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For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)



Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis), listed as Threatened in Wisconsin, prefers clear, shallow, moderately warm, still waters of streams and occasionally in lakes. Found in or near vegetation. Spawning occurs from late-May through mid-July, sporadic to August.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Lepomis megalotis in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication ER-091.

Identification: Thin, deep-bodied sunfish. Opercular "ear flap" flexible and much elongated in adults. Black olive to rusty brown, sides lighter, breast and belly yellow to orange red. Back and sides with specks of yellow, orange, emerald and blue. Breeding males are iridescent green above and bright orange below, ventral fins rusty orange and pelvic fins blue black. Adult size: 2.8-3.7 inches (71-94mm).

Habitat: Prefer clear, shallow, moderately warm, still water of streams, rivers or lakes over rubble, gravel and sand with moderate aquatic vegetation.

State Distribution: Generally in three widely separated distribution centers in southeastern, eastcentral and northwestern Wisconsin within the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan drainage basins. A map outlining Pre-1977 and 1997 to Present Distribution is available.

Phenology: Spawn from June through early August in large colonies during peak water temperatures in the afternoon. Male builds nests in sand or hard mud and defends the surrounding territory. Eggs hatch in three to five days. Become sexually mature in second or third summer.

Diet: Longear sunfish feed more extensively at the surface of the water than some other sunfishes. Eat mainly aquatic insects, as well as mites, microcrustaceans, fish eggs, mollusks, filamentous algae, and small fish.

Management Guidelines: Wisconsin populations are too sparse to be of much importance as food for other fishes and animals, nor are they abundant enough to be a serious competitor of other fishes. They are intolerant to turbid water from heavy agriculture within their range. They resemble other sunfish, they are often caught and kept by young anglers. Signage to help educate anglers about the identification and status of this rare species may help reduce unintentional take.



Longear Sunfish

Side view adult.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Longear Sunfish

Side view adult.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Longear Sunfish

Side view of breeder, similar to non-breeders but more intense in color and the opercular flap is elongated with a bright edge.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Longear Sunfish

Longear sunfish.

Photo © Duane Raver.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Longear Sunfish. Only natural communities for which Longear Sunfish is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Longear Sunfish. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Longear Sunfish occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, December 22, 2022