From the Missouri Conservationist Magazine
August 2020 Issue

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Bluegill
Jim Rathert

Wild Guide

Bluegill | Lepomis macrochirus

Status

Stocked in large numbers

Size

  • Length: to about 9½ inches;
  • Weight: to about 12 ounces

Distribution

Statewide

Bluegill are a smallmouthed sunfish. Stocked statewide as feed for largemouth bass, their natural range has grown. They occur in many habitats from farm ponds to large reservoirs, but prefer deeper pools and backwaters of low-gradient streams. Bluegill swim in loose groups of 20–30. They can be found feeding in the shallows in the morning and evening, and in the deeper, shadier spots during the midday.

Life Cycle

Bluegill begin nesting in late May and continue through August. Nests are formed amongst gravel in 1-to-2-inchdeep water. After spawning, males guard the nests until the eggs hatch. Newly hatched fry are on their own, and by age 3 or 4, they have grown 6 inches. Certain non-nesting males, called “sneakers” or “satellites,” have the color pattern and behavior of females. They enter other males’ nest areas and fertilize eggs without alerting the territorial-nest-holding male.

Foods

Bluegill are limited by their small mouth. They feed primarily by sight, at all levels of the water, zeroing in on moving objects. When mayflies are emerging, they feed at the surface. Fry eat mainly small crustaceans, while adults eat mostly insects, small fish, crayfish, and snails.

Ecosystem Connections

Bluegill are important aquatic predators in the streams and ponds they occupy. They also provide food for larger fish. The eggs and defenseless fry are eaten by numerous predators. Discover more nature at mdc.mo.gov/field-guide

Did You Know?

Bluegill are a popular sport fish for Missouri anglers. They make excellent table fare.

Also in this issue

Prairie at dunn ranch

Prairie Voices

Missourians talk about the importance of prairies.

Hunter safety Incident Investigation

Hunter Safety

Four rules to enjoy your day afield.

A bird sitting on a branch

The Silencing of Missouri’s Iconic Nightjars

Natural history and declines of the eastern whip-poor-will and chuck-will’s-widow.

And More...

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This Issue's Staff:

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler