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Longear Sunfish

LONGEAR SUNFISH

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lepomis megalotis

CHARACTERISTICS: These beautiful small sunfishes have 36 to 43 lateral line scales. The dorsal fin contains 10 to 12 rays. The anal fin has three spines and nine or 10 rays. The mouth is small, with the upper jaw failing to reach the front of the eye. Teeth are lacking on the palatine bone. The short, rounded pectoral fin has 13 to 14 rays and does not reach the nostril when bent forward. The cheek has five to six rows of scales. The ear flap is elongate, especially on breeding males, and has a light margin. The back and sides are usually olive to brown, becoming yellowish orange on the venter. Breeding males have numerous metallic blue spots on the back and sides and wavy blue longitudinal lines on the head. The venter becomes brassy orange, as do the interradial membranes on all vertical fins.

ADULT SIZE: 5 to 7 in (127 to 178 mm). The state angling record (8 oz) was caught in the Yellow River in Covington County in 1990.

DISTRIBUTION: The longear sunfish is distributed throughout most of Alabama. Its apparent absence in the Blackwater River system is probably due to insufficient sampling. Fewer records in the Chattahoochee and upper Tallapoosa river systems could be the result of competition with the redbreast sunfish, Lepomis auritus.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Longear sunfish are common in small to moderate flowing streams, rivers, reservoirs, and oxbow lakes. Spawning usually extends from March into August in Alabama. Berra and Gunning (1970) note that longears have a fairly small home range. Small groups of fish congregate and establish pods of nests on sand and gravel shoals and where streams enter reservoirs. Carlander (1977) reports that longear females may produce as many as 4,000 eggs. Males usually guard the nest and fan the eggs to remove silt and other debris until the larvae hatch. Applegate et al. (1967) have observed small longears feeding on aquatic insects, fish eggs, and bryozoans, while large fish consume terrestrial insects. Tennessee specimens grow faster in reservoirs than in streams and live for up to six years (Etnier and Starnes, 1993). The longear sunfish is an excellent game fish on light tackle in medium to large flowing streams.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Rafinesque described the longear sunfish in 1820.

ETYMOLOGY:
Lepomis means scaled operculum.
Megalotis means large ear, referring to the long ear flap.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.

ADDITIONAL COMMON NAMES: In the southeast, anglers also call longear sunfish: sunperch and pumpkinseed, 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.


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