Common Name - Bluegill

Category - Fish

ScientificName - Lepomis macrochirus

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Osteichthyes

Order - Perciformes

Family - Centrarchidae

Genus - Lepomis

Species - macrochirus


Description - This slab-sided fish has a deep body with a short head. The mouth is oblique, small, the upper jaw not extending to the front of the eye. The opercular fin is black and rounded posteriorly with flap in adults longer than juveniles. The pectoral fin is long and pointed, extending past the eye when bent forward. This fin reaches the origin of the anal fin. Gill rakers long and slender. Coloration is varied with the back dark greenish with bluish reflections. The sides vary from pale yellow to white. Breeding males darken with the back and sides becoming a slightly purple. Breast and throat redish orange in breeding males which maybe bluish.

Size - Normal adult size is 6 to 10 inches (152 to 254mm) long; World angling record (4 pounds 12 ounces) was caught in Alabama. Kentucky record is 4 pounds 3 ounces caught by Phil Conyers in Strip Mine Lake, Hopkins County in 1980.

Ecological Role - The bluegill has two roles in the farm pond and some other habitats. It is first a food fish for most predatory species. It is the food for the largemouth bass in most farm ponds and is stocked first so that it can become established. Second it is a food fish for man. Most farm pond fishing is for this fish as its table fare has few rivals. Without the heavy predation by both predatory species and man, the bluegill becomes overabundant and stunting occurs. The farm pond is in balance when the bluegill and largemouth bass population are such that each controls the other. Other species that feed on the bluegill are birds, turtles, snakes and other species. In larger reservoirs, the bluegill’s role is not the primary food fish for predators as the gizzard shad, threadfin shad and alewife assume this role. They are, however, still a food fish for most predators as well as man. The bluegill provides a large portion of the fishing pressure on all waterbodies.

Fun Facts - Lepomis means scaled operculum and macrochirus means large hand. The bluegill is usually the first fish sought by the younger angler in farm ponds and lakes throughout the state, usually with cane pole with line and a single hook baited with worms or crickets. The young, old, inexperienced and experienced spend many hours fishing for this species with the fishing tackle varying from cane pole to fly rod. Bait for bluegill varies form natural bait (worms, crickets, mealworms, wax worms, etc.) to spinners (beetle spins, small spinner, etc.), to poppers, spiders, and flies. Although the bluegill is not the largest species in the lake, his fight is probably the greatest pound for pound. The table fare is one of the most desired species caught (it taste good), so lets go down to the lake and catch some bluegills. 

Food - Bluegills feed mostly on aquatic insects, worms, small crayfish, plant material and small fishes. Smaller individuals and juveniles may forage on zooplankton and algae.





Habitat - Bluegills occur in all most habitats from slow moving streams, swamps, large rivers, small streams, reservoirs and small ponds. Farm ponds are an ideal habitat with large numbers living in most ponds. This is one of the fish stocked by the KDFWR in the farm pond-stocking program.

Kentucky Distribution - Bluegills are found throughout the state in all types of habitat. Few are found in colder streams but all other habitats are inhabited by bluegills.

Life Cycle

Life Span - The bluegill may live to be five to six years old although most of the fish are eaten by predatory fish and birds.

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes

Spawning - Bluegills as with most sunfish are communal spawners with the male building a circular nest area in gravel or other material. These nests appear as a saucer-shaped depression of about a foot or so in diameter and are in close proximity to one another. The nest maybe from one to four feet deep and maybe visible from the shoreline. The male constructs the nest by fanning the area with his tail until most of the finer material is removed. The male becomes the suitor and leads or drives the female into the nest where she deposits her eggs. The male fertilizes the eggs and the female leaves the nest. More than one female may be attracted the nest and each female spawns several times throughout the summer months from May through September. Each female produces several thousand of eggs each year.

Status - Common throughout the state




What We Can Do


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

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