Illustration by Duane Raver 
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Scientific Name: Lepomis macrochirus

Classification:  Game Fish

Abundance: Common throughout NC

Species Profile  (pdf)




Additional Information

Commonly referred to as “brim” or “bream,” the Bluegill is the most common of all the sunfishes. It is a member of the sunfish or pan fish family, which also includes the crappie and Largemouth Bass. Other species of sunfish sometimes mistaken for Bluegills are redears, pumpkinseeds and Warmouths. Because it is one of the true sunfish species that grow large enough to be acceptable to fishermen, the Bluegill has introduced many people to the sport of fishing. Its size, tenacious fighting ability and voracious appetite make the Bluegill a favorite of many anglers.

Bluegills are characterized by a small head and mouth and a hand- or pan-shaped body. The body is often an olive-green color with several broad, dark vertical bars on the side. The throat and belly are often yellowish or orange in color. The lower jaw and gill color is powder blue, hence the name “bluegill.” There is a black blotch at the base of the dorsal (top) fin. The earflap is entirely black, helping to distinguish the Bluegill from other sunfish species that often have an orange or red spot on the earflap. Bluegills tend to breed with other sunfish species, resulting in hybrids with the external characteristics of both parents. In populations where hybridization occurs, identification is often difficult. Bluegills are found throughout the United States and northern Mexico. They are the most common sunfish in North Carolina and are found in all types of habitats, except high-gradient trout streams. Bluegills are most abundant in ponds and reservoirs and are found in rivers, creeks, backwaters and swamps throughout the state. They thrive in both clear and turbid waters and can tolerate slightly acidic or saline conditions.

Learn more by reading the Bluegill Species Profile.

The following fishing regulations are effective Aug. 1 of each year.

Inland Fishing Regulations
Regulatory authority between the Wildlife Resources Commission and Division of Marine Fisheries. Inland game fish regulations include Manner of Taking, Seasons and Using Trotlines and Set-hooks.

Warmwater Game Fish
Game fish size and creel limits. Also, Bass and Morone (striped bass) Identification Charts.

Fishing Tips:

The varied diet of Bluegill gives anglers a wide selection of baits. While plain garden worms and crickets are the preferred baits, Bluegill will hit almost any natural bait or small spinner. These scrappy fighters can be caught on a number of different lures, using a small hook (No. 10). Fly-fishing is another popular way to fish for Bluegill. If you haven’t caught a Bluegill within 15 minutes after fishing a likely spot, move on — they probably aren’t there.

Good places to fish:

Bluegill can be found in all 17 major river basins of North Carolina, although they are absent from cold mountain streams. Anglers should concentrate on areas near aquatic vegetation or other structure, such as brush piles, fallen logs and boat docks. Larger Bluegill are often found in clear waters having moderate amounts of weed cover. Due to their abundance and hardy appetite, bluegill can be caught in just about any freshwater or brackish environment.