Bluegill | Lepomis macrochirus
Bluegill info via Wikipedia:
The bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) is a species of freshwater fish sometimes referred to as bream, brim, or copper nose. It is a member of the sunfish family Centrarchidae of the order Perciformes. It is native to North America and lives in streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. It is commonly found east of the Rockies. It usually hides around, and inside, old tree stumps and other underwater structures. It can live in either deep or very shallow water, and will often move back and forth, depending on the time of day or season. Bluegills also like to find shelter among water plants and in the shade of trees along banks.
Bluegills can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) long and about 4 1⁄2 pounds. They have very distinctive coloring, with deep blue and purple on the face and gill cover, dark olive-colored bands down the side, and a fiery orange to yellow belly. The fish are omnivores and will eat anything they can fit in their mouth. They mostly feed on small aquatic insects and fish. The fish play a key role in the food chain, and are prey for muskies, walleye, trout, bass, herons, kingfishers, snapping turtles, and otters.
- Distribution and habitat
- Reproduction and lifestyle
The bluegill is noted for the black spot that it has on the posterior edge of the gills and base of the dorsal fin. The sides of its head and chin are a dark shade of blue. It usually contains 5–9 vertical bars on the sides of its body, but these stripes are not always distinct. It has a yellowish breast and abdomen, with the breast of the breeding male being a bright orange. The bluegill has three anal spines, ten to 12 anal fin rays, six to 13 dorsal fin spines, 11 to 12 dorsal rays, and 12 to 13 pectoral rays. They are characterized by their deep, flattened bodies. They have a terminal mouth, ctenoid scales, and a lateral line that is arched upward anteriorly. The bluegill typically ranges in size from about four to 12 inches, and reaches a maximum size just over 16 inches. The largest bluegill ever caught was four pounds, 12 ounces in 1950.
Distribution and habitat
The bluegill occurs naturally in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains from coastal Virginia to Florida, west to Texas and northern Mexico, and north to western Minnesota and western New York. Today they have been introduced to almost everywhere else in North America, and have also been introduced into Europe, South Africa, Zimbabwe,Asia, South America, and Oceania. Bluegills have also been found in the Chesapeake Bay, indicating they can tolerate up to 1.8% salinity.
In some locations where they have been transplanted, they are considered pests: trade in the species is prohibited in Germany and Japan. In the case of Japan, bluegills were presented to the then-crown prince, Akihito in 1960 as a gift by Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago. The prince, in turn, donated the fish to fishery research agencies in Japan from which they escaped, becoming an invasive species which has wreaked havoc with native species, specifically in Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. The emperor has since apologized.
Bluegill live in the shallow waters of many lakes and ponds, along with slow-moving areas of streams and small rivers. They prefer water with many aquatic plants, and hide within fallen logs or water weeds. They can often be found around weed beds, where they search for food or spawn. In the summer, adults move to deep, open water where they suspend just below the surface and feed on plankton and other aquatic creatures. Bluegill try to spend most of their time in water from 60 to 80 °F (16 to 27 °C), and tend to have a home range of about 320 square feet (30 m2) during nonreproductive months. They enjoy heat, but do not like direct sunlight - they typically live in deeper water, but will linger near the water surface in the morning to stay warm. Bluegill are usually found in schools of 10 to 20 fish, and these schools will often include other panfish, such as crappie, pumpkinseeds, and smallmouth bass.
Young bluegills' diet consists of rotifers and water fleas. The adult diet consists of aquatic insect larvae (mayflies, caddisflies, dragonflies), but can also include crayfish, leeches, snails, and other small fish. If food is scarce, bluegill will also feed on aquatic vegetation, and if scarce enough, will even feed on their own eggs or offspring. As bluegill spend a great deal of time near the surface of water, they can also feed on surface bugs. Most bluegills feed during daylight hours, with a feeding peak being observed in the morning and evening (with the major peak occurring in the evening). Feeding location tends to be a balance between food abundance and predator abundance. Bluegill use gill rakers and bands of small teeth to ingest their food. During summer months, bluegills generally consume 35 percent of their body weight each week. To capture prey, bluegills use a suction system in which they accelerate water into their mouth. Prey comes in with this water. Only a limited amount of water is able to be suctioned, so the fish must get within 1.75 centimeters of the prey.
