SunfishIf there's a favorite family of fish in Michigan, it is no doubt the members of the sunfish family. Found virtually everywhere in the state, sunfish - bluegills, redears, pumpkinseeds, green sunfish, rock bass and warmouth - are small but prolific. They are often the first fish an angler catches in his career and some fishermen continue to target them throughout life. They offer year-round angling opportunities with liberal daily limits (25 in combination).
Bluegills are the most abundant and most commonly pursued, though it isn't unusual to catch other sunfish species while fishing for them. They readily take all manner of live bait; although they have small mouths so smaller offerings - leaf worms, red worms, wax worms or crickets - are preferred.
Bluegills can usually be found year-round around aquatic vegetation. The most traditional way to fish for bluegills is with live bait under a bobber, though they will take small artificial lures (spinners, jigs and spinner-jig combinations) and can be taken on both surface and subsurface flies. Bluegills can usually be found in shallow water, but they will often go deep in both summer and winter. They are popular with ice fishermen who typically use small flies or teardrops tipped with insect larva. Because they sometimes suspend in the winter, ice fishermen often use depth finders to zero in on the appropriate depth. At any time of year, light line (2-pound test or even monofilament sewing thread) and small (No, 12) hooks are appropriate.
Sunfish spawn in the spring and it is during the bedding season that they easily taken. Community nesters, most sunfish make their beds in the shallows and anglers offering any manner of bait in and around the beds are usually rewarded. Fly fishermen using popping bugs, rubber spiders or nymphs can be rewarded with fine sport. Anglers will sometimes catch a variety of species from the same spawning beds and the fish will sometime hybridize.
Readear sunfish are not native to Michigan but have been planted in a number of lakes in the lower two or three tiers of counties in southern Michigan. Also known as "shellcrackers" because they often feed on small mollusks, redears are less likely to take artificial baits and flies than bluegills and are often fished with tight lines on the bottom.
Rock bass, green sunfish and warmouth (also known and goggle-eyes) all have larger mouths than the other sunfish species and can be taken on larger lures. Like other sunfish, they are usually associated with cover - more often around brush or rocks than the other species - and are often taken incidentally by bass fishermen.
For more information on identifying characteristics for bluegill see our fish ID page.
For more information on identifying characteristics for rock bass see our fish ID page.