Redbreast Sunfish

Illustration by Duane Raver
(Enlarge image)

Scientific Name: Lepomis auritus

Classification: Game Fish

Abundance: Common throughout NC.


Redbreast sunfish state record (2 lbs., 1 ounce, by Alphonso Jackson from Lumber Rier; 6/19/2019)

Additional Information

One of the brightest-colored sunfish, the redbreast has green-to yellow-brown sides with reddish spots and a reddish-orange belly. It has bluish streaks on its cheeks and around the eyes. The most distinguishing characteristic of this species is a long, narrow (no wider than the eye) extension of the gill cover. These flaps may exceed a length of 1 inch and are entirely black.

Redbreast sunfish inhabit freshwaters of eastern North America from southern Canada to Florida. They are found throughout North Carolina, in practically all water bodies with the exception of cold mountain waters. Their diet is probably the most varied of all the sunfishes. They eat bottom-dwelling insect larvae, snails, clams, shrimp, crayfish and small fish.

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:

Redbreast sunfish frequently concentrate around boulders, logs, aquatic vegetation or tree roots. They take any type of small natural bait, spinners, spoons, plugs, artificial flies and popping bugs. Use a lightweight line (under 4 lbs.), a thin, small bobber and small hooks. Unlike other sunfish, redbreast can be caught at night, using a wide variety of lures and baits.

Places to Fish:

Redbreast sunfish are found in most of North Carolina’s major river systems with sparse populations found in the Chowan and Pasquotank rivers. As you move west across the state, populations increase until you get to the Little Ten-nessee, Savannah and Hiwassee rivers where the populations drop off once again. There is excellent fishing for redbreast throughout the center of the state — just find a stream with some good cover and running water and you should locate some redbreast. The Tar River from Granville County through Edgecombe County is an excellent place to start.


2021 -Fisheries Resources of the Waccamaw River (25-page Final Report)

2021 -Fisheries Resources of the Lumber River (21-page Final Report)


Summaries (One-page Fact Sheet)

2019 - Fishing in Wake County (PDF)