Wild Guide

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From Missouri Conservationist: August 2020

Bluegill | Lepomis macrochirus


Stocked in large numbers


  • Length: to about 9½ inches;
  • Weight: to about 12 ounces



Bluegill are a smallmouthed sunfish. Stocked statewide as feed for largemouth bass, their natural range has grown. They occur in many habitats from farm ponds to large reservoirs, but prefer deeper pools and backwaters of low-gradient streams. Bluegill swim in loose groups of 20–30. They can be found feeding in the shallows in the morning and evening, and in the deeper, shadier spots during the midday.

Life Cycle

Bluegill begin nesting in late May and continue through August. Nests are formed amongst gravel in 1-to-2-inchdeep water. After spawning, males guard the nests until the eggs hatch. Newly hatched fry are on their own, and by age 3 or 4, they have grown 6 inches. Certain non-nesting males, called “sneakers” or “satellites,” have the color pattern and behavior of females. They enter other males’ nest areas and fertilize eggs without alerting the territorial-nest-holding male.


Bluegill are limited by their small mouth. They feed primarily by sight, at all levels of the water, zeroing in on moving objects. When mayflies are emerging, they feed at the surface. Fry eat mainly small crustaceans, while adults eat mostly insects, small fish, crayfish, and snails.

Ecosystem Connections

Bluegill are important aquatic predators in the streams and ponds they occupy. They also provide food for larger fish. The eggs and defenseless fry are eaten by numerous predators. Discover more nature at mdc.mo.gov/field-guide

Did You Know?

Bluegill are a popular sport fish for Missouri anglers. They make excellent table fare.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler