• Family: Centrachidae (Sunfishes)
• Other Names: Shellcracker
• Ohio Status: Sport fish and introduced
• Adult Size: Typically 8-10 inches, can reach 15 inches. Usually weigh 1 pound or less, can reach 3.5 pounds.
• Typical Foods: Preferred diet is snails but will eat a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects as well.
Redear sunfish are a deep, slab-sided fish similar to the bluegill sunfish, except the ear flap (opercle) is black with a red or orange spot at the rear edge. Pumpkinseed and northern longear sunfish also have this red tip but in addition they have many wavy blue lines on the cheek. Redear sunfish do not have distinct vertical bars like bluegill sunfish, when they are present they are broken and blotchy. Redear Sunfish also lack the black blotches at the rear base of the dorsal and anal fins that bluegill sunfish have.
Habitat and Habits
Redear sunfish prefer clear waters with more rooted aquatic vegetation than that of the bluegill sunfish. Redear sunfish do poorly in flowing streams and are very rarely found in flowing waters in Ohio. Redear sunfish use specially modified teeth in their throat that allow them to crush the shells of snails and other mollusks, hence the name shellcrackers.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Redear sunfish, like most other sunfish, are communal nest spawners. Spawning normally occurs in May or June, and the male guards the nest until the eggs hatch. Following spawning, redear sunfish move to deeper water for the summer months.