Bluegill vs Pumpkinseed – Are They The Same Panfish?

Bluegill and pumpkinseed share many similarities. For this reason many people wonder if they’re the same or about their differences. Let’s answer, are pumpkinseed and bluegill the same?

Bluegill and pumpkinseed are different species of fish although they are from the same family. Bluegill is the L. macrochirus species and pumpkinseed is the L. gibbosus species. Bluegill grow longer and weigh almost double the pounds. Pumpkinseed’s body has more color than bluegills.

This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their habitats, appearance and compare their nutritional value.

Bluegill vs Pumpkinseed Sunfish: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

How can you tell the difference?

To tell the difference between bluegill and pumpkinseed is to check their body shape, gill edge coloring and the color markings on the cheeks. Bluegill’s body is rounder than a pumpkinseed. Pumpkinseed has a crescent shaped bright red or orange colored mark at the edge of the gills bluegill doesn’t have. Bluegill has solid blue coloring on the cheeks and gills compared to broken, wavy blue lines on a pumpkinseed.

pumpkinseed and bluegill photo comparison
top Pumpkinseed<br>bottom Bluegill

Another way to tell the difference is pumpkinseeds has more blue, yellow and orange on the sides.

In addition, bluegill has a black spot on the base of the dorsal fin pumpkinseed doesn’t have.

Bluegill and Pumpkinseeds: Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Bluegill are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Lepomis
  • Species: L. macrochirus
  • Common nicknames: Bream, brim, sunny, sunnies, perch.

Pumpkinseed are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Lepomis
  • Species: L. gibbosus
  • Common nicknames: Pond perch, sunfish, sunny, punkie.



  • Native to North America and can be found from Canada to northern Mexico.
  • When fishing they can be found in streams, ponds, lakes and rivers.
  • They like to hide under fallen logs, piers or in weeds.


  • Native to North America. They can be found from New Brunswick in Canada down to the east coast of South Carolina. They’ve been introduced on the west coast also and can be found in Washington, Oregon and the central United States.
  • Pumpkinseed are less tolerant of warmer water temperatures.
  • When fishing, the pumpkinseed lives in ponds, lakes, rivers and streams.
  • They like to stay near the shore in shallow, protected area. They hide around logs, rocks or in plants.

Both sunfish share many of the same types of water, areas and both like to hide under cover.

Bluegill in their natural habitat.



  • Bluegills have an olive green upper body and back and light yellowish to orange belly. The sides of the head and chin are iridescence blue or purple. They have dark vertical bands on its sides. A breeding male will have more orange than yellow on the belly.
  • Pumpkinseeds can be distinguished from bluegills by the aqua-blue lines. They have an orange, blue, yellow and olive green mottled body color. The sides of the head and chin have broken, wavy blue and orange lines. They have faint green or blue vertical bars on its sides. The belly is a yellow-orange color.

While both fish are colorful, the male pumpkinseeds has a wider variety of colors and may be the most vibrant of any sunfish.

Dorsal Fins

  • Bluegill has one dorsal fin with 6-13 spines and 11-12 rays.
  • Pumpkinseed has one dorsal fin with about 10 spines followed by about 11 rays.


  • Both open mouths are small, and the jaw doesn’t extend past the eye line.


  • The scales on both panfish are similar size across the body and head.

Body Shape

  • Bluegill are flat and have a rounder shape. The mouth hardly protrudes and is more streamlined.
  • Pumpkinseed are flat and asymmetrically oval shape, like a pumpkin seed.

Ear Flap

  • Bluegill has a black spot at the rear edge of the gills (the ear flap) on each side and at the base of the dorsal fin.
  • Pumpkinseed has a black spot at the rear edge of the gills (the opercular flap) with a bright red or orange, crescent shaped border.

Size and Weight

  • Bluegill average 6-7″ long and weighs less than 2 pounds.
  • Pumpkinseed average 4-6″ long and weighs less than one pound.


  • Bluegill average 5-6 years.
  • Pumpkinseed average 6-8 years.