In turn, bluegill are prey to many larger species, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, trout, muskellunge, turtles, northern pike, yellow perch, walleye, catfish, and even larger bluegill. Herons and otters have also been witnessed catching bluegill in shallow water. However, the shape of the fish makes them hard to swallow.
Bluegills have the ability to travel and change directions at high speeds by means of synchronized fin movements. They use notched caudal fins, soft dorsal fins, body undulations, and pectoral fins to move forward. Having a notched caudal fin allows them to accelerate quickly. The speed of their forward motion depends on the strength of which they abduct or adduct fins. The flat, slender body of the bluegill lowers water resistance and allows the bluegills to cut effectively through water. The large, flexible pectoral fins allow the fish to decelerate quickly. This superior maneuverability allows the bluegill to forage and escape predators very successfully. Bluegills have a lateral line system, as well as inner ears, that act as receptors for vibration and pressure changes. However, bluegills rely heavily on sight to feed, especially in their foraging. Optimal vision occurs in the daylight hours. The mouth of the bluegill is very small and requires the use of the pharynx to suck in prey.
Reproduction and lifestyle
Spawning season for bluegills starts late in May and extends into August. The peak of the spawning season usually occurs in June in waters of 67 to 80 °F (19 to 27 °C). The male bluegills arrive first at the mating site. They will make a spawning bed of six to 12 inches in diameter in shallow water, clustering as many as 50 beds together. The males scoop out these beds in gravel or sand. Males tend to be very protective and chase everything away from their nests, especially other male bluegills. Some bluegills, regardless of their small size, will even attack snorkelers if they approach the edge of the nest. As a female approaches, the male will begin circling and making grunting noises. The motion and sound of the males seem to attract the females. Females are very choosy and will usually pick males with larger bodies and "ears", making larger size a desirable trait for males to have. If the female enters the nest, both the male and female will circle each other, with the male expressing very aggressive behavior toward the female. If the female stays, the pair will enter the nest and come to rest in the middle. With the male in an upright posture, the pair will touch bellies, quiver, and spawn. These actions are repeated at irregular intervals several times in a row. Once the spawning is done, the male will chase the female out of the nest and guard the eggs. The fertilization process is entirely external. The male's sperm combines with the female's eggs in the water. Smaller males will often hide in nearby weeds and dart into the nest as they attempt to fertilize the eggs. They then quickly dart away. The size of the female plays a large role in how many eggs will be produced. A small female can produce as few as 1,000 eggs, and a large, healthy female can produce up to 100,000 eggs. The male continues to watch over the nest until the larvae are able to hatch and swim away on their own. The bluegill generally begins its spawning career at one year of age, but has been found to spawn as early as four months of age under favorable conditions. Anglers find spawning season to be a very successful time to fish for bluegills, as they aggressively attack anything, including a hook, that comes near.
The growth of the bluegill is very rapid in the first three years, but slows considerably once the fish reaches maturity. Many fish reach five to eight years old, and in extreme cases, can live 11 years.
Bluegills are popular panfish, caught with live bait such as worms or crickets, grasshoppers, flies, pieces of corn, small crankbaits, spinners, American cheese pushed around a hook, maggots, small frogs, bread, hotdogs, or even a bare hook. They mostly bite on vibrant colors like orange, yellow, green, or red, chiefly at dawn and dusk. They are noted for seeking out underwater vegetation for cover; their natural diet consists largely of small invertebrates and very small fish. The bluegill itself is also occasionally used as bait for larger game fish species, such as blue catfish, flathead catfish and largemouth bass.
Fishermen are sometimes able to use polarized sunglasses to see through water and find bluegills' spawning beds. Bluegill have a rather bold character; many have no fear of humans, eating food dropped into the water, and a population in Canada's Lake Scugog will even allow themselves to be stroked by human observers. Because of their size and the method of cooking them, bluegills are often called panfish.
Although the majority of bluegills are caught on live bait—particularly worms, leeches, grubs and crickets—they can also be taken on tiny artificials such as jigs and spinnerbaits. They will rise to small poppers, sponge bugs and dry flies. They will also take wet flies, nymphs, and small streamers.
