Sunfish Fishing

Sunfish, the common name for a family of mostly small freshwater fish. Freshwater sunfish are noted for their nest-building. The male hollows out a depression in the sand where the female lays her eggs. After fertilizing the eggs, the male guards the nest and the newly hatched young.

One of the best-known species of sunfish is the pumpkinseed, or common sunfish, which grows up to nine inches long.

Sunfish are found in lakes throughout much of the eastern half of the United States and are often taken by fishermen who prize their aggressiveness and fight on light tackle.

Some species, such as the 3 1/2-inch blue-spotted sunfish and the 1- to 1 1/2-inch banded pygmy sunfish and Everglades pygmy sunfish, are popular aquarium fish.

Sunfish Fishing Locations

Many lakes that once produced big sunfish might now find themselves falling short because of overharvesting, biological factors, or environmental factors, especially in the smaller lakes.

Bluegill are found in many waters of the United States and Canada, and several species have been transplanted and flourished around the world, even becoming pests, but they are far more abundant in lakes and ponds than streams and rivers.

sunfish fishing tips


In the warmer months sunfish in these quiet bodies of water can be found hanging around shoreline cover during the day, and spreading out into more open water during the early morning and evening hours. Typical forage for sunfish in these locations includes larval insects such as dragonfly nymphs, terrestrial insects like grasshoppers, tadpoles, and small fish.


Sunfish in rivers and streams behave much the same as their lake-dwelling cousins. During the day they can be found in any kind of overhead cover or eddies behind large rocks in the shallower parts of the river or stream. Sunfish in rivers and streams typically feed on much the same prey as their pond-dwelling brothers and sisters, but with a larger emphasis on crayfish and terrestrial insects.

Sunfish Fishing Techniques

Sunfish Fishing Guide

Sunfish Fishing Guide

When fishing for sunfish, a high tech, high-cost fishing setup is completely unnecessary. People have been catching sunfish for years with nothing more than a stick with a line tied to it, a hook, and a worm.

That, however, does not mean it’s the best method. Fishing bait for sunfish tends to be pretty small, so there are two dominant fishing techniques to utilize them.

Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Green, Longear, and Red-Breasted Sunfish all have similar diets and behavior. Small aquatic and terrestrial insects make up the bulk of their menu.

These species can readily be taken on small jigs, grubs, spinners, and even small crankbaits. If you are fly fishing, most anglers use topwater popping bugs and small, buggy nymphs.

As for live bait, you can’t go wrong with good old fashion worms, or you may even wish to try mealworms or freeze-dried shrimp. Crappie, Rock Bass, and Warmouth tend to be more predatory in their diets compared to the other species in the sunfish family. The diets of these fish focus mainly on other fish.

When after these species lures that mimic small baitfish are a must. Small minnow-shaped jigs, spinners, stick baits, tube baits, and other soft plastics can be deadly when fishing for these aggressive predators. Fly-fisherman will mainly focus on small streamers and wet-flies, which most closely resemble baitfish. When using live bait the choice should be obvious, minnows!

Sunfish Cooking And Flavor

There are many ways to cook bluegills to create a tasty meal. Bluegills are smaller fish, but after you have them cleaned and filleted, you can cook them in a deep fryer, broil them in the oven or make them into a casserole.

The fun part is usually over once the fish is caught, which leaves the cleaning and cooking. Knowing how to easily clean bluegill leaves more time for cooking your meal exactly how you want it.

Start by scaling the fish. This can be accomplished by either a fish scaler or spoon. While holding the fish’s tail in place, use the spoon or scaler to remove all scales. You must run the scaler or spoon from tail to head in order to get the scales off. The fish’s skin should be smooth when all scales are gone.

Cut the fish’s head off. Accomplish this by sliding the blade of the knife under the dark part at the back of the fish’s gills. Cut through at this point. Take the knife and press it into the bottom of the fish. Run the blade up to where the head was until the two sides separate. Remove all organs. Cut off the tail of the fish.

If you want, you can cut around the other fins as well and use a pair of pliers to pull off the fins. Now simply cook and enjoy.

Final Thoughts

The sunfish, one of fishing’s simple joys. If you have ever fished freshwater in North America, you have probably caught a sunfish. From crappie to bluegill, to the less common Warmouth and rock bass, all are sunfish.

What’s your favorite sunfish to catch?


This entry was posted in Fish Species, Freshwater Fishing on by .

About Avid Angler

Dave "Avid Angler" Miller has been an author and contributor to Reel Adventure Fishing since its inception, going back to 2010. Dave has fished just about every freshwater and saltwater body from coast to coast and enjoys putting a lifetime of angling experience to use in helping others to become better anglers. In addition to penning featured posts, Dave also writes a good deal of our product reviews.