Bluegill vs Redear Sunfish – Are They The Same? We Compare

Bluegill and redear sunfish are very similar. For this reason many people wonder if they’re the same or differences. Therefore, let’s answer, is a redear sunfish the same as a bluegill?

Redear sunfish and bluegill are different species of fish although they are from the same family. Redear sunfish is the L. microlophus and bluegill is the L. macrochirus species. The most identifiable difference is the redear’s operculum has a bright red edge compared to the bluegill which is all black. 

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 Redear Sunfish: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

How can you tell the difference between a bluegill and a redear sunfish?

The best way to tell the difference between a bluegill and a redear sunfish is to check their operculum (gill ears). The bluegill’s operculum is completely black. The redear’s operculum is black with a bright red edge. Bluegill has a black spot on the dorsal fin base which redear sunfish doesn’t have.

Another way to tell the difference between a bluegill and redear is to check inside their throats. Redear sunfish have teeth inside their throat. Bluegills don’t have any teeth. 

Redear sunfish have brown spots speckled on the sides of their body with faint black bars. Bluegill doesn’t have any brown spots and their black bars are darker and more prominent. 

Bluegill have bright blue coloring on their cheeks and chin while redear sunfish has a golden yellow color with brown spots.

Bluegill and Redear Sunfish Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Bluegill are from:

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

Redear Sunfish are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Lepomis
  • Species: L. microlophus
  • Common nicknames: Shellcracker, cherry gill, Georgia bream, chinquapin.

Redear are nicknamed shellcracker due to its teeth inside the throat area. They use the teeth to crush the shells of mussels and snails.

Bluegill and Redear Sunfish Habitats


  • 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.

Redear Sunfish

  • Redear sunfish are native to the southeast United States from North Carolina down to Florida. Over west to southern Illinois and Missouri, south to Texas. In addition, they have been introduced to many other United States locations.
  • Redear sunfish are found in rivers, lakes, ponds, reservoirs and streams.
  • Redear sunfish prefer to stay near logs, rocks and vegetation. 
redear sunfish and bluegill photo comparison
(top) Bluegill
(bottom) Redear sunfish

Bluegill and Redear Sunfish Appearance

Bluegill and Redear Sunfish 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.
  • Redear sunfish have an olive color upper body with a gold-green sheen fading to yellow on the lower sides and belly. The side is speckled with brown spots. The gill ear (operculum) is black with red or orange at the crescent edge. There are faint vertical bars leading down from the dorsal fin.

The bluegill and redear sunfish are both colorful. The vertical bars on the redear are fainter and less obvious than the bluegills.

Dorsal Fins

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


  • The bluegill mouth is small, and the jaw doesn’t extend to the eye line.
  • The redear sunfish mouth is small, and the jaw doesn’t extend to the eye line.

The redear sunfish has a pointier snout compared to the bluegill which has a more streamlined mouth and head which blends into the body. The redear sunfish has teeth in the mouth, and bluegills don’t.


  • The scales on a bluegill are similar size across the body and head.
  • The scales on a redear sunfish 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.
  • Redear sunfish are flat and not round like bluegill. They are more elongated.

The body of the bluegill is rounder than the redear sunfish without a protruding mouth.

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.
  • Redear sunfish has a round, dark gill flap ear (operculum). The crescent edge is colored bright red or orange.

The redear sunfish does not have a dark spot on the dorsal fin like a bluegill.

Bluegill and Redear Sunfish Size and Weight

  • Bluegill average 6-7″ long and weighs less than 2 pounds.
  • Redear average 7-9.5″ long and weighs 1-2 or more pounds.

Bluegill and Redear Sunfish Lifespan

  • Bluegill average 5-6 years.
  • Redear sunfish lives up to 8 years.


Bluegill consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Small crustaceans
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae

Redear sunfish consume the following:

  • Snails
  • Mussels
  • Ostracods
  • Worms
  • Fish eggs
  • Small crustaceans

Redear sunfish doesn’t compete with bluegill for resources because their primary diet is aquatic invertebrates, including snails.

Species Resources 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

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

Bluegill and Redear Sunfish: 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 redear sunfish taste like bluegill?

Redear sunfish taste similar to bluegill and has a mild to sweet taste. Redear sunfish 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.

Does redear sunfish fish taste good? Redear sunfish tastes pleasing to most people and have a mild to sweet taste. The white flesh is slightly firm and flakey.

Depending on the time of year or type of water, redear sunfish or bluegill may 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 Redear Sunfish Substitutions

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

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

Bluegill substitutes:

  • White crappie
  • Black crappie
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Redbreast sunfish
  • Redear sunfish
  • Pollock
  • Lake herring

Redear sunfish 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
  • Grilling
  • Baking

Flavor pairings:

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

How To Cook Redear Sunfish

Popular ways to cook redear sunfish are:

  • Deep frying
  • Pan frying/stir fry
  • Baking
  • Grilling

Flavor pairings for redear sunfish:

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

Crappie is a little easier to find online 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.

How Much Redear Sunfish and Bluegill Costs

The costs for some seafood 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, redear sunfish or bluegill?

Redear sunfish and bluegill have a similar price. The average cost for redear or bluegill fillets are $19.43 per pound. 

Redear sunfish 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 live fish:

  • Hybrid bluegill (green sunfish x bluegill) $0.75 per 3-4″ fish
  • Bluegill – $0.75 per 3-4″ fish
  • Redear sunfish – $0.80 per 3-4″ fish

I recently wrote a comparison article between bluegill and pumpkinseed. Their differences may interest you. Check out my article here, Bluegill vs Pumpkinseed – Are They The Same? Let’s Compare.

Bluegill and Redear Sunfish Mercury Levels

The EPA and The FDA have issued suggestions and warnings about mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 12. This is especially important for young infants, pregnant women and developing children.

They established three lists. Best fish, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels. Therefore, does redear sunfish or bluegill have more mercury?

Redear sunfish and bluