Critter of the Month: Redear sunfish

• Species: Redear sunfish.

• Scientific name: Lepomis microlophus.

• Nicknames: Shellcracker.

• Claim to fame: Though smaller than well-known sportfish like black bass and crappie, the redear sunfish has become a popular catch in many reservoirs and ponds. One reason for this is that an adult redear can provide good table fare. Another reason for its popularity is that any size of redear is a legal catch. Since redear sunfish are classified as non-game fish in Missouri, there is no minimum length limit for the species. The daily limit for non-game fish is 50.redear sunfishing041

• Species status: Originally, redear sunfish were only found in the southern third of Missouri but, because of intentional stocking and accidental introduction, the fish can now be found at many sites throughout the state.

• First discovered: The first scientific description of the redear sunfish was written by the zoologist Albert Carl Gunther in the 19th century.

• Family matters: Redear sunfish belong to the family Centrarchidae, a group more commonly known as the sunfish. This group includes popular species like largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and crappie.

• Length: Occasionally redear sunfish will exceed 10 inches, but most are nine inches or less.

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