Bluegills play an important role in pond and lake management to keep crustacean and insect populations low, as a single bluegill population may eat up to six times its own weight in just one summer.
- Illinois State Symbols and Their History
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- Carlander, K.D. 1997. Handbook of freshwater fishery biology. Volume 2. Life history Data on centrarchid fishes of the United States and Canada. Iowa State Univ.Press, Iowa.
- Swingle, H. S. and E. V. Smith. 1943. Factors affecting the reproduction of bluegill bream and large black bass in ponds. Ala. Poly-Tech. Inst. Agr. Exp. Stn. Circ. 87:8
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Redspotted Sunfish | Lepomis miniatus
Redspotted Sunfish info via Wikipedia:
(D. S. Jordan, 1877)
The redspotted sunfish is a freshwater fish that can be found throughout the Mississippi River Valley. The distribution spreads north into Illinois and to the Ohio river, west into Texas and to Oklahoma's Red River, and east to the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. Currently the populations of Lepomis miniatus found in the southern United States seem to be stable. However, the species numbers have diminished significantly in the state of Illinois which lies at the northernmost point of the fish's historic range. Once the redspotted sunfish was found in bodies of water throughout the state but the species range is now limited to just a few counties in the southern portion of Illinois. In fact surveys conducted in the mid-2000s suggested that just two populations existed in the entire state at the time. There could be a number of causes for the decrease in the Lepomis miniatus in Illinois. A popular theory is that the redspotted sunfish has struggled due to a loss of wetlands, which make up the sunfish's natural habitat. The population may also be declining due to increasingly poor water conditions or from competition with invasive species.
Lepomis miniatus feeds primarily on benthic species. Zooplankton make up between 33.3% to 74.6% of the diet of small sunfishes, about 50% of the diet of medium-sized sunfishes as they introduce larger prey into their diet. At larger sizes the redspotted sunfish shifts primarily to benthic macrofauna. Many larger carnivorous fish feed on the redspotted sunfish, primarily bass.Lepomis miniatus is commonly found in shallow and highly vegetative water. The species seems to prefer areas of slow moving water, 0.4 cm/s. While the redspotted sunfish has been shown to compete with other sunfish and some invasive species, like the Rio Grande cichlid in Louisiana, this competition is thought to have little effect in most cases due to the generalist diet of Lepomis miniatus. A more direct danger could be invasives who force the Lepomis miniatus out of its preferred habitat, thus increasing the risk of predation. Human induced changes that might affect the redspotted sunfish could be the reduction in habitat itself, seeing as how they inhabit smaller bodies of water due to their preference for shallow, vegetative, water. They also might directly hurt the water quality through pollution, like in the case of the Wabash River in Illinois which saw the species decline possibly due to oil pollution.
The breeding time of the redspotted sunfish varies across the range of the species but usually occurs in late spring or early summer. The fish breeds in shallow, shaded, areas close to the shore in nests constructed by the males. The redspotted sunfish has an average clutch size of around 2000.Lepomis miniatus reaches sexual maturity at lengths greater than 50–55 mm TL, which occurs sometime between the ages of one and two. The average lifespan of the Lepomis miniatus is about five to six years, six being the maximum age the species tends to reach. The effect of human induced changes on this life history is unknown at this time.
Conservation and management
Decimation of the sunfish was probably the result of drainage of swamps and bottomland lakes and the general deterioration of the water quality. There is some concern that the release of the invasive Nile tilapia into waters inhabited by the redspotted sunfish could be detrimental to the species.
In Illinois the redspotted sunfish has been listed as endangered in that state. Fortunately a number of organizations have been working to help the species recover and are hoping to get the sunfish's status reduced to threatened in Illinois by 2014. The main groups who are working to rehabilitate Lepomis miniatus are the Nature Conservancy in conjunction with the Illinois Natural History Survey and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. These conservation efforts have involved transplanting a portion of the redspotted sunfish population into two protected, suitable, bodies of water. The first being a preserve lake in Emiquon Nature Preserve and the second being a refuge pond in Allerton Park. These populations have spawned enough fish to stock five more suitable bodies of water.
