Fauna: Lepomis auritis

Redbreast sunfish by Duane Raver, 1975

Redbreast sunfish
Lepomis auritis

The redbreast sunfish is native to eastern North America and makes its home in freshwater rivers. A relatively small fish, it is considered full grown by the time it is two inches long. The largest one on record measured just 12 inches. They primarily eat immature insects.

Usually olive colored with dark fins, the male’s breast and belly will turn bright orange when spawning. The male makes a nest in sandy material, then guards the eggs and fry after the female lays. Auritis means “big-eared” in Latin and refers to the long tabs that extend behind their eyes.

Redbreast sunfish, caught in Georgia. Shared via Wikimedia Commons.

The redbreast sunfish thrive in waters with flowing current and a stable pH. They like to live in natural structures near riverbanks, like overhanging branches which offer shade and protected habitats. Clearing bank debris, lack of current, or a change in pH levels quickly and dramatically affect the population.

Flathead catfish, an invasive species, is a predator and decimated the redbreast sunfish in other nearby watersheds. Thus far, the Ogeechee and Canoochee Rivers have not been infested with flathead catfish.

Citizens are asked to report sightings of these detrimental catfish to Ogeechee Riverkeeper or the Georgia Environmental Protection Division immediately. Snap a photo and email to info@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org with the approximate location of the sighting.

Flathead Catfish, (Pylodictis olivaris): Mississippi River @ Goose Island across from Northeast Power ramp, Marion County, Missouri.