Freshwater Fish - Species

Redbreast Sunfish - Click to enlarge photo

Species Specific Regulations

Redbreast sunfish

Freshwater Fishing License required.

Complete fishing regulations

Guide to Freshwater Fishes

Guide to Freshwater Fishes
(Adobe PDF - 3MB)

Redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus) - Native

Description: (Anatomy of a Fish)
The redbreast sunfish is laterally compressed or flattened like other sunfishes; however, it has a more elongated body than other sunfishes. The redbreast's body is a bluish-green that fades into a bright orange-yellow belly in females and a deep orange-red belly in males. Both males and females have vertical rows of red-brown to orange spots on the sides of the body. Traces of these spots can sometimes be seen tapering on the edge of the tail or caudal fin where the body connects. The caudal fin is generally an orange-red color. The operculum or gill cover has a distinguishing long black lobe. Blue lines can be found on the face or cheek area of the redbreast sunfish. Teeth are present on the roof of the mouth.

Range: Statewide

Average Length: 2-9 inches

Average Size: 3-8 ounces

South Carolina State Record: 2 pounds (1975)

Life Expectancy: Approximately 8 years

Preferred Habitat

The redbreast sunfish can be found areas with slow-moving or sluggish water such as pools and backwaters of streams and rivers and upstream reaches of reservoirs. They can be found in areas with woody debris, stumps, undercut banks, shoreline riprap and rocky points. They prefer areas with a sandy bottom and generally avoid areas that are stagnant or heavily vegetated.

Food Habits

  • The redbreast sunfish feeds predominantly on aquatic and terrestrial insects, crayfish, mollusks and other fish.


  • Redbreast sunfish spawn during late May through the end of July when water temperatures are from 65 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Males construct large saucer-shaped nests typically in shallow waters on sand or gravel substrates.
  • Nests may be solitary or built in groups of more than 80 nests.
  • Fertilized eggs are sticky and clump together in the nest.


The popularity afforded to South Carolina's low country blackwater rivers can be attributed to the redbreast sunfish fishery they support.

Commonly Mistaken Species

Some species of fish that are commonly mistaken for this species:

Literature Cited

Rohde, Fred C, Arndt, Rudolf G., Foltz, Jeffery W., Quattro, Joseph M. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 2009. South Carolina Guide to Freshwater Fishes.

Fish Illustration by Duane Raver.