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Green sunfish

Green sunfish


bluish green back and sides with white to light yellow belly; sides of the head mottled with emerald and yellow streaks; black ear flap has a whitish or yellowish margin; leading edges of the dorsal, anal and caudal fins typically whitish or yellow-orange


Green sunfish Distribution

statewide in a variety of quiet waters


aquatic insects, small fish, and crayfish

State Record

2 pound 1 ounce, farm pond, July 2000, Ralph Mayer, Knoxville

Expert Tip

Green sunfish are not selective feeders, then can be caught easily on most types of live bait as long as the hook is small enough to fit into their mouth!


The green sunfish is the most wide-ranging sunfish in Iowa. It is common in natural lakes, man-made lakes, and farm ponds. It is also found in large and small streams but only occasionally. The Great Border Rivers contain green sunfish populations, and the riprap armoring placed along the banks of the Missouri River offers prime habitat for this little fish, which normally prefers quiet or pooled water.

The green sunfish is a thick-bodied sunfish with a mouth that is large for sunfishes; the upper jaw extends to about the middle of the eye when the mouth is closed. The spiny dorsal fin has 10 spines and is broadly connected to the soft dorsal fin. The pectoral fins are short and rounded, and the ear flap is never elongated. The back and sides are bluish-green with emerald and yellow reflections, while the belly is white or light yellow. Sometimes there are several black vertical bars on the sides. The sides of the head are mottled with emerald and yellow streaks, and the black ear flap has a whitish or yellowish margin. Green sunfish typically have whitish or yellow-orange leading edges on their dorsal, anal and caudal fins.

Zooplankton comprise a large part of the diet of small fingerling green sunfish, but later in the first year they switch to aquatic insects. As adults they continue to rely on aquatic insects but also consume small fish, minnows and small crayfish. Since this species has a large mouth, it utilized larger food items than most sunfishes.

Green sunfish share similar reproductive habits with bluegill, nesting in colonies in shallow water near the shoreline -- often times in the same location. Nest preparation begins when the water temperature reaches 70 degrees F, usually in mid-May and June but more often in June. The nests are located in about a foot or less water over gravel or sand, but if these sites are unavailable the male will fan nests in water-soaked tree leaves or twigs and muck. Small territories are established and vigorously protected by the male, but if nesting sites are limited, as many as 25 nests may be built in 50 square feet. Once the eggs are deposited, the fighting among males ceases except when one individual invades another`s territory. Males remain with the eggs for 6 or 7 days, at which time the fry become free-swimming. There is considerable cross mating of green sunfish and bluegill.

Green sunfish attain lengths of up to 7 inches by the fourth year. Most individuals become sexually mature at 2 years. Green sunfish rarely exceed 6 or 7 inches in length.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Trumbull Lake Clay 4 miles west, 5 miles north of Ruthven 1183.00
Lost Island Lake Palo Alto 3 miles north of Ruthven 1162.00
Silver Lake (Dickinson) Dickinson west edge of Lake Park 1041.00
Five Island Lake Palo Alto north edge of Emmetsburg 973.00
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 889.00
High Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 467.00
Pleasant Creek Lake Linn 4 miles North of Palo 401.00
Swan Lake Dickinson 2m N Superior 371.00
Ingham Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 357.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
Lake Anita Cass 1/2 miles south of Anita 159.00
Volga Lake Fayette Located 3 miles north of Fayette. 135.00
Deep Lakes Muscatine 130.00
Union Grove Lake Tama 4 miles South of Gladbrook 100.00
Terry Trueblood Lake Johnson 1.5 miles south of Hwy 6 on Gilbert Street in Iowa City. 90.00
Otter Creek Lake Tama 6 miles Northeast of Toledo 74.00
Lake Pahoja Lyon 4 miles south, 2 miles west of Larchwood 65.00
Greenfield Lake Adair 1 mile southwest of Greenfield 56.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 42.00
Mormon Trail Lake Adair 1 1/2 miles southeast of Bridgewater 33.00
Nishna Bend R.A. Ponds Shelby 4 miles south of Harlan 30.00
Dog Creek (Lake) O'Brien 2 miles east, 1/2 miles south of Sutherland 28.00
Nodaway Lake Adair 2 miles southwest of Greenfield 25.00
Mill Creek (Lake) O'Brien 1 mile east of Paullina 23.00
Cold Springs Lake Cass 1 mile south of Lewis. 16.00
Glenwood Lake Mills East edge of Glenwood 15.00
Rudd Lake Floyd East of Rudd. 12.40
Scharnberg Pond Clay 3m E Everly 10.00
Hacklebarney East Montgomery 4 miles north of Villisca 10.00
Dunlap Pond Harrison East edge of Dunlap 9.00
Maquoketa River (trout portion) Clayton The Upper Maquoketa River from Joy Springs downstream to Backbone Lake contains trout year-round. The area 3 miles southwest of Strawberry Point off 400th is stocked with catchable fish. 8.00
Gilbertson Area Lake Fayette Located east of Elgin off of county highway B64. 7.00
Hillview R.A. Pond Plymouth 2m W Hinton 5.00
Big Lake (Including Gilbert's Pond) Pottawattamie North 25th street exit off interstate 29. Nash Blvd to Big Lake Road. Northeast Council Bluffs. 5.00
Wapsi River Trout Section Mitchell Located 0.5 mile west of McIntire. 2.50
Ashton Park Pond Osceola 2.00
Bear Creek Fayette Located 6 miles southeast of Fayette off of Kornhill Road or CR C24. Access from 128th Street. 1.20
South Fork Mill Creek Jackson Located in Big Mill Wildlife Management Area between Bellevue-Cascade Road and Mill Creek road about 4 miles west of Bellevue. 1.10
Big Mill Creek Jackson Located on Big Mill Wildlife Management Area, 4.5 miles west of Bellevue just south of Mill Creek Road. 0.90
Joy Springs Clayton South on Alpha Ave, off Highway 3 about 3 miles west of Strawberry Point in Joy Springs County Park. 0.80
Little Mill Creek Jackson Located on Little Mill Wildlife Managment Area and private property 2 miles west of Bellevue, with parking south off 216th street. 0.70
Ozark Springs Jackson T86N - R1E; Section 32 0.70
Baileys Ford Delaware 3 miles southeast of Manchester - follow signage from Jefferson Road. 0.60