Longear Sunfish

Longear sunfish, spawning male, side view photo with black background
Scientific Name
Lepomis megalotis
Centrarchidae (sunfishes) in the order Perciformes (perch-like fishes)

The longear sunfish is deep-bodied, slab-sided, with a moderate-sized mouth, the upper jaw nearly reaching the front of the eye. The back and sides are blue green, speckled with yellow and emerald; the belly is yellow or orange. The side of the head is olive or light orange with sky-blue vermiculations (undulating, worm-like markings). The ear (gill) flap is elongated, black, and often bordered in white. The pectoral fin is rounded. 

Similar species: The longear sunfish is most closely related to bluegill, green sunfish, and other sunfishes.

Other Common Names
Creek Perch
Sun Perch

Total length: 5 to 6 inches; maximum about 7 inches and 4.5 ounces.

Where To Find
image of Longear Sunfish distribution point

In the southern half of the state. This species is the most abundant and generally distributed sunfish in southern Missouri.

Avoids strong currents. Occurs in reservoirs, ponds, and in pools, inlets, and overflow waters adjacent to stream channels. Favors clear, permanent-flowing streams having sandy or rocky bottoms and aquatic vegetation. It is by far the most abundant and generally distributed sunfish over the southern half of Missouri. It is abundant in Ozark streams of all sizes except for extreme headwaters. Most active in daytime.

Carnivorous, feeding on insects, small crustaceans, and some small fish.

Nongame fish.

Life Cycle

Individuals can live for 6 years. Nests in colonies, from mid-May to early or mid-August. The evenly rounded nests are nearly always fanned out over small chert gravel. Often the nests are so close together that their rims nearly touch. Courting males tilt to display their brightly colored sides to the females. After spawning, the male swims low over the nest, fanning the eggs with his fins and chasing away intruders. He stays with the nest for more than 2 weeks, until the fry have hatched and dispersed. This species typically reaches a length of about 1½ inches its first year of life.

Despite its small size, the longear sunfish is an important panfish in Ozark streams because of its abundance and willingness to bite. It provides excellent sport when taken on light tackle.

Like the smallmouth bass, the longear sunfish follows turtles and large suckers about as they forage over the bottom, feeding on insect larvae and small crayfish that are exposed. Longears commonly gather about the nests of smallmouth bass and other sunfishes (including their own species), rushing in to feed greedily on eggs or fry if the guardian male is momentarily distracted or frightened away.

Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

This area provides access to Indian Creek through a partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the city of Lanagan, Missouri. The area is maintained by the city of Lanagan.
This area provides access to the Elk River through an agreement with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the city of Pineville, Missouri. The area is maintained by the city of Pineville.
This area provides access to the Pomme de Terre River. A boat ramp and parking lot are provided.
Sunset Park Access was both purchased from and donated by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Fisher and family in 1971.
About Fishes in Missouri
Missouri has more than 200 kinds of fish, more than are found in most neighboring states. Fishes live in water, breathe with gills, and have fins instead of legs. Most are covered with scales. Most fish in Missouri “look” like fish and could never be confused with anything else. True, lampreys and eels have snakelike bodies — but they also have fins and smooth, slimy skin, which snakes do not.