Bluegill consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Small crustaceans
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae

Pumpkinseed consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae
  • Small crustaceans

Find out how green sunfish compared in my article, Green Sunfish – What’s The Difference?


Fishing Tips

When fishing for bluegill sunfish, fishing reports state the best time is during the spring and summer spawn.

Typically, the sunfish will be in two to six feet of water under cover. Bait may include a piece of worm, crickets, grasshoppers and red wrigglers.

Always check your local visitor center, State parks and advisory council for fishing tips, licenses, restrictions and regulations. State parks are a great place to learn about fishing, tips, fish biology, species and content about related topics.

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed: Tastes and Textures

One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish or fishing is its taste. When comparing the two fish, does one panfish taste like the other?

Pumpkinseed taste similar to bluegill and has a mild to sweet taste. Both sunfish have a firm, flakey texture. 

Pumpkinseeds taste good to most people and has a mild to sweet taste. The white flesh is flakey and slightly firm.

Typically, pumpkinseed is not targeted by anglers because of their small size. Many times they are easy to catch and kept because they taste good or used for bait.

Depending on the time of year or type of water, both of them can taste slight muddy or fishy to some people. The fish can be soaked in milk to help eliminate any unpleasant taste or odor.

To conduct original research, I polled clients, members of food groups and readers. I asked them, bluegill vs pumpkinseed, which fish taste better?

  • 54% said they preferred bluegill.
  • 38% said they preferred pumpkinseed .
  • 8% said they had no preference.

To conduct more original research, I set up a taste test at home. Both fish were cooked and seasoned the exact way. The result was a 50/50 tie.



When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish in a store or while fishing. If you have only one panfish, you may ask, can I substitute one for the other?

Bluegill and pumpkinseed can substitute for each other due to their similar tastes and textures. Both panfish can be used in many of the same recipes and cooking methods. They both can be cooked by baking, broiling, steaming and pan frying.

Other bluegill substitutes:

  • White crappie
  • Black crappie
  • Tilapia
  • Pollock
  • Lake herring

Other pumpkinseed substitutes:

  • White crappie
  • Black crappie
  • Lake herring
  • Tilapia
  • Pollock

Crappie is a little easier to find than some of the other sunfish. See how crappie compared to in my article, Crappie – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

How to clean and cook bluegill in a pan.

Mercury Levels

The EPA and The Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed1. This is especially important for young infants, pregnant women and developing children.

They established a list of best fish, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels. Therefore, which one has more mercury?

Pumpkinseeds and bluegills have similar levels of mercury. Both are listed on the FDA’s best choice of fish regarding mercury levels. 

If you’re pregnant, breast feeding or has a young child, Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.

These mercury warnings can change over time or affect only a particular area or state. Please check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations, especially if you’re fishing2.


The costs for sunfish species will vary depending on how the fish were caught fishing and where they’re sold. When purchasing any fish, be sure to check the label. Therefore, which one is more expensive?

Pumpkinseed and bluegill have a similar price. The average cost for either fillets are $19.43 per pound. 

Pumpkinseed fillets are extremely difficult to find for sale. Bluegill or “sunfish” are easier to find online.

To conduct original research about prices, I checked various different stores.

First, I checked online at Walleye Direct and found the following prices:

  • Wild, bluegills fillet
    • $25.36 per pound

Seafood Markets:

  • Wild, sunfish fillets (does not specify which kind of sunfish)
    • $18.00 per pound

Dixon Fisheries:

  • Bluegills fillet
    • $14.95 per pound

For stocking ponds, Pond King has the following price per fish:

  • Hybrid bluegills (green sunfish x bluegill) $0.75 per 3-4″ fish
  • Bluegills – $0.75 per 3-4″ fish
Kevin Garce checking the prices of mackerel and other seafood at his local market.
Checking the prices of mackerel and other seafood at my local market


Both sunfish are an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals. The following are their nutritional values:

