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Redear Sunfish

Redear Sunfish


A deep, slab-sided sunfish with a small mouth similar in appearance to Bluegill and Pumpkinseed. The upper jaw does not reach past the front of the eye when the mouth is closed. The dorsal fin has 10 spines and is connected to the soft dorsal fin without the presence of a notch. The pectoral fins are pointed and long. The earflap is rounded and has a thin and flexible margin. The dorsal fin is without spots, and the sides of the head do not have bluish lines as in Pumpkinseed. The back and sides are golden or light olive-green, usually marked by several dark vertical bars. But these disappear in large fish. The ear flap has a whitish border and has a prominent red or orange spot in adults, hence the name redear. The fins are greenish without spots.


Redear Sunfish Distribution

Introduced into man-made recreational lakes in the 1960's; common to occasional in the southern two thirds of the state, mostly in the lakes that are steep-sided. Recorded in the interior streams, the origin of these fish is thought to be man-made lakes or ponds that overflow during periods of high runoff. It is very rare in the Missouri River and oxbows, as well as the Mississippi River.


Young redear feed exclusively on zooplankton, but as they approach adulthood they eat more aquatic insect larvae, snails and cladocerans. Snails are a major food item in adults, which they crush with pharyngeal teeth, giving rise to the vernacular name shellcracker. In some small ponds, redear practically eliminate snails.

State Record

2.31 pounds, 12.8 in - farm pond, Van Buren County, Oct. 2018 - Elijah Parrett,

Expert Tip



Redear Sunfish are native from North Carolina to Florida, west into Texas, southern Missouri and Ohio. They are a recently introduced sunfish in Iowa waters. It was first propagated and stocked into the man-made recreational lakes in the early 1960's. 

Redear spawn in late May and June when the water temperatures are 68 to 75 degrees. The males build a nest, usually grouped into colonies near submerged aquatic plants. Males usually release a "popping" sound when courting females. Females have an average of about 20,000 eggs, but as with other sunfish, it is unlikely that a female deposits all of her eggs in one nest. The eggs hatch in 6 to 10 days, and the fry stay in the nest guarded by the male. Redear growth is more rapid than Bluegill. They reach up to 2-inches in their first year, 4-inches the second, 6-inches in the third and 7-inches in the fourth year. Most redear mature in the second year of life. 

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Pool 19, Mississippi River Lee Amenities listed are at City of Ft. Madison boat ramp. Amenities vary by location in Pool 19 33500.00
Pool 18, Mississippi River Louisa Amenities listed are for the Toolsboro Ramp. The ramp at Toolsboro is paved but the road to the ramp is gravel. There is some shore fishing along the parking area and at the outlet of Lake Odessa. Amenities vary by location in pool 18 13300.00
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 940.00
Lost Grove Lake Scott Six miles east of Eldridge 400.00
West Lake (Osceola) Clarke 2 miles west of Osceola 320.00
Lake Darling Washington 4 miles west of Brighton 303.00
Lake Wapello Davis 7 miles west of Drakesville on the west side of V17 289.00
Badger Creek Lake Madison 5 miles southeast of Van Meter 276.00
Lake Belva Deer Keokuk 5 miles northeast of Sigourney 264.00
Lake Geode Henry 4 miles southwest of Danville 185.70
Big Hollow Lake Des Moines 3 miles west of Sperry 178.00
Lake Anita Cass 1/2 mile south of Anita 159.00
Medicine Creek Wetland Wayne 3 miles southeast of Clio on the north side of Aurora and the west side of 100th in the Medicine Creek Wildlife Area 145.00
Viking Lake Montgomery 4 miles east of Stanton 136.00
Lake Ahquabi Warren 5 miles southwest of Indianola 118.00
Iowa Lake (Iowa Co.) Iowa 5 miles North of Millersburg 107.00
Diamond Lake Poweshiek 1 mile West of Montezuma 98.00
Pony Creek Lake Mills 3 1/2 miles northwest of Glenwood 83.00
Red Haw Lake Lucas 1 mile east of Chariton on the south side of Highway 34 76.00
East Nodaway River Page 72.00
Nine Eagles Lake Decatur 3 1/2 miles southeast of Davis City 62.00
Fogle Lake S.W.A. Ringgold ½ mile west of Diagonal 44.00
West Fork Grand River Decatur 41.00
Hannen Lake Benton 4 miles Southwest of Blairstown 38.00
Albia Lower Reservoir Monroe 1 mile north of Albia on the east side of Highway 5 35.00
Hooper Area Pond Warren 6 miles southwest of Indianola 35.00
Willow Lake Harrison 5 1/2 mile west of Woodbine 26.00
Kent Park Lake Johnson 2.5 miles West of Tiffin 26.00
Banner Lake (south) Warren 4 1/2 miles north of Indianola 24.00
Rodgers Park Lake Benton 3.5 miles Northwest of Vinton 22.00
Albia Upper Reservoir Monroe 1 mile north of Albia on the east side of Highway 5 22.00
Lacey Keosauqua State Park Lake Van Buren 1 mile southwest of Keosauqua in Lacey-Keosauqua State Park 20.30
Pollmiller Park Lake Lee East edge of West Point 18.00
Green Castle Lake Marshall 1 mile South of Ferguson 16.00
Cold Springs Lake Cass 1 mile south of Lewis. 16.00
Banner Lake (north) Warren 4 1/2 miles north of Indianola 16.00
Q Pond City Park Clarke NW edge Osceola 14.00
Springbrook Lake Guthrie 7 miles north of Guthrie Center 14.00
Johnston Pit Monona 1 mile east of Rodney 12.00
Hacklebarney East Montgomery 4 miles north of Villisca 10.00
Lake Virginia Fremont 5 miles west of Riverton. 8.20
Cocklin Fish Farm Cass 2 miles north of Griswold, for more information about this city park, contact City Hall at (712)-778-2615 8.00
Bitternut Lee 3 miles north of Farmington 7.00
Marr Park Lake Washington 1 mile west of Ainsworth 7.00
Diamond Lake Pond Poweshiek 1 mile west of Montezuma 7.00
White Oak Lee 2 miles east of Farmington. 7.00
Black Oak Lee 2 miles northeast of Farmington 6.00
Shagbark Lee 6 miles northeast of Farmington 6.00
Lake Iowa Pond Iowa Behind the nature center in Lake Iowa Park 5.00
Hacklebarney West Montgomery 4 miles north of Villisca 4.80
Ringneck Ridge Pond Dubuque This 2.5 acre pond is located just south of Worthington off of Hwy. 136 in Dubuque County. 2.50
Marr Park Pond Washington 1 mile west of Ainsworth. 1.00