Green Sunfish

Lepomis cyanellus


Image of green sunfish
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission.

Centrarchidae (sunfishes) in the order Perciformes (perchlike fishes)


A thick-bodied sunfish with a large mouth, the upper jaw extending to about the middle of the eye. Back and sides are bluish green, grading to pale yellow or white on the belly. Black vertical bars are sometimes evident on the sides. Blue mottlings and streaks are present on the side of the head. Pelvic fins in breeding males are white or pink; and the tail and anal and dorsal fins are tipped with white or salmon-pink. Usually has a dark splotch on back of dorsal fin. Long, dark ear flap. Rounded pectoral fin.


Total length: 6 to 8 inches; maximum about 10 inches and 1 pound.

Habitat and conservation

Can be found in any pond, lake, or stream that is capable of supporting fish life. Often found in pools and backwaters of streams that become isolated and stagnant during the summer or drought. Most active throughout daylight hours. Most closely related to bluegill, redear, and other sunfishes.


Carnivorous, feeding on insects, crayfish, and small fish.

image of Green Sunfish Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri



A nongame fish. Sometimes called "black perch."

Life cycle

Individuals can live for 6 years.

Human connections

This panfish is available to anglers statewide. Provides fishing opportunities in small, intermittent creeks, where other hook-and-line fish cannot live. Still-fishing with a cane pole and bobber, using worms, grubs, or grasshoppers as bait, is about as effective as any method for catching them.