HookedinFishing » Freshwater Fish » Panfish


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 being held


  • 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.

Learn more about bluegill

Flier on white background


  • 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 fishing for fliers

Green Sunfish

  • 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.

Learn more about green sunfish

Longear Sunfish being held

Longear Sunfish

  • 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 up to 9 inches but are usually less than 6

Learn more about longear sunfish

Orangespotted Sunfish

  • 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 being held in hand out of water


  • Molted blue, orange, yellow, and olive green coloring
  • Wavy blue lines on cheeks
  • Orange belly
  • Black earflaps with red or orange boarder
  • 10 spines on the front of dorsal fin with a rounded back

Learn more about pumpkinseed

Redbreast Sunfish

  • 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.

Learn more about redbreast sunfish

Redear Sunfish

  • 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.

Learn more about redear sunfish

Rock Bass hooked with small jig being held out of water

Rock Bass

  • 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

Learn more about rock bass


  • 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.

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.