Most Common Sunfish Types in Alabama

There are various types of Bream, more commonly known as Sunfish, in Alabama’s natural waters. In fact, there are 15 different varieties of Sunfish. Each species preferring different habitats and foods. Let’s take a look at some of the most common Sunfish types in Alabama.


Bluegill (Alabama State Record: 4 lbs 12 oz)

Probably the most widely known Sunfish is the famous Bluegill. The Bluegill grows 6-10 inches when it reaches adulthood. You can identify them by their color, young and nonbreeding adults are a light olive to gray shade on the back and sides with several, evenly spaced, darker, vertical bands with the center varying from pale yellow to white. Breeding males darken, with the back and sides becoming purple. All Bluegills, except for small individuals, have a distinct black spot towards the rear of the soft dorsal fin.

Bluegills occur throughout Alabama in springs and small streams to large rivers, reservoirs, swamps, and private ponds. An extended spawning season lasting from April through September and produces millions of Bluegill in Alabama each year. Bluegill are routinely stocked in lakes and ponds as food for Largemouth Bass. Bluegills are density dependent meaning, that as their numbers increase, their relative sizes decrease. Therefore, it is important to catch and remove smaller fish to avoid overpopulation. Bluegill live for five to six years in Alabama.

Bluegill are excellent game fish, especially for young fishers.


Redear Sunfish (Alabama State Record: 4 lbs 4 oz)

Locally known as Shellcracker, Redear Sunfishes are one of Alabama’s least colorful, but most sought after, Sunfishes. The back on this species is light green to brown with scattered darker spots. The sides are a light gray to silver color. The lower surfaces of the head and center are light yellow to white, sides of the head are mottled with brown to dark orange spots. The dorsal fin is light gray, while the anal fin is light yellow to white. The common name of this species is taken from the characteristic red or orange spot at the back of the side of the head. They grow to be 8-11 inches in adulthood.

The Redear Sunfish lives in moderate to large streams, rivers, reservoirs, lakes, swamps, and other standing-water habitats. Spawning occurs from late April to early June. Redear Sunfish are usually stocked in small ponds and lakes with Bluegills and Largemouth Bass. They grow well in these environments and, because they feed on mollusks and benthic aquatic insect larvae, they don’t not compete with Bluegills.


Green Sunfish (Alabama State Record: 1 lb 9 oz)

Widespread and abundant in Alabama’s small to large streams, springs, swamps, and ponds, the Green Sunfish can be identified by the brownish green shade on the back and sides alongside rows of small, metallic blue spots toward the head and irregularly spaced spots toward the tail. A large black spot occurs near the rear of the soft dorsal and anal fins. The edges of the fins are yellow to orange; colors which become much brighter during the spawning season. The Green Sunfish grows to be 4-8 inches in adulthood.

Green Sunfish tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. The Green Sunfish is one of the first fish species to reinvade streams that go dry in late summer. Food items include insects, small fishes, and crayfishes. Spawning occurs from May through July. They are considered undesirable in small ponds and lakes since they grow much faster than Bluegills and Redear Sunfish. This means that they can outcompete them for food and spawning space, and rarely reach suitable size for table fare.
To find out more about the types of Sunfish we can provide, visit Alabama Pond Management.