Fliers are small, deep-bodied, compressed sunfishes with large dorsal and anal fins that are nearly equal in size. The dorsal fin has 11 to 13 spines and 12 to 15 rays that are broadly connected to form one continuous fin. The anal fin has seven to nine spines and 14 to 16 rays. The upper jaw extends backward to the front of the eye, and the tongue has two tooth patches. Olive green on the back grades to pale yellow on the venter; the sides are marked with several rows of brown spots. In the posterior rays of the soft dorsal fin, small fliers have a prominent black spot surrounded by an orange circle. Resembling a large eye, this feature probably serves to confuse predators. The dorsal fin spot usually disappears with age. Most fins have light and dark brown bands.
5 to 7 in (127 to 178 mm)
This lowland species is distributed primarily in Coastal Plain areas on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and in the lower Mississippi basin. Most Alabama collections are from below the Fall Line, with the exception of two collections from above the Fall Line in the Coosa River system.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY:
Fliers inhabit swamps, oxbow lakes, overflow pools, and slow-moving creeks, usually below the Fall Line. They occur only sporadically in Alabama and are rarely abundant, and observation that could be influenced by the fact that their preferred habitat is difficult to sample effectively. Fliers frequently seek cover in aquatic vegetation, around submerged tree roots, and in concentrations of rotting leaves and other plant matter. Our collections of brightly colored gravid adults indicate that spawning occurs in April in Alabama. Etnier and Starnes (1993) report similar spawning times in Tennessee and note that, since stomachs examined contained terrestrial insects, fliers appear to be surface feeders. Pflieger (1975) reports that fliers live approximately five years and become sexually mature at age one.
Because of their small size and sporadic occurrence, fliers have limited appeal for Alabama anglers, but they are beautiful aquarium fishes.
Lacepède described the flier in 1801.
Centrarchus means anal-spined, referring to the long anal spines.
Macropterus means long fin.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.