Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) are the iconic bream species that many of us have fond memories of catching as a kid and still enjoy to this day. A black dot on the bluegill’s “ear” is notable. Their faces are blue, even purple, with yellow to orange bellies. They have dark vertical bands spaced down their sides. The world record bluegill, at 4 lbs 12 oz, came from Alabama in 1950.
The redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus), big surprise, has a red breast. It has a long black ear flap. Bluish green stripes extend back from the mouth. The back is olive green. The edges of the soft dorsal fin and the tail fin are yellow to orange.
The redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) is more commonly known as the shellcracker because they fancy snails as part of their diet. Their appearance is pretty dull, and the distinguishing characteristic is a red edge around their ear flap. Because they have a bit of a niche in the snail-eating department, they can be stocked in ponds with bluegill without competing with them for food.
The green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), called so because its body is mostly green, is distinguished by its orange tipped fins. Greens don’t grow very large; the state record is 1 lbs 9 oz. In ponds, they are undesirable because they grow compete with bluegill for food but never reach a good size for consumption. Compared to most bream, they are pretty tolerant of poor water quality conditions.
Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis) are a beautiful, brightly colored bream. They have a long ear
flap which is black with a light colored edge. They have a dark colored back which transitions to a bright yellow or orange belly. Breeding males have bright blue spots all over their sides. They prefer moving water. They are very small; the state record is just 8 oz!