Family: Centrarchidae
Common Family: The Sunfish Family
Common Name: Longear Sunfish
Scientific Name: Lepomis megalotis

Ecological Description/Identification

Longear sunfish are one of West Virginia’s most colorful fish, being vibrantly colored with a brown to red color base. There are often wavy blue lines on the cheek and opercle and the body is marbled and spotted with blue bars on the sides. Their long ear flaps are black and are usually bordered by a blue or light line. Longear sunfish also have a rounded pectoral fin that does not reach past the eye and their upper jaw extends to under the eye.


West Virginia is on the eastern edge of the longear sunfish native range, but they can be found in many of our warm-water streams and lakes. They are often quite common in our medium sized streams, especially in areas along the margins near vegetation and woody debris.

Conservation Issues

High amounts of sedimentation can reduce the amount of suitable spawning habitat for longear sunfish and lead to decreased populations. A lack of suitable cover to escape predation can also lead to population decreases.


Spawning of longear sunfish is very similar to bluegill as it occurs in early summer over large nests that are guarded by males. Longear sunfish are known to naturally hybridize with bluegill, pumpkinseed and green sunfish. Longear sunfish can be caught with common panfish baits such as worms, crickets and small lures/dry flies. Catchable longear sunfish usually range from 3 to 7 inches.

Similar Species

Longear, bluegill, and redbreast sunfish are often lumped together as “sunnies”. However, one can identify the difference by noting that longear sunfish have very long, black ear flaps that have white margins. Redbreast sunfish and bluegill have black ear flaps that lack a white margin. Longear sunfish also have short rounded pectoral fins and somewhat large mouths, whereas bluegill have long pointed pectoral fins and small mouths