Remarkable Redears

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Published on: Jul. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 22, 2010

lakes in Missouri offer excellent redear fishing.

“People who catch a redear often think they have a bluegill,” said Harold Kerns, fishery regional supervisor for Northwest Missouri.

Kerns said redear sunfish are similar in appearance and shape to bluegill, but redear can be distinguished from other sunfish by their yellow to yellow-orange belly, long, sharply pointed pectoral fin and light colored, sometimes reddish-orange border of the ear flap over the gill cover. Redear also generally run larger than other sunfishes. It is not uncommon to catch redear sunfish weighing more than a pound.

Southern states that have longer periods of warm weather resulting in longer growing seasons can brag of redear over four pounds, but Missouri’s redear also grow pretty big. Glenda Gollaher caught the current Missouri state record of two pounds, seven ounces, from the Whetstone Creek Conservation Area in 1988.

William Hargrove caught the previous record of two pounds, four ounces in 1974 from Lake St. Louis. Who would have imagined that his record would hold up 14 years and that it would be topped by only three ounces?

Redear are native only to the southern and southeastern parts of the state, but the fish are stocked throughout Missouri where conditions are favorable to them. Redear do best in clear water with vegetation that holds snails and insects.

In fact, so fond are redear sunfish for snails that they have been used in hatcheries and ponds to reduce snail infestations.

James Fry, former Conservation Department fisheries division chief, conducted one of the earliest research projects on this species in 1964. His research led to redear stocking statewide where conditions allow redear survival.

Redear sunfish are often stocked in lakes and ponds managed by the Conservation Department. For information about these areas go to

The best redear lakes are usually extremely shallow and full of vegetation. Few deep reservoirs have redear populations.

Stocked redear sunfish can reproduce, but they are not as prolific as bluegill. Predators devour many of their fry, but usually some survive to grow to full size. Overpopulation is usually not a problem for redear in Missouri, but it has occurred in southern states. In fact, most anglers wish redear sunfish were more plentiful here.

“Landowners often want redear sunfish in their ponds because they grow larger than bluegill,” Kerns said.

The Missouri Conservation Department does not provide redear for stocking in private ponds, but private fish dealers have them.

Redear are more difficult to catch than bluegill.

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