Game Fishing > Sunfish Family, Centrarchidae > Blue Sunfish

Blue Sunfish

Blue SunfishThe blue sunfish was first described by Dr. Mitchill from the waters of New York in 1815. He named it pallidus, meaning "pale," as it was more sober in hue than the other brilliantly colored sunfishes. It is the largest of the sun­fishes, socalled, as the black-bass, warmouth, and crappies are not popularly regarded as "sunfishes."

The blue sunfish has a wider distribution than any other member of its family except the black­bass. Its range extends from the Great Lakes through the Mississippi Valley to Texas, and along the South Atlantic states to Florida. In the Middle West it is known as blue gill and in the South as blue bream and copper-nosed bream.

It has a medium-sized head and very deep body, its depth varying from one-half its length to almost as deep as long, in which case, barring head and tail, it is almost round in outline. It is much compressed. The ear-flap is quite black, without the pale or red border usual in the other sunfishes.

As might be inferred from its extensive range, its coloration varies greatly. In large and old examples it is sometimes of a uniform slaty hue with purplish reflections. In others it is olive­green or bluish green, darker above, with the breast and belly coppery red. Young specimens are more brilliantly colored, with silvery reflections and various chainlike markings.

It thrives alike in stream, pond, or lake, adapting itself to almost any environment. It feeds on insects and their larvae, very small minnows, and other small aquatic organisms. It spawns in the spring and early summer, and its manner of nesting and guarding its young is similar to that of the other members of the family. It grows to six or eight inches in length usually, but often to a foot, especially in large waters.

The blue sunfish is quite a favorite game-fish in most localities, and with such tackle as recommended for the rock-bass it gives considerable sport, especially in localities that are lacking in larger and better game-fishes. It rises well to the fly, and will take any of the baits recommended for the other sun­fishes.

In those states of the Middle West, where the brook-trout does not exist, the "blue gill" is greatly esteemed and much sought after, as it furnishes the opportunity to employ light trout tackle in its capture, and with such gear it affords fine sport. I have taken the blue sun­fish in all waters from Wisconsin to Florida.

In the latter state many years ago I fished a fresh-water lake on Point Pinellas, near St. Petersburg, Florida, though there were but two houses there at that time. I was using a very light rod, and the fish were as large and round as a breakfast plate, and moreover the gamest and most beautiful in coloration of any blue gill I had ever met.

The characteristic blue was replaced by a deep, intense, and brilliant purple, shot with silvery and golden reflections. While playing one on the surface, an osprey sat on a dead pine watching with apparent concern and eagerness. The fish made a stubborn resistance, with much splashing. Then a strange thing happened. The fish-hawk swooped down and seized the fish and attempted to fly away with it. Perhaps the hook became fast to his claw, but at any rate he circled around and around the pond, tethered to my line. It was the first, last, and only time that I did the aerial act of playing a bird on the wing. After a few seconds of this exciting and novel sport the osprey broke away, carrying both fish and hook.