Illustration by Duane Raver
Scientific Name: Lepomis gibbosus
Classification: Game Fish
Abundance: Reservoirs throughout NC, as well as many coastal rivers.
State record pumpkinseed (1 lb, 6 oz., from Trent River by John Koonce on 5/21/2003)
One of the smaller sunfish, the pumpkinseed is a very colorful, chunky fish with a small mouth. Its cheek area has four to eight wavy lines that are often bright blue. The breast and belly are orange to yellow, with lighter-colored sides in a variety of bright colors. The ear flap is black but has an orange-red spot on the outer margin that is often bordered in white.
A native of eastern and central North America, pumpkinseed sunfish have been widely introduced in other states. In North Carolina, pumpkinseed are found in shallow areas of lakes and slow-moving rivers and prefer areas with submerged vegetation and brushy cover. They can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, including acidic swamp habitats and brackish estuarine waters. Pumpkinseeds eat aquatic insects, snails, small clams and other invertebrates
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.
Fish for pumpkinseed using natural baits, such as worms, with small hooks and light lines. Small spinners and flies can also be used. Anglers should concentrate along the edges of dense vegetation or woody debris.
Most lakes and reservoirs in North Carolina have populations of pumpkinseed, with coastal rivers and brackish estuaries offering quality angling opportunities as well.
2014 - Survey Report on Largemouth Bass and Sunfish in Neuse, Trent, and Pungo Rivers (PDF)
2015 - Assessment of Largemouth Bass and Pumpkinseed at Lake Phelps, 2013-2014 (PDF)
2020 - Lake Phelps Angler Creel Survey September 2016-August 2017 (PDF)
2020 - Status of Largemouth Bass and Sunfish in Lake Phelps (PDF)
2019 - Sportfish Survey in the New River, Onslow County-2018 (PDF)
2018 - Status of Largemouth Bass and Pumpkinseed at Lake Phelps - 2017 (PDF)
2017 - Lake Phelps Creel Survey - September 2016-August 2017 (PDF)
2012 - Sportfish populations in Little, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Scuppernong and Yeopim Rivers (PDF)
2011 - Status of Largemouth Bass and Pumpkinseed Populations in Lake Phelps (PDF)
2010 - White Oak and New Rivers Boast Quality Sunfish Fishing Opportunities in Coastal North Carolina (PDF)
2003 - Potential Value of Neuse River Recreational Fishery Tops $4,000,000 a Year (PDF)
Where to Fish
NC Freshwater Fishing State Record Program
NC Angler Recognition Program (NCARP)