Native to the Savannah River in South Carolina to Nueces River in Texas, north in Mississippi River basin to southern Indiana and Illinois. Introduced to Arizona in 1946. The "Red-ear" sunfish has a black opercle flap which is bordered with a reddish or orange color on the rear of the flap. Sides of the head have olive-brown speckling. Body is compressed or flat with an olive-green cast, light speckling on sides. Vertical bars are rarely present on the sides. Pectoral fin long and pointed usually extends far past eye when bent forward. Length: 6 to 14 inches. Weight: 3 oz. to over 3 lbs. May live to 7 years.
Location and Habitat
Found statewide in warm water lakes, ponds and reservoirs. Prefer clear lakes with some aquatic vegetation; relate to deep bottom structure.
Spawns in spring when water warms up. Spawn in shallow ponds, lakes or creeks. There are distinct pairings. Builds nests and guards the eggs and young for a time.
They feed on hard-shelled organisms, such as clams or snails, as well as insect larvae, planktonic crustaceans and other invertebrates.
Redear seem to reject baits that offer resistance such as lead weights and bite gently. Fish with worms on the bottom, without weight or bobber, and simply allow the bait to lie motionless. Periodically move the bait a foot or so.
The meat is similar to bluegill, white, flaky, firm and sweet.