Nutrient Bluegill, raw (4 Ounces) Pumpkinseed, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 129 101
Fat 0.8 g 0.8 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g 0.2 g
Cholesterol 97 mg 76 mg
Protein 22 g 22 g
Sodium 82 mg 91 mg
Omega-3 0.16 g 0.16 g
B-6 0.1 mg 0.1 mg
B-12 2.0 mcg 2.2 mcg
Thiamin 0.10 mg 0.09 mg
Riboflavin 0.10 mg 0.07 mg
B5 0.7 mg 0.8 mg
Iron 1.7 mg 1.3 mg
Niacin 1.4 mg 1.3 mg
Folate 17.0 mcg 17.0 mcg
Potassium 395 mg 396 mg
Magnesium 34 mg 34 mg
Phosphorus 203 mg 204 mg
Calcium 90.4 mg 90.7 mg
Zinc 1.6 mg 1.7 mg
Selenium 14.2 mcg 14.2 mcg

Nutrient Sources ((The Topeka Capital-Journal: Keto, Paleo or Atkins diet? Hunting, fishing can help trim your waistline in 2020))34

Both fish contain a good number of minerals and vitamins. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which fish provides more. Therefore, is one healthier?

Bluegill and pumpkinseed offer a similar percentage of nutrients making them equal for providing health benefits. Both fish provide a good percentage of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and minerals. They provide 22 grams of protein per four ounces and are low in fat.

As you can see in the table above, both species provide almost an equal number of the same nutrients. Keep reading the next section to find out how the nutrients in both panfish are beneficial, especially omega-3s.

Since the sunfish are difficult to locate in stores, I’ll consume either fish available to me for their nutrient content, taste and health benefits.

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids are heart healthy and help keep arteries healthy. The omega-3s may help with the following:

  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Reduce plaque buildup.
  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Keeping good cholesterol high.
  • Lowering triglycerides
  • Help keep the heart rhythms more normal.

DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels ((National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease)).

Studies suggest omega-3s can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They may also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Omega 3 sources.
Omega 3 sources

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided include B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) B6, B12 and B5. B vitamins help support the following:

  • Digestion.
  • Brain function.
  • Energy levels.
  • Red blood cells.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Nerve function.


Both species provide approximately 90 mg of calcium per four ounces. Calcium is important for blood pressure and the heart. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels5.

Calcium also helps the following:

  • Improve nerve function.
  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.


Both provide 34 mg of magnesium per four ounces. It calms and relaxes the whole body including blood vessels. Magnesium has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia ((National Institutes of Health: Magnesium)).

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure6.

Magnesium helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure.

In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.


There are 14.2 mcg of selenium per four ounces for each fish. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies7 show selenium may help to protect the following:

  • Cognitive issues
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid
  • The immune system


Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower ((American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure)).

The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water8.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure9.


Both species provide 203 mg and 204 mg of phosphorus per four ounces. It has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:

  • Promote teeth and bone strength.
  • Muscle recovery after exercise.
  • Muscle contraction.
  • Help the body store and manage energy.
  • Help the kidneys remove waste.
  • Promote healthy nerve conduction.


Are pumpkinseed and sunfish the same?

A pumpkinseed is a member of the sunfish family called Centrarchidae of the order Perciformes. The genus of a pumpkinseed sunfish is Lepomis and its species is L. gibbosus. The Centrarchidae family contains 38 species of fish located in North America.

Contact Info and Reviews

If you have any questions about this article don’t hesitate to email us. You can find an email on our contact page.

As a Certified Health Coach many of my clients ask me about sunfish. In addition to educating my Health Coaching clients about pumpkinseed and bluegill, I have researched, purchased and consumed both fish for 20 years prior to, during and after writing this article.

Read Next – More SunFish Articles!

Black Crappie vs White Crappie – What’s The Difference?

Crappie vs Bass – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

White Crappie vs White Perch: Are They The Same? We Compare

  1. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish []
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake []
  3. Nutritiondata: Fish, sunfish, raw []
  4. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, pumpkin seed, sunfish []
  5. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure []
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis []
  7. National Institutes of Health: Selenium []
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach []
  9. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure []

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