Game Fishing > Sunfish Family, Centrarchidae > Common Sunfish

Common Sunfish

Common SunfishThis is the pumpkin-seed or "sunny" of fragrant memory. It is enshrined in the heart of many an American angler as his first love, when with pin hook, thread line, and willow wand he essayed its capture in the nearest brook or mill­pond.

Looking backward over an angling career of almost half a century, the gamesome "sunny" with its coat of many colors shines out as a bright particular star among those of greater magnitude. It is here set down, then, mainly as a matter of sentiment and to keep its memory green.

The little "sunny" was christened by the greatest naturalist that ever lived, Linnaeus, who in 1758 named it "gibbosus," owing to the gibbous outline of its little body.

His specimens were from South Carolina. It inhabits the Great Lake region, and the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Florida, and the northern portion of the Mississippi Valley. In outline it is not unlike a pumpkin-seed, hence one of its popular names. This is well expressed in its specific name gibbosus. It has quite a small mouth, but large eye.

In coloration it rivals the tinted fishes of the coral reefs in tropical seas. The predominating colors are yellow and blue, being bluish on the back, paling on the sides to a lighter shade, with yellow blotches and coppery reflections, and belly bright orange-yellow; the cheeks are yellow with blue streaks; rays of dorsal fin blue, the connecting membrane yellow; ear-flap black, ending in a scarlet border; lips blue; iris of eye scarlet.

Its habits of spawning, nest-making, and care of eggs and fry are similar to those of the other sun­fishes mentioned. It is partial to clear water, with sandy or gravelly bottom, in the vicinity of weed patches.

It feeds on insects and their larvae and minute crustaceans, and is especially fond of the eggs and fry of other species. It grows to a size of eight inches, though usually from three to six inches.

Like all the sunfishes, it is an eager biter, and with very light tackle much real pleasure can be enjoyed by the angler who is not too particular as to his preferences. It rises readily to small dark flies, as the several hackles, black gnat, etc., on hooks number 10 to 12. For bait-fishing nothing is quite so good as earthworms on hooks number 8 to 10.

There are quite a number of other sunfishes belonging to this family, but those named are the most important. In the Southern states, where the sunfishes are known generically as "bream" or "brim" and "perch," they are more appreciated than in the Northern states, where the brook-trout is the favorite among the smaller species. If fished for with very light and suitable tackle, there is a great measure of enjoyment to be derived from bream-fishing, north or south.

Certainly for beauty of coloration they are not excelled, and as pan-fish they are preferred by many to the dainty brook-trout.