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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 5:20 EDT

Pumpkinseed

The pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus) is a species of freshwater fish native to northeastern North America, from New Brunswick to South Carolina. It is a member of the sunfish family (family Centrarchidae) of order Perciformes.

These fish reach a maximum overall length of about 16 in (40 cm), although sizes of 6″“8 in (15″“20 cm) are more typical. They normally weigh less than 1 lb (450 grams), although larger specimens are encountered. The fish present an oval silhouette and are very narrow laterally; it is their body shape, resembling the seed of a pumpkin, which got them their common name. The coloration includes orange, green, yellow, or blue speckles on an olive back and its sides are yellow ending in an orange belly and breast. They have sharp spines and care must be taken in handling them.

Pumpkinseeds prefer shallow water with some weed cover. They are often found in ponds and small lakes, preferring water temperatures of 39″“72°F (4″“22°C). They are active during the day and rest near the bottoms during the night.

These fish reproduce rapidly and are low on the food chain. They eat a variety of insects, including mosquito larvae, along with small mollusks and crustaceans. They also feed on smaller fish, including smaller pumpkinseeds. These fish exploit the entire underwater region from bottom to surface. In turn, they provide food for fishing birds and mammals (including humans).

Sexual maturity occurs at age two. Males prepare nests in colonies on gravel bottoms in late spring. The males are territorial and chase even early-arriving females away. When a female reaches a nest, she is joined by the male, and eggs are deposited in a cloud of milt. The eggs settle and stick to the pebbles. This process may be repeated with other females because they depart as soon as they drop the eggs. Males guard the nests for many days, and the eggs hatch in a few days. The males continue to guard the offspring for about a week and then leave. Pumpkinseeds are known to interbreed with the closely-related bluegills, which resemble them in form and coloration.

The pumpkinseed, like other sunfishes, is very popular among anglers, especially the young, although less prized than its cousin, the bluegill. Pumpkinseeds feed all day and can be caught with live bait or lures. They actively fight the line as they are reeled in. This species is regarded as a panfish due to its size and edibility.

L. gibbosus is known by many other common names, including “punky”, kivet, pond perch, sun bass, crapet-soleil (in Québec), yellow sunfish, and simply sunfish (or “sunny”). The specific epithet, gibbosus, derives from the Latin gibb(er)ōsus (hunch-backed).

Pumpkinseed