- NatureServe (2015). "Lepomis miniatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 4.1 (4.1). International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Lepomis miniatus" in FishBase. July 2011 version.
- Williams, C.H. and T.H. Bonner. Lepomis miniatus. Texas Freshwater Fishes. Texas State University - San Marcos. n.d. Web. Retrieved 11 November 2012. http://www.bio.txstate.edu/~tbonner/txfishes/lepomis%20miniatus.htm
- Nyboer, R.W., J.R. Herkert, and J.E. Ebinger. Endangered and Threatened Species of Illinois: Status and Distribution, Vol 2: Animals. Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board. p. 75. 2004 Web. Retrieved 11 November 2012. http://dnr.state.il.us/ORC/WildlifeResources/theplan/PDFs/2%20From%20Threatened%20&%20Endangered%20Species%20of%20Illinois.pdf
- The Redspotted Sunfish Saga: From Statewide Surveys to Genetic Analyses, Captive Propagation, and Reintroduction Efforts. n.d. Web. Retrieved 11 November 2012. http://www.midwestfw.org/documents/FisheriesAbstracts.pdf
- Great Rivers: Restoring Wetlands Gives Fish a Fighting Chance. The Nature Conservancy. 07 March 2011 Web. Retrieved 11 November 2012. http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/riverslakes/howwework/restoring-wetlands-gives-fish-a-fighting-chance.xml
- VanderKooy, K.E., C.F. Rakocinski, and R.W. Heard. 2000. Trophic relationships of three sunfishes (Lepomis spp.) in an estuarine bayou. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. Vol 23-5: 621-632.
- Martin, C.W., M.M. Valentine, and J.F. Valentine. 2010. Competitive Interactions between Invasive Nile Tilapia and Native Fish: The Potential for Altered Trophic Exchange and Modification of Food Webs. PLOS ONE. Vol 5-12: Article e14395.
- Lorenz, T.O., M.T. O'Connell, and P.J. Schofield. 2011. Aggressive interactions between the invasive Rio Grande cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus) and native bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), with notes on redspotted sunfish (Lepomis miniatus). Journal of Ethology. Vol 29-1: 39-46
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Longear Sunfish | Lepomis megalotis
Longear Sunfish info via Wikipedia:
The longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis) is a freshwater fish in the sunfish family, Centrarchidae, of order Perciformes. It is native to the area of eastern North America stretching from the Great Lakes down to northeastern Mexico. The longear sunfish reaches a maximum recorded length of about 24 cm (9.5 in), with a maximum recorded weight of 790g (1.7 lb). Most do not live beyond six years. The longear sunfish is quite colorful, with an olive to rusty-brown back, bright orange belly and blue-green bars on the sides of its head. A unique characteristic is their elongated opercular flap, giving an appearance of a "long ear".
The species prefers densely vegetated, shallow waters in lakes, ponds, and sluggish streams. Its diet can include insects, aquatic invertebrates, and small fish. Avoiding strong currents, longear sunfish are usually present in small to moderate flowing streams, rivers, and reservoirs. The genus Lepomis has a well-characterized mating behavior where parental care is done by the male. He makes and defends the nest. Males fan the eggs to remove silt and other debris until the larvae hatch. Some longear females produce 4,000 eggs. They spawn in groups but do not form large colonies.
Longear sunfish are better at getting food in moving waters than still waters. This may explain why they are more abundant in streams than lakes. For the most part, longear sunfish are active during the day and inactive at night. There are very few conservation acts currently being performed in order to maintain the distribution and abundance of this species.
Longear sunfish are found in North America, primarily in the Mississippi and Great Lakes regions. Longear sunfish are mostly found in freshwater areas west of the Appalachian Mountains. Some Lepomis populations are located as far north and west as southern Quebec and Minnesota. The species has also been spotted in places as far south and west as central Mexico and New Mexico. The native territory of the longear sunfish is exclusive to the North American Continent. It is found primarily in the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds. The longear sunfish is restricted in range to certain large streams. This species can be located in the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River. The species has been introduced to stream ecosystems along the eastern coast of the United States. The distribution of the longear sunfish throughout North America has not been affected since the species has been followed. This may be due to the species’ ability to travel throughout large bodies of water, thus avoiding dams and man-made interferences along smaller streams. They are also able to occupy different body of water types, thus making them more resilient to a decrease in their range distribution.
