Part Fifty-two

Redbreast Sunfish

Redbreast Sunfish [Bream]

By Dick Sternberg
Excerpt from: Fly Rod Gamefish,
Thanks to Cowles Publishing for use permission.

(Lepomis auritus). The golden brown sides have blue streaks and pale red spots. The black ear flap is as long as that of a longear sunfish, but it does not have a light-colored margin. The redbreast is named for the male's orange-red breast. Males also have olive-colored upper sides and blue streaks on on the cheeck. Females are less colorful, with pale red to yellowish breasts.

Native to the Atlantic Coast states and as far north as New Brunswick, redbreasts have been stocked in many southern states. The redbreast is also called the yellowbelly sunfish, robin, redbelly and bream. Although the redbreast is one of the smaller sunfish species, it has white, flaky, sweet-tasting meat, much like that of the bluegill.

Distribution HABITAT:

Redbreasts are found mainly in streams along coastal plains and can tolerate slightly brackish water. They prefer deep, slowing moving areas of clear streams, with boulders, logs, weedbeds or undercut banks for cover. They will not hold in fast current. They also live in lakes, reservoirs and ponds, particularly those with moderate weed growth. Redbreasts favor warm water, from 80 to 85 degrees F.


Common goods include aquatic and terrestrial insects, snails, crayfish and small fish. [Tying instructions for all of these are found in either the Fly of the Week archives or Fly Tying Archives.] Redbreasts are more prone to night feeding than other sunfish. Primarily bottom feeders, they will also take food on the surface.


Redbreasts spawn in late spring or early summer, usually at water temperatures from 66 to 70 degrees F, but sometimes at temperatures as high as 82 degrees. Males build nests on sand- gravel bottoms, generally near stumps, logs and rocks. They guard the nest until shortly after the fry hatch.


Compared to most other sunfish, redbreasts are slow-growing. They grow fastest in the South, but even there, they reach only about 1/3 pound in 6 years. They seldom live beyond age 7. The world-record redbreast weighed 2 pounds, 1 ounce and was caught in the Suwannee River, Florida, in 1988. There is no fly rod record.

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