Pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus



History:  Pumkinseed have been introduced to Oregon and Washington, but originated in Eastern and Central North America.  Their range extends from New Brunswick, Ontario and southern Quebec, Canada to Georgia.  Presently, their territories extend throughout the United States, with noted exceptions in south-central and southwestern regions of the US. 


Physiology:  The pumpkinseed is a brilliantly colored fish.  Sides of the head are flecked with olive, orange or red, with blue, emerald or green reflections.  A bright red or orange spot is located on the back edge of the short, black ear flap.  It is deep-bodied, slab-sided sunfish with a very small mouth.  Pumpkinseed eats aquatic insects (dragonfly nymphs, mayfly nymph, water boatmen), snails, larval salamanders and other small fish.  Adult pumpkinseed eats snails.  The adults crush hard shells of these gastropods, eject the shell and swallow the soft body of the snail.  These fish should not be confused with red-eared sunfish, which also primarily eat snails. Lifespan is eight to ten years, but can live up to twelve years.



Habitat:  Pumpkinseeds enjoy quiet and vegetated lakes, ponds and pools within creeks and small rivers.  Their preference is for weed patches, docks, logs and other cover close to shore.  When searching for food, the pumpkinseeds use pause-travel movement patterns, wherein the fish pauses and scans for food, thus relying on clear visibility.


Reproduction:  Spawning begins in late spring when the male builds a nest within shallow water of ponds at depths of 3-10 near the shore.


Nest building begins when surface water temperature approaches 68-70 F, and continues from late May through July.  The female lays between 1,600 to 3,000 eggs.  More than one female may spawn in the nest, resulting in several thousand eggs within one nest.  The male fans the eggs and guard the young for about two weeks. 


Growth:  Young pumpkinseed grows to 1.5 during the first year, attaining 4 and 5.5 during the next two years.  Adults grow to 8-9.