Bluegill, flier, green sunfish, longear sunfish, orange spotted sunfish, pumpkinseed, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, rock bass, and warmouth are all considered panfish.
Panfish Species Identification
Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
- Large, deep bodied sunfish with a small mouth
- Sides are dark bluish-green in color with vertical bars throughout their body
- They have a large dark spot at the rear of the soft dorsal fin
- Their belly is deep orange to rust color
- Adults can grow to 16 in. but usually reach 6-11 in.
World Record Bluegill: 4 pounds, 12 ounces (caught on Lake Ketona, Alabama, in 1950)
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Flier (Centrarchus macropterus)
- Small sunfish with deep round body and small mouth
- Silver greenish color with brown back and sides
- Their belly is yellow to cream in color
- Dark vertical streak below their eye that extends down to the lower edge of their operculum
Learn more about flier
Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
- Large, robust sunfish with a large mouth
- Blue irregular stripes of color on the sides of their head
- Large black spot at the rear of their soft dorsal fin
- Adults can grow to 12 in. but usually reach 8-10 in.
World Record Green Sunfish: 2 pounds, 2 ounces (caught on Stockton Lake, Missouri in 1971)
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Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)
- Small sunfish with a deep body and small mouth
- Bright red-orange color with iridescent blue spots on their back and sides
- Their belly is mostly red-orange in color
- Has a long gill or “ear” flap, and wavy blue lines on cheek and gill cover
- Adults can grow to 9 in. but are usually less than 6 in.
World Record Orange Spotted Sunfish: 1 pound, 12 oz (caught on Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico in 1985)
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Orangespotted Sunfish (Lepomis humilis)
- Olive green body with orange spots
- Has 10 spines on their dorsal fin
- Adults grow up to 6 inches.
Learn more about orangespotted sunfish
Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)
- Olive green back with neon blue spots along sides and and range belly
- Adults grow up to 8 inches.
World Record Pumpkinseed Sunfish: 1 pound, 8 ounces (caught in Honeoye, New York in 2016)
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Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus)
- Small sunfish with large mouth
- Females have a pale red and yellow body with dark blotches along their lateral lines
- Males have an olive to bronze colored body with a yellow belly and blue streaks on their cheek , back, and upper side.
World Record Redbreast Sunfish: 1 pound, 12 ounces (caught on the Suwannee River in Florida in 1984)
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Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
- Large, deep bodied sunfish with a small mouth with long, pointed snout and small mouth
- Adult males have a red margin on the gill cover flap while females have a light orange flap
- Adults can grow to 15 in. but usually reach 8-11 in.
World Record Redear Sunfish: 6.3 Pounds on Lake Havasu, Arizona in 2021)
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- Dark green or brown color with brassy yellow flecks
- 4-5 wide dark saddles over the back and down the sides
- Often called “redeye” or “goggleye” due to its large, deep red eyes
- Has 5 or 6 spines in their anal fin
- Adults can grow to 17 inches but fish exceeding 12 inches are rare
World Record Rock Bass: 3 lbs 10 oz.
Learn more about rock bass
Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus)
- Medium-sized, robust sunfish with a large head and mouth
- Dark olive to grey colors with brownish sides and yellow markings
- Dark red-brown lines flowing from the back of their eye
- Adults can grow to 12 in. but most are less than 10 in.
World Record Warmouth: 2 pounds, 7 ounces (caught in Holt, Florida in 1985)
Learn more about warmouth
Why They Are Called Panfish
Panfish got their name because they are small enough to fit in a frying pan. When the term originated it was much more common to fish for food and not sport. They just wanted fish to eat, the specific species wasn’t as important.
Where to Find Panfish
Panfish can be found throughout the United States in rivers, creek, ponds, and lakes. They are often caught close to shore and structures like docks, lay downs, and vegetation.
Best Time to Fish for Panfish
Panfish can be caught any time of the day. They are easiest to catch during daylight, when you can visually locate them. In the spring and early summer panfish spawn up shallow which makes them easier to catch for those fishing from the bank.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are panfish good to eat?
Panfish taste good but often aren’t used for cooking due to their small size. After you remove the bones and fillet them you are left with little meat. It’s a lot of effort for little reward. If you are willing to put in the work though, they can be great for fish fries. A good electric fillet knife can speed up the process tremendously.
Are catfish panfish?
Catfish are not considered panfish. Catfish are their own category and that consists of multiple variations.
Are panfish in lakes?
Panfish are in almost every lake within the United States.
How big are panfish?
Panfish are typically smaller fish but can range from just a few ounces up to 6 lbs. The largest panfish is a redear sunfish with the largest caught being 6.3 Pounds on Lake Havasu, Arizona in 2021.
How deep do you fish for panfish?
During colder months you need to fish deeper panfish, target areas 10ft or deeper. During Warmer months they will be found much shallower often in 10ft or less.
What size hooks for panfish?
The #6 size Gamakatsu Octopus is the best hook for catching panfish.
What do panfish eat?
Panfish eat insects, fish eggs, minnows, and zooplankton.
Whats is the best bait for panfish?
My favorite bait when fishing for panfish is canned corn. If you are looking for something to keep in your tackle box then Berkley PowerBait is a great options.