Lepomis gibbosus (Linnaeus) THE pumpkinseed, a
member of the sunhsh family, is one of our most abundant and
familiar species. Like other members of the family, the spinous
and soft-rayed portions of the dorsal lin are united. There are
ten spines in the former portion and ten to twelve soft rays in
the latter. The body is laterally compressed and more rounded in
outline than any of the other sunfishes.
The specific name, gibbosus, was given by the
great naturalist, Linnaeus, in 1758 owing to the gibbous outline
of the fish. The mouth is small and oblique, scarcely reaching
the front of the large eye; the body scales are large; the gill
cover is also
scaled. This is implied in the generic name, Lepomis, which
means scaled gill cover.
Its coat of many colours almost rivals the
gaily tinted fishes of the coral reefs in tropical seas.
Probably no other species of our freshwater fish presents a
greater variety of colours and markings. Because of this, a
general description of coloration is difficult. Reference to the
coloured illustration, brings out the following salient
The back is greenish-olive above, with bluish
shading, paling on the sides, with orange and rust coloured
spots and blotches. The cheeks are orange-coloured with wavy,
brilliant blue streaks; the upper fins are bluish and
orange-spotted and the lower fins are orange-coloured.
There is a bright scarlet spot on the ear-like posterior
extension of the gill cover which distinguishes the pumpkinseed,
when adult, from all other highly-coloured sunfishes. Several
vertical bars are visible on the sides of the body. This
condition occurs frequently on immature and mature females. The
belly is a bright orange-yellow.
The pumpkinseed is native to the freshwaters of North
America and is the most common and the most widely distributed
of our sunfishes. It is very abundant in most waters of southern
and central Ontario and north to the Sault and
Its more general distribution range is from the Dakotas through
central Ontario and southern Quebec to the maritime provinces
and Maine, southward to South Carolina, and to western
Pennsylvania, Ohio and Iowa in the Mississippi River system.
The pumpkinseed is partial to clear, cool to moderately
warm, water with sand or gravel bottom in weedy lakes and ponds
and in similar parts of streams. ln these
areas, there is often abundant food and shelter from enemies.
Spawning takes place the latter part of June
and continues through July. The incubation period varies from
five to ten days, depending upon the temperature of the water
and weather conditions.
Like all other species of the sunfish family,
the male constructs the nest, in one to two and a half feet of
water on sand and gravel bottom, in a protected bay. By using
its tail fin in the manner of a whisk, the male sweeps away
debris from the area selected for the nest, which may be twelve
to fifteen inches in diameter. In this way, a shallow depression
is excavated in which several thousand eggs are expelled, by one
or more than one female, and fertilized by the male. Ten to
fifteen nests may be constructed in one small area. The brightly
coloured and aggressive male stands guard over the nest and the
newly hatched young, chasing away all intruders. lf the male is
removed from the nest, the eggs and young may soon fall prey to-
other fish in the area.
Pumpkinseed feed mainly on aquatic insects,
snails, small crustaceans and, occasionally, on the eggs and fry
of other fishes.
Because of their prolific reproductive
potential, populations of pumpkinseed often become too large for
the available food supply, and stunting occurs to such an extent
that they are too small for satisfactory angling.