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Redear Sunfish

The redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus), commonly known as the "shellcracker," is a popular and sought-after freshwater fish species among anglers in the United States, including in Missouri. Here are some key characteristics and information about the redear sunfish:

Physical Description:

  • Size: Redear sunfish are generally smaller than some other sunfish species, typically measuring around 6 to 10 inches in length.
  • Color: They have a distinctive olive-green or yellow-green body with irregular dark markings. Their belly is typically lighter in color.
  • Earspot: One of the key identifying features of redear sunfish is a prominent red or orange spot on the posterior edge of their gill cover (operculum), which is often referred to as the "ear." This distinguishes them from other sunfish species like bluegill.


  • Redear sunfish are typically found in warm, clear, and slow-moving or still waters, including ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and calm backwaters of rivers.
  • They prefer areas with vegetation or submerged structures where they can find food and shelter.


  • Redear sunfish are known for their unique feeding habits. They primarily feed on aquatic insects and snails, which make up a significant portion of their diet. This diet earned them the nickname "shellcracker" due to their ability to crush the shells of snails.


  • Redear sunfish typically spawn in the spring and early summer when water temperatures rise.
  • Males build nests on sandy or gravelly substrate in shallow water and guard the eggs until they hatch.


  • Redear sunfish are popular among anglers for their delicious taste and can be caught using various baits, including worms, crickets, and artificial lures.
  • They are often pursued during the spring and summer months when they are more active.


  • It's important for anglers to be aware of fishing regulations and size limits in their specific fishing location, as these regulations can vary by state and body of water.

Redear sunfish are valued not only for their sporting qualities but also for their culinary appeal. They are known for their firm and tasty flesh, making them a prized catch for anglers who enjoy both fishing and cooking. 

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