NANFA-- Identifying sunfish fry
Thu, 30 Aug 2001 10:44:33 EDT

I have some sunfish fry of about 1/2 to 3/4 in. in length and I was wondering if anyone had any experience in identifying the species of sunfish so young.

I collected them with my daughter last week in a local creek where I saw what I think were redbreast adults in large numbers. The creek seems much more densely populated this year than last. I have caught small bluegills in this creek so I'm not sure about the sunfish fry.

The fish I think are redbreasts have a creamy yellow to bluish edging on caudal and dorsal fins, a reddish color to the same, like the red of a red tailed hawk's tail when the sun shines through it from above. The mark that makes me think the fish are redbreasts is the very long ear flap. The stream has a sand and rock/pebble substrate, no submerged vegetation except for strands of algae attached to rocks. It is rather shallow with some deeper pools in its bends, sandbars and rocky edges. It is usually very clear, but can be turbid after rain.

While wading and netting the fry, my daughter and I enjoyed finding a rather large cooter skulking in the algae between rocks and we saw a rat of some kind towing a branch with green leaves along at a good clip, diving when he realized we were there and disappearing in a bank. I've seen some snakes in the water, probably copperheads or water moccasins, and keep a wary eye out for them, but enjoy seeing them. Gambusia school everywhere in the creek and this year there are loads of large tadpoles wherever we look. Otherwise, there isn't much in the way of diversity of fish life. No guppies this year!

Kudzu is blooming on the banks and it smells very sweet. Damsel and dragonflies are everywhere, some very lovely, especially the ones with black and white wings.

A subscriber from West Columbia or Cayce, SC, once contacted me about going out collecting this spring, but I was ill and couldn't plan anything. I am better now, but I have lost his e-mail address. If he (you) are monitoring these messages, please contact me again ( because I'd like to plan a trip locally if you are still interested.

If anyone can help me with tips for sunfish fry identification, please write.

Thank you,

Dick Norwood
Columbia, SC

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