What Is The Difference Between Bluegill Vs Sunfish

If you are a lover of fishing, you most definitely have come across multiple types of fish all along. The common fish that are caught by the regular fisherman are the small-size species. Typically, you will come across a sunfish or a bluegill. Now the problem comes in when one needs to identify the difference between the two.

What Causes the Confusion?

A lot of people tend to confuse the sunfish with the bluegill. One common reason for the people’s confusion is because these two types of fish look almost the same. In other words, you cannot easily differentiate them based on their appearance.

Other than the almost-similar appearance, these fish also come from the same family. Actually, the bluegill is classified under the sunfish family. For that reason, some attributes are almost similar. However, while all bluegill is under the sunfish family, the reverse is not true. Not all sunfish are considered bluegills.

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Small Bluegill

The Differences: Bluegill Vs Sunfish

There are plenty of aspects that vary between the two. Here is a look at the major differences between the bluegill and sunfish.

  •        Habitat/Living

One important difference of the two is that the bluegill is found in freshwater, while the sunfish is found in salty water or the ocean. The bluegill is also called brim, while the sunfish is also called saltwater fish or ocean sunfish.

In most cases, you will find the bluegill in lakes, rivers, and ponds, while the sunfish will mostly build their nests in tropical waters.

Due to their surroundings, each type of fish feeds on specific water organism. Basically, sunfish are considered carnivorous, while bluegill feed mostly on water insects or their own eggs (they feed on their own eggs when there is a food scarcity). The saltwater fish will mostly feed on jellyfish.

Bluegills tend to depend on their density. The smaller bluegills move along in large numbers, while the bigger bluegill will move in small numbers. The female can lay over 50,000 eggs, which will then be fertilized and guarded by the male,

  •        Appearance

Though the bluegill comes from the sunfish family, it looks completely different from other sunfish species. The fish features a yellowish-green, greenish-brown, deep green, or a blackish-blue top part with pale yellow in the rest of the body. They also have some blue coloration or dark purple elements on their cheeks.

The origins of their common name Bluegills’ mouths are particularly memorable due to being extremely tiny in size.

Two broadly-joined dorsal fins with spinous and soft-rayed portions united to give the impression of a single dorsal fin, small mouth, long pointed pectoral fins, faint black spot toward the rear of the soft-rayed part of dorsal fin separates the Bluegill from other sunfish, which lack this dorsal coloration. Hybridization with other sunfish species (i.e., pumpkinseed sunfish, green sunfish) occurs, with resulting offspring exhibiting intermediate characteristics.

This fish has a black dot at the dorsal fin end, along with black ear flap. The gill covers and cheeks usually have a blue shade. Also, the bluegill has a smaller mouth than most sunfish species. The nonbreeding and young bluegills are olive or light gray, and they feature plenty of dark bands around the body.

The breeding male bluegills are dark in color, and they develop a purple tone around the upper section of the body. On the other hand, the ocean sunfish tend to possess a white, silver gray, or brown color. They are normally less colorful than the freshwater species.

  •        Size and weight

The bluegill will grow to about 6 to10 inches in length, and they will weigh a maximum of 4 pounds. Conversely, the sunfish will attain a full growth of about 10 feet inches in length, and a total weight of 2,000 pounds. The ocean sunfish is considered the biggest bony fish found in salt water. However the regular sunfish like warmouth is 12 inches long, and weighs about 2.25 pounds.

Due to the small size and less weight of the bluegill, they can maneuver easily in the water and swim faster than the sunfish.

  •        Special attributes

Another major bluegill vs sunfish difference is how they respond to the environment. The ocean sunfish has the upper hand when it comes to that. Generally, they have special abilities that can make them survive an attack. For instance, they can camouflage whenever they sense the danger of a predator.

However, the bluegill is somewhat vulnerable to fishermen. Mostly, they are caught using a small fishing hook, even without a worm. This implies that it is easier to catch a bluegill than it is to catch the ocean sunfish.

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Common Types of Sunfish

The sunfish comes in more than 27 species, but the most common types include the pumpkinseed, rock bass, longear, green, redbreast, and warmouth sunfish. Even though the attributes mentioned above are for the ocean sunfish, some types will have varied characteristics. Here is a look at the common categories of sunfish.

  •         Pumpkinseed and Rock Bass Sunfish

Contrary to the bluegill, rock bass sunfish have a large and long mouth with red eyes. Another visible feature of the rock bass is the set of six spiky bones located in the anal fin. On the other hand, the pumpkinseed sunfish has a yellow or orange belly, and it has a round body. It is one of the most vibrant sunfish, coming with colorful sides. The gill flap is black in color and comes with a tiny red spot.

  •        Redbreast and warmouth sunfish

The redbreast sunfish comes with a black extension that stretches along the gill flap. Also, the belly is mostly orange, with a green back, and turquoise markings around the head. Conversely, the warmouth sunfish will range from dark brown to dark green. The fish has a large mouth, along with a molted coloring and a yellow belly.

  •        Longear and Green sunfish

Longear sunfish comes with a unique gill slit extension that looks like extended ears over the gills covers. The mature longear sunfish will have a white extension. They have a body color that ranges from orange to bright red. Also, the head and fins feature turquoise markings that make it somewhat vibrant.

On the other hand, the green sunfish actually has some bluish-green shades along its back. Towards the belly, the color changes to white or yellowish.


The bluegill is only found in North America, while the sunfish can be found in various tropical water masses, including the ocean. You can even fish it in the river, while the sunfish are mostly found in the ocean. Keep in mind that the bluegill will spawn from April to September. Even though the bluegill tends to be more vulnerable than the sunfish, they can last for a maximum of six years.


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