Key Distinguishing Markings:
- Bluegills have small mouths and an oval shaped body deep and highly compressed.
- The fish is olive green on the upper body and light yellow on its belly.
- Blue and purple iridescence on cheek.
- Dark bands run up and down from the back fading into the belly.
- A dark blue or black "ear" on an extension of the gill cover.
- A prominent dark blotch at the base of the dorsal fin, close to the tail
- Breeding males may have more blue and orange coloration on their flanks
- Typically about 6 inches, but can reach 12 inches.
- Inshore from the Great Lakes to Florida.
- In all tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay with salinity less than 18 ppt.
- Many times these fish will be stocked along with largemouth bass in many Maryland ponds and lakes.
- Bluegills are a freshwater fish, although they will venture into slightly salty water.
- They like quiet waters such as lakes, ponds and slow flowing rivers and streams.
- Spiders, insects, crayfish, fish eggs, and other small fish are their favorite foods.
- Young bluegill often become food for larger fish, birds and water snakes.
- Spawning takes place from April to September in fresh water.
- The male picks a good spot and makes a nest.
- After the female lays her eggs, the male guards the eggs and newly hatched young.
- Bluegills like to build their nests around other bluegill nests. Sometimes there are so many nests that the nest beds touch and look like honeycombs.
- Earthworms or even corn kernels make good bait.
- Easy to catch, bluegills make a good pan fish.
- They are often the first fish that a young fisherman catches.
- Bluegills are a member of the sunfish family.
- Many people call bluegills "sunnies".
Family: Centrarchidae (Sunfishes)
Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
For more information on bluegill and their management, please contact Brett Coakley.
Illustration: Courtesy of Duane Raver/USFWS