The sunfish is one of the most widespread and abundant freshwater fish species
in New Jersey. They are found throughout the state in water bodies ranging from
small farm ponds to the state's largest lakes and reservoirs. There are several
species of sunfish, but in New Jersey there are three most commonly fished for
species: Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)
and the Redbreast (Lepomis auritus).
widespread abundance, willingness to bite and high energy make them the perfect
entertainment for a family fishing trip on a nice "sunny" day. They
grow to an average of 6-8 inches with the pumpkinseed being on the smaller end
of the ruler and the bluegill being on the bigger end. On light tackle they can
provide exciting action for anglers young and old.
three species are all brightly colored, especially during the months of June-August
when they are spawning. Anyone who has walked along the edge of a pond during
this spawning period is familiar with the gravel nests cleared by male sunfish
for the female to deposit her eggs in. They spawn when water temperatures reach
68 degrees, usually in 1-3 feet of water. They are best differentiated by color
and differences in their gill flaps. The bluegill exhibits a black, rounded gill
flap, the pumpkinseed has a black gill flap with a bright red-orange tip and the
redbreast has an elongated gill flap with a black spot at its tip.
are found in most freshwaters throughout the state. Most of the state's population
lives within a five-minute drive of a water body with a population of sunfish.
Good populations of bluegill and pumpkinseed can be found in municipal, county
and state park ponds and lakes. Shoreline access is very good at these type areas.
Many of New Jersey's streams and rivers that warm during summer months have good
fishable populations of all three of these sunfish species.
redbreast is commonly found along with smallmouth bass/rock bass in habitats such
as small creeks, rivers and reservoirs. They are more active in cooler waters
than bluegills and pumpkinseeds. The Delaware River has a good, fishable population
of all three types of sunfish. For the angler looking to fish for larger sunfish
Lake (pdf, 240kb) in Sussex County or Rainbow Lake in Salem County. These
two lakes have "Conservation Regulations" of minimum size limits of
7" and a creel limit of 10 fish instead of the statewide limit of 25. Try
fishing the shorelines of any freshwater during the summer months for some fun,
can be successfully fished for year round, but the months of May-October, when
water temperatures are between 60-80 degrees, seem to be the most productive.
If the winter is cold enough many ponds and lakes freeze safe enough to allow
some ice fishing. The ice fishing season can be very productive for sunfish. The
most popular method through the ice is jigging with small spoons or tear drop
jigs tipped with meal worms or grubs. The great thing about fishing for sunfish
is that on the bluebird days of summer when all other fish aren't biting, usually
an angler can count on good action with "sunnies."
The most popular method for catching sunfish is no doubt with hook and bobber.
An angler doesn't need high tech gear for these fish. Any department store or
sports shop can equip you and your family with rod and reel combos, tackle and
bait for hours of fun and excitement pursuing these widespread and popular fish.
Bluegill Sunfish Stocking Summary, 2012 (pdf, 11kb)
Bluegill Sunfish Stocking Summary, 2011 (pdf, 11kb)
Bluegill Sunfish Fact Sheet (pdf, 29kb)
Redbreast Sunfish Fact Sheet (pdf, 27kb)
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