Bluegill vs Pumpkinseed – Are They The Same? Let’s Compare


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.

Keto Bread Tip: Great News! Did you know, you don’t have to give up your favorite bread, pizza or sandwiches to follow a 100% Keto diet. Find out more in the KetoBreads website by clicking here, Keto Breads.

Disclaimer: The above link and others in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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

How can you tell the difference between a bluegill and a pumpkinseed?

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.

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

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

pumpkinseed and bluegill photo comparison
(top) Pumpkinseed
(bottom) Bluegill

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed 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.

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed Habitats

Bluegill

  • Bluegill are native to North America and can be found from Canada to northern Mexico.
  • Bluegill are found in streams, ponds, lakes and rivers.
  • Bluegill like to hide under fallen logs, piers or in weeds.

Pumpkinseed

  • Pumpkinseed are 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 found in ponds, lakes, rivers and streams.
  • Pumpkinseed like to stay near the shore in shallow, protected area. They hide around logs, rocks or in plants.

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

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed Sunfish Appearance

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed Colors

  • Bluegills have an olive green upper body and light yellowish to orange belly. The sides of the head and chin are iridescence blue or purple. Bluegill have dark vertical bands on its sides. A breeding male will have more orange than yellow on the belly.
  • Pumpkinseed 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. Pumpkinseed have faint green or blue vertical bars on its sides. The belly is a yellow-orange color.

While both fish are colorful, the pumpkinseed 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.

Mouth

  • The bluegill mouth is small, and the jaw doesn’t extend past the eye line.
  • The pumpkinseed mouth is small, and the jaw doesn’t extend past the eye line.

Scales

  • The scales on a bluegill are similar size across the body and head.
  • The scales on a pumpkinseed 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.

Distinguishing Marks

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

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed 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 and Pumpkinseed Lifespan

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

Diet

Bluegill consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Small crustaceans
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae

Pumpkinseed consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae
  • Small crustaceans

Bluegill, pumpkinseed and other fish are renowned for being a part of many diets like keto or heart healthy.

If you’re eating low-carb or want to give keto a try, many of my clients have followed this 28-Day Keto Challenge with great success. Visit their website and check it out.

Species Resources 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

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

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed: Tastes and Textures

One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish is its taste. When comparing the two fish, does pumpkinseed taste like bluegill?

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

What does bluegill taste like? Bluegill has a mild to sweet taste. The texture is firm and flakey.

Do pumpkinseed fish taste good? Pumpkinseed tastes 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, bluegill or pumpkinseed can taste slight muddy or fishy to some people. The fish can be soaked in milk to help eliminate any unpleasant taste or odor.

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed Sunfish Substitutions

When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish called for. If you have some bluegill or pumpkinseed, you may ask, can I substitute bluegill for pumpkinseed?

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

Bluegill substitutes:

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

Pumpkinseed substitutes:

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

How To Cook Bluegill

The most popular ways to cook bluegill are:

  • Deep frying
  • Pan frying/Stir fry
  • Baking

Flavor pairings:

  • Lemon juice
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Beer batter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Bread crumbs
  • Crackers
  • Black pepper
  • Tarter sauce
  • Cayenne pepper

How To Cook Pumpkinseed

Popular ways to cook pumpkinseed are:

  • Deep frying
  • Pan frying/stir fry
  • Baking

Flavor pairings for pumpkinseed:

  • Tarter sauce
  • Beer batter
  • Bread crumbs
  • Crackers
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cajun
  • Black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon juice

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

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed 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 consumed 10. 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, does pumpkinseed or bluegill have more mercury?

Pumpkinseed and bluegill have similar levels of mercury. Bluegill and pumpkinseed are listed on the FDA’s best choice of fish regarding mercury levels. The FDA recommends eating no more than 2 servings per week from the fish listed as best choices.

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 11.

How Much Pumpkinseed and Bluegill Costs

The costs for pumpkinseed or bluegill will vary depending on how the fish are caught and where they’re sold. When purchasing any fish, be sure to check the label to see if it is wild-caught or farm raised. Therefore, which is more expensive, pumpkinseed or bluegill?

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

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

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

  • Wild, bluegill fillets
    • $25.36 per pound

Seafood Markets:

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

Dixon Fisheries:

  • Bluegill fillets
    • $14.95 per pound

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

  • Hybrid bluegill (green sunfish x bluegill) $0.75 per 3-4″ fish
  • Bluegill – $0.75 per 3-4″ fish

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed Nutrients

Bluegill and pumpkinseed are an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals. The following are bluegill and pumpkinseed’s 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 12 13 14

Both fish contain a good number of minerals and vitamins. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which fish provides more. Therefore, is bluegill or pumpkinseed 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. Bluegill and pumpkinseed provide 22 grams of protein per four ounces and are low in fat.

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

Bluegill and Pumpkinseed Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids contained in pumpkinseed and bluegill 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 15.

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.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided by pumpkinseed and bluegill 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.

Calcium

Bluegill provides 90.4 mg of calcium and pumpkinseed 90.7 mg 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 vessels 16.

Calcium also helps the following:

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

Magnesium

Pumpkinseed and bluegill 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 17.

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 18.

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.

Selenium

There are 14.2 mcg of selenium per four ounces of pumpkinseed and bluegill. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies 19 show selenium may help to protect the following:

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

Potassium

Potassium provided by pumpkinseed and bluegill helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 20.

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 water 21.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 22.

Phosphorus

Bluegill and pumpkinseed 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.

FAQs

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 is Lepomis and its species is L. gibbosus. The Centrarchidae family contains 38 species of fish located in North America.

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish 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

Pacific Cod vs Sockeye (Pacific Salmon) Which is Better?

Sea Bass vs Cod – Is One Better? Let’s Compare

Herring vs Sardines – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare 

 

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Wikipedia: Bluegill[]
  2. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Bluegill[]
  3. Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Bluegill[]
  4. Delaware.gov: Bluegill[]
  5. USDA: Bluegill – Lepomis macrochirus[]
  6. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Sunfish biology and identification[]
  7. Michigan.gov The Department of Natural Resources: Sunfish[]
  8. Wikipedia: Pumpkinseed[]
  9. Delaware.gov: Pumpkinseed Sunfish[]
  10. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  12. The Topeka Capital-Journal: Keto, Paleo or Atkins diet? Hunting, fishing can help trim your waistline in 2020[]
  13. Nutritiondata: Fish, sunfish, raw[]
  14. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, pumpkin seed, sunfish[]
  15. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  16. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  17. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  18. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  19. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]
  20. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  21. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  22. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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