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How to Identify Common Panfish [PICS]

Fine Art America

When it comes to fishing terms let's just face it, things can get confusing. The fish can get pretty confusing, too.

Many people consider anything small enough to put in a frying pan as a panfish.

However, for the purpose of this article we are going with the definition of a panfish as one that is suitable for eating and doesn't outgrow the size of a frying pan. For this reason, bass and the like are left out.

Wild Wings

1. Bluegill

Bluegill are prolific across the United States and make a great source of food and fun.

Generally there are three main features of a bluegill that can help you identify one.

  1. They have a black gill flap.
  2. Vertical bars on each side of their body.
  3. There's a dark blotch at the rear of their dorsal fin.

Bluegill tend to get as large as six to nine inches. The world record was caught in South Carolina in 1998 by Amos Gray. It weighed a whopping five pounds, seven ounces.

Bluegill - Daniel Leathers
Daniel Leathers

2. Crappie

Crappie fishing will soon be hitting prime time with fall weather coming on.

Black crappie tend to be a bit larger than their white crappie cousins. Black crappie have irregular blotches on their bodies as opposed to the vertical bars of white crappie.

Additionally, black have seven to eight spines in front of their dorsal fins; whereas white have five to six.

The world record crappie was a white crappie caught in 1957 in Mississippi by Fred Bright. It weighed in at five pounds, three ounces.

Chattanooga Fishing

3. Red Ear Sunfish

The red ear sunfish is sometimes confused with the bluegill due to the possible presence of stripes. However, these stripes are not a distinguished mark of the red ear and should not be used for identification purposes.

The easiest way to tell a red ear sunfish apart from a bluegill and other relatives is the lack of a black spot on the dorsal fin and the presence of a red or orange trim around its gill flap.

The world record red ear sunfish was caught in 2014 by Hector Brizo in Lake Havasau, Arizona. It weighed five pounds, 12 ounces.


4. Longear Sunfish

These little beauties are fairly easy to identify from other types of sunfish due to the characteristic that gives them their name - the "longear."

The gill flap on a longear sunfish is rather elongated. The males of this species are also readily recognizable during their mating season by the iridescent green top and orange/red bottom.

Young longear sunfish are almost radiant in color. While small, they are fun to catch and can put up a fight for such a little fish.

The world record was caught in New Mexico by Patricia Stout in 1995. It weighed in at one pound, 12 ounces.

Longear Sunfish
Cassville Art Class

There are numerous species considered panfish across the streams and lakes of North America. Hopefully, you can use these pointers and hints to distinguish some of the more common.

NEXT: Know How to Identify Your Bass [PICS]

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How to Identify Common Panfish [PICS]