River, Lake, Backcountry
1 - 2 pounds
4" - 12"
Also known as redbreasted bream, redbelly, robin, longear sunfish, sun perch, and yellowbelly sunfish, the Redbreast Sunfish is known for its yellow belly which sometimes has an orange or rust-like color. It is a freshwater fish belonging to the sunfish (Centrarchidae) family (see green sunfish, and redear sunfish).
The Redbreast Sunfish’s body is moderately deep. Its regular-sized mouth reaches just below the leading edge of its eye. It has short and round pectoral fins that are shorter in length than its head. Its dorsal fins boast 10 to 11 spines and 10 to 12 rays. Its anal fin has 3 spines and 9 to 10 rays. The Redbreast Sunfish has bluish-green sides covered with some slightly reddish-brown spots. Young Redbreast Sunfish have faint vertical barring that adult ones do not possess. The Redbreast Sunfish has palatine teeth found in the roof of its mouth; its cheek has six to eight rows of scale.
The identifying feature of the Redbreast Sunfish is the long, narrow extension of its gill cover. These flaps are entirely black and may reach up to one inch or more.
The Redbreast Sunfish generally feast on snails, insects, and other invertebrates. Their favorite items on the menu are dragonfly larvae, mayflies, and small fishes; the Redbreast Sunfish are an opportunistic feeder. They also feed on clams, crayfish, and shrimp.
The Redbreast Sunfish can grow up to 12 inches and weigh up to 2.3 pounds. Generally, they can reach up to 9.1 inches. They can live up to seven years but seldom beyond.
The Redbreast Sunfish is popular to anglers as a prized game fish and a panfish. Anglers use live bait like waxworms, grasshoppers, crickets, nightcrawlers, and mealworms to capture Redbreast Sunfish. Small lures of flies are also effective in ensnaring Redbreast Sunfish. The Redbreast Sunfish is also popular with fly anglers during winter (look for them in waters as deep as 30 feet) because it tends to be lured more by the fly bait when the water is cooler. During most of the year, the Redbreast Sunfish remains in shallow water no deeper than 20 feet.
Most anglers arm themselves with a light spinning tackle to capture this species of fish. Anglers can capture them by fishing from a drifting or slowly powered boat; angling from the bank can also be as effective. Anglers must not use a heavy line to avoid scaring the Redbreast Sunfish away. Smaller fishing tackle and hooks must be used as well as a small ⅛ to ¼ ounce sliding sinker and a 12-inch leader.
The Redbreast Sunfish inhabit sand-bottom areas, rocky and vegetated pools, and freshwater lakes. They like cool rivers and streams around the banks with temperatures ranging from 60.8 to 78.8º F.
The Redbreast Sunfish is native to the river systems in the US and eastern Canada, as well as the Atlantic Ocean. This species has been introduced to West Texas and Louisiana, among others. They are aplenty throughout central and northern Florida and streams like the Ocklawaha, Suwanee, Ochlockonee, and Santa Fe rivers.