Longear sunfish feed more extensively near the surface of the water than other sunfish species. Lepomis megalotis is mostly a carnivorous fish that eats aquatic insects, small crustaceans, fish eggs, young bass, and even young sunfish. They have also been observed eating dragonflies and other insects which travel over the surface of the water. Other observed prey have been detritus, gnat larvae, snails, day flies and leeches. The diets of adult longear (longer than 102 mm) are composed of terrestrial insects (37%), fish (31%), aquatic insects (21%), and fish eggs (7%).Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and wading birds are all natural predators to the longear sunfish. Smaller species of longear can be preyed on by larger sunfish populations. Sunfish are an important link in the food chain. They act as both predator and prey within their ecosystems. Other sunfish species and larger predatory fishes compete with the longear for food and resources.
Longear sunfish, like additional members of the family Centrarchidae, are freshwater fish. They prefer streams with a firm clay bottom or gravel with clear waters and they typically stay nearby aquatic vegetation. Although more abundant near the sources of streams, sunfish can be found in water sources of all sizes and are also found in lakes. Longear sunfish usually reside in shallower, warmer headwaters of streams with a steady flow. They spend most of their time near aquatic vegetation, or other forms of cover such as roots, brush piles, and undercut banks. This allows for them to hide from potential predators. Sunfish species are especially intolerant to turbid waters. Human-induced changes to stream ecosystems could potentially disrupt the sunfish distribution. Destruction of aquatic vegetation from human runoff could destroy aquatic plants that are essential for the protection and cover of this species against predators. Chemical runoff into large rivers could also disturb the pH of the longear’s natural ecosystem.
Longear sunfish tend to breed during the late spring and early summer (late May to late August). During breeding seasons they are generally found in shallower, warmer waters near the sources of streams which have pools. Like most other members of Lepomis, longear sunfish are colonial nesters. Male longear sunfish build the nests without assistance from the females. Preferred substrate for nesting is gravel, if available, but they will build in sand or hard mud if necessary. A male longear will guard the nest territory during all phases of reproduction. The clutch size can be anywhere from 140 to 2800 eggs per reproductive cycle. After hatching, it only takes the longear sunfish 2–3 years to reach sexual maturity. The average life-span of the Lepomis megalotis in the wild is usually 4–6 years, but there have been cases where individuals have lived up to 9 years. Longear sunfish cannot tolerate cloudy or mucky water. Throughout the 20th century their populations have been reduced in areas where their native streams have suffered increased cloudiness. This cloudiness could potentially be a result of human induced erosion for agriculture or industry purposes. Increased human disturbance along streams and rivers could continue to increase the reduction of longear populations due to the murkiness of rivers and streams.
Longear sunfish are not currently endangered in any of their native habitats. Longear sunfish are not listed federally or internationally as threatened or endangered, but efforts are still being conducted in order to protect the species. Small conservation actions are taking place all over the US. Control of non-point source pollution from urbanization and agricultural practices is needed for this species, which is intolerant of turbidity. Habitat degradation and loss from shoreline and watershed agriculture threatens this species which prefers clear, shallow streams with aquatic vegetation.Sedimentation and agricultural runoff also threatens this species which is believed to have been lost from many locations because of the effects of soil erosion. The longear sunfish is not in danger of overfishing, because it is not considered a sport fish, and because the sunfish is not especially good for eating. The longear sunfish is currently threatened in states such as Wisconsin and New York. Refuge areas in these two states are being created along lakes and streams in order to protect the few, disjunct locations where this species live. Since this species has a fairly large distribution nationally and its abundance is still quite high, there are not many conservation groups taking serious action in preserving this species. The longear sunfish tends to do well in rivers and streams that do not undergo much disturbance. If man-made disturbances continue to disrupt shorelines then agencies may begin to see an increased reduction in the Lepomis megalotis abundance nationwide.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lepomis megalotis.|
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2006). "Lepomis megalotis" in FishBase. April 2006 version.
- "Lepomis megalotis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
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