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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 features.

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 Temagami regions. 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.

Pumpkinseed Range

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.


Ontario Fishing Magazine