Freshwater Fish Identification
Other names: Cherry bream
Status: Texas nongame fish
Lepomis, the generic name, is Greek and means "scaled gill cover." The
species epithet megalotis is Greek and means "great ear." The name is
derived from the fact that longear sunfish have an elongated opercle flap. This
flap, always trimmed in white in adults, is unique and makes field
identification relatively easy if hybridization has not occurred. Longear
sunfish are quite colorful. Males are often bright orange or scarlet, and the
head and fins usually have turquoise markings. Dorsal and anal fins, and their
associated spines, are similar to those of redear sunfish.
Because of its small size, the species' importance to anglers derives in
three ways. Since they are relatively easy to capture with simple, natural baits
such as earthworms, longears are an important species for young anglers with
little experience. Like most sunfish, they provide more than enough fight for
their small size. Longears may feed on the surface, providing the fly fishermen
with a challenge, and finally, they are often a prized bait fish for trotliners.
Longear sunfish are primarily found in small streams and creeks. Like other
sunfish they are often associated with vegetation, avoiding strong currents by
inhabiting pools, inlets, and waters off the main stream channel. Spawning
occurs throughout late spring and early summer. Males scoop nests out of gravel
bars. Females are enticed to lay their eggs on a particular nest by a male who
swims out to meet her, swimming around her rapidly and displaying his brilliant
spawning colors. After the eggs have been laid, males chase the females away and
guard the nest vigorously despite their small size, chasing away all intruders.
Males may continue to guard the nest for a week or more after hatching, until
larvae have dispersed. Insects and even small fish become part of the diet as
fish approach adulthood. Longear sunfish rarely exceed six inches in length.
Longear sunfish are restricted to freshwater areas west of the Appalachian
Mountains. Scattered populations occur as far north and west as southern Quebec
and Minnesota, and as far south and west as north central Mexico and New Mexico.
The species is found throughout Texas except for the headwaters of the Canadian
and Brazos rivers.
to sunfishes page