly colored, gravid specimens in Halawakee Creek, Lee County, on 7 May 1993 indicates a slightly earlier spawning season in Alabama. Nests are constructed near flowing water and around aquatic vegetation or an underwater obstruction. Redbreast sunfish are one of seven Lepomis species that do not produce sound during courtship (Gerald, 1971). Young grow to more than 2 inches at age one and live for five to six years. Sandon et al. (1975) report that young redbreasts feed on small aquatic larvae; adults consume large larvae, fishes, and mollusks.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Linnaeus described the redbreast sunfish in 1758.
Lepomis mean scaled operculum.
Auritus means eared.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.
ADDITIONAL COMMON NAMES: In the southeast, anglers also call redbreast sunfish: redbreast bream, robin, yellowbelly sunfish, longear sunfish, sun perch, redbelly, river bream, and leatherer, according to Cloutman and Olmstead in Fisheries (Vol. 8, No. 2).
Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.