Redear Sunfish

Redear sunfish side view photo with black background
Scientific Name
Lepomis microlophus
Centrarchidae (sunfishes) in the order Perciformes (perch-like fishes)

The redear sunfish is deep and slab-sided, with a small mouth, the upper jaw not reaching past the front of the eye. The back and sides are golden or light olive green. The belly is yellow or orange yellow. The sides often have dark vertical bars. The ear flap is black with a whitish border and a prominent orange or red spot. It is most closely related to bluegill, green sunfish, and other sunfishes.

Other Common Names

Total length: 8 to 10½ inches; weight: 6½ to 12 ounces; can be more than 12 inches and more than 4 pounds.

Where To Find
image of Redear Sunfish distribution map

In natural waters, this species is confined to the southern half of Missouri, but it has been widely stocked in small reservoirs and ponds.

This sunfish prefers warm, clear waters with no noticeable current and an abundance of aquatic plants. In streams, it prefers protected bays and overflow pools and avoids the main channel. Most active in daylight.

Carnivorous, feeding primarily on snails and other mollusks. This diet is what inspired the alternate common name "shellcracker." The throat teeth of this fish have broad, flattened surfaces, which are well suited for crushing mollusk shells.

Life Cycle

Individuals can live for 6 years. In our state, nesting is in May or June, and sometimes again in August. Nests are saucer-shaped depressions that are fanned out in silt if no gravel is present. This species nests in colonies, with the rims of the nests often almost touching.

An excellent panfish, the redear sunfish contributes significantly to the creel in impounded waters where it has been introduced. Most are caught from spawning "beds" in early summer. Can be taken on artificial lures, but natural baits, such as earthworms and grubs, are most effective.

Stocked in many small ponds and fish hatcheries to control the spread of certain aquatic parasites. Redear prey upon aquatic snails, which are an important link in the lifecycles of certain aquatic parasites.

Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

Perry County Community Lake is located about two miles west of Perryville and can be accessed from Route T and from the Interstate 55 west outer road. MDC, in cooperation with the citizens of Perry Co

    • This area owned and maintained by Sedalia Parks & Rec Department, Sedalia, MO. For more information please contact Sedalia Parks & Rec - 660-826-4930.
This Area is owned and maintained by: City of Lancaster. The land surrounding the lake and all non-fishing related activities are managed by the City of Lancaster.
Taos Countryside Park Lake
City of Taos

Tom Wieberg, Park Director,at 573-619-7043 or email
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.