Redear sunfish, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
Redear sunfish are also known as shellcracker. They have a special set teeth in their throat that allows them to grind up snail shells. They are bigger than other sunfish, 7 to 10 inches in length, 1 to 2 pound weight. They have a distinct red coloring around its ear flap. Redears feed on snails, insects, and small bait fish. Redear can be harder to find because they prefer deeper water than other sunfish.
A combination of understanding the fish and the techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish to the end of your line. Better knowing and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fishing for trout on a river or surfing on the beach or trolling on the open water.
Redear Sunfish - Lepomis microlophus, also known as Shellcracker, Georgia Bream, Cherry Gill, Sunny, Chinquapin, Improved Bream, Stumpknocker, and Sun Perch is native to the Southeastern United States from South Carolina to Texas in the south, and from the southern Illinois east to the Atlantic Coast in the north, but since it is a popular sport fish it has been introduced to bodies of water all over North America. The range now extends west into New Mexico and California, as well as to Africa and Latin America and north into Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The redear is a deep-bodied sunfish with a small mouth. When the mouth is closed the upper jaw does not reach past the front of the eye. Its have specially adapted teeth in the back of their mouth used to crush the snail’s shell. It is this feeding practice that gives them the common name “shellcracker.” Color ranges from dark olive green above to almost white on the belly. Usually color is light olive-green to gold, with red or orange flecks on the breast, the sides are bright yellow to green, usually marked by 5 to 10 vertical bars located on the sides, depending on the size of the fish. These disappear in large fish. The dorsal fin is without spots and has 9 to 11 spines, and it is connected to the soft dorsal fin without the presence of a notch. The anal fin has 3 spines. The pectoral fins are pointed and long. The most individual characteristic is the cherry-red border around the ear flap of the male and orange border on the female. This is where the name “redear” came from. The ear flap is never deeply elongated as the
Redbreast Sunfish or the
Longear Sunfish. The body is heavily spotted. The fins are greenish without spots. Redears grow faster than any other true sunfish. The maximum age is about 8 years old. The adult fish is between 9 and 10-inch (20 and 24 cm) in length.
Redear sunfish inhabit clear lakes, ponds, reservoirs, moderate to large streams and rivers. Like other sunfish, they prefer warm non-turbulent, protected bodies of water with little or no current. Redear sunfish relate to the bottom structure of the lake or river they inhabit and thrive in water with an abundance of cover from aquatic vegetation or submerged trees. Redear sunfish are bottom feeders, feeding mostly during the day on their preferred prey, aquatic snails. Despite their preference for snails, they are opportunistic feeders and supplement their diet with aquatic insect larvae, small clams, crayfish, and fish eggs. Young redear sunfish feed exclusively on zooplankton. The species is usually found near the bottom in warm water with little current and abundant aquatic vegetation.
They are typically found on sandy or shell-covered areas of ponds and lakes, and are often located near grasses. Redear spend a great deal of time offshore in open water, particularly in the winter. Other redear found in rivers prefer quiet waters and have a tendency to congregate around stumps, roots and logs. They are common in lower, more slowly flowing reaches of rivers. They tolerate brackish water better than other sunfish. Like black bass and spotted sunfish, they may be abundant in tidal areas near the mouths of rivers.
Redears reach sexual maturity in the second year of life. They spawn during the warm months May, June and July, when the water temperatures are 68 to 75 °F. They prefer water 3 to 4 feet deep, and a firm, shelly bottom, often near a drop-off. The males build a nest, usually grouped into colonies near sunken plants and guarding the young. There are usually one or two peaks of activity during spawning season. Males usually emit a "popping" sound when courting females. A female may lay between 15,000 to 30,000 eggs during a spawn, but as with other sunfish it is unlikely that a female deposits all of her eggs in one nest. The eggs hatch in 6 to 10 days, and the fry remain in the nest guarded by the male. Redear growth is more rapid than bluegill. They reach up to 2 inches in their first year, 4 inches the second, 6 in the third and 7 inches in the fourth year.
Redear sunfish are a great game fish because they are strong fighters on ultra light tackle and, like other sunfish, they like to take a range of baits. It is more difficult to catch Redear than most other sunfish; they don’t take artificial lures but easy take natural baits like earthworms, crickets grass shrimp and especially snails and mollusks. Most fish are taken on fishing telescopic poles with small hooks, corks, and split shot for weight. Later in the season they move to much deeper water or into heavy cover, where they are difficult to locate.
The best time to catch redear sunfish is while they are spawning. After the spawn, they can be found in deeper waters, often near to areas they used for spawning. They stay in a deep bottom structure so the best technique is a still fishing with a hook baited with small worms, grubs, maggots or snails lying still on the bottom with rare movements. Some artificial lures include small spinners and jigs. Ultra-light spinning or spin-casting tackle and line weights lighter than 6-pound test is a good choice.
If you are fishing extremely shallow water, you can’t beat a Carbon Pole Rods with a line and Pole Floats.
They have excellent tasty meat and can be cooked in a variety of ways.