|Scientific Name: Lepomis microlophus|
Other Common Names: shellcracker, stumpknocker, bream
The redear sunfish is a deep, slab-sided fish with pointed pectoral (side) fins. Its most distinguishing feature is a red or orange edge along the ear flap. With light green-to-gold sides speckled with red or orange flecks, the redear has a yellowish-orange belly. Unlike redbreast or pumpkinseed sunfish, the redear sunfish does not have blue lines on its cheeks. The redear sunfish also grows faster and larger than other sunfish, often reaching 2 pounds with 1-plus pound fish common.
Habitats and Habits
Redear sunfish are native to the middle and lower Mississippi River Basin and the Atlantic slope from the central Carolinas to Florida. Redears are found throughout North Carolina, except for cold mountain waters.
Redears are opportunistic feeders, foraging mostly on aquatic clams and snails near aquatic vegetation. Snails and clams are crushed by grinding teeth in the redear’s throat, hence their nickname “shellcracker.” Redears also feed on midge larvae, mayfly and dragonfly nymphs, fish eggs and crayfish.
Redears rarely approach the surface to take flies or other artificial top baits. They are captured with natural bait, such as earthworms and grubs. They are caught most easily in early spring when they are concentrated on spawning beds. During this time, anglers should use natural baits, along with small spinners and flies.