Common Name: Pumpkinseed

Scientific Name: Lepomis gibbosus, lepomis meaning “scaled gill” cover, and gibbosus meaning “wide margin.”

Distribution: Though they’ve been introduced everywhere between the Pacific and Atlantic, pumpkinseed sunfish remain most abundant in their native range, which extends from the southern edge of eastern Canada down the coastline to the Carolinas. Given their oftentimes adverse impact on ecosystems they are introduced to, pumpkinseed are considered a nuisance in many areas, especially Europe.

Spawning: Pumpkinseed males will usually begin building their small, circular nests in May or June, in water just 6” to 12” deep (that’s inches, not feet). One or several females will then deposit somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 eggs apiece in a male’s nest. After fertilizing the eggs, the male will remain to defend the eggs against any and all predators. Hatching occurs within 3 to 5 days, after which the fry do not take long to begin foraging for food on their own.

Pumpkinseed will often share nests and cross-breed with other sunfish such as bluegills, resulting in myriad hybrids.

Angling: Pumpkinseed prefer warm, calm, clear, heavily vegetated waters, either in lakes/ponds or in pools along rivers and streams. They usually swim in large schools close to shore, never too far from cover, feeding on insects, larvae, fish eggs, mollusks, and worms (plus the occasional bit of vegetable matter when no other food is available).

As with other small panfish, small hooks, small baits, and light tackle are the proper setup for catching pumpkinseed. Any natural bait of sufficiently small size will trigger a bite (worms being an old favorite), though some small artificial lures have been known to produce results.

Like bluegill, pumpkinseed are a great introductory fish for younger anglers, given theirtaste for worms and tendency to swim close to shore. They also taste good, though it takes quite a few pumpkinseed to make a meal.