Lepomis Microlophus



Lake, River, Pond, Streams

0 - 5 pounds

6" - 17"

Redear Sunfish

Also Known As: Shellcracker, Georgia Bream, Cherry Gill, Stump-knocker

Guides Who Fish This Species

Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) Fish Description

The Redear Sunfish is a popular small freshwater game fish. It is dark-olive in color, yellow-green in the middle, and white at the bottom. It closely resembles its cousin, the bluegill sunfish, except the redear has an orange to red spot near its gills, hence the name “redear”.

The redear sunfish is also called shellcrackers because of their ability to eat a variety of shelled prey, such as snails and mussels. They also eat algae, worms, small fish, and fish eggs.


Interesting Facts

  • This species has specialized teeth to crack shells called, pharyngeal teeth, which is why it is so adept at breaking shelled creatures.
  • Their nests are called redds. These are small basins that the males make to attract females. The females lay their eggs in these basins and then the males fertilize them.



The average length of the redear is between 6 to 10 inches and they weigh less than a pound, around 0.2 lb. The biggest redear sunfish caught was measured 17 inches long with a girth of 19.5 inches and weighed 5.80 pounds.


Habitat and Distribution

The redear sunfish is originally native to Florida and North Carolina. They then were introduced to Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Michigan, and Texas. They like to stay in parts of the water where they can hide such as vegetation, logs, and branches. Popular spots for the redear sunfish are the Wamplers Lake in Michigan and False River in Louisiana.

They thrive in still waters such as lakes, ponds, streams, reservoirs, and also slow-moving rivers. They breed and spawn with temperatures between 66-70°F. Their spawning season is in late spring to early summer, this is the best time to catch shellcrackers.


How to Fish Readear Sunfish

The redear sunfish is a great game fish that provides a good fight. They’re not bait shy, so you can try and practice your baits with this fish. Anglers say that catching redears are easy, the hard part is finding them. Look for vegetation or redds where they can be hiding. They’re bottom-feeding animals so make sure to use some sinkers, which is why fly fishing isn’t the popular choice for the shellcrackers since they dwell in the bottom of the water most of the time (but it is definitely doable). Cast your fly and let it sink for 5-10 seconds, then slowly pull it in for an inch or 2, then pause, wait for the fish to take your bait.

To fly fish redears, you need to use heavy-weighted flies or sinking fly lines. Recommended gear by anglers is a 7-9 foot 5 weight rod with an 8-foot leader attached to 4 feet of 12 lbs mono. Wrap the 20-gauge lead wire around your hooks to help it sink and use a drop shot light sinker of 1/8 to 1/4. 

For hooks, you can use sizes of #6 to #8 fly of triangle bugs, wet flies, poppers, or bucktails. For baits, anglers have had success using nightcrawler worms, corn, and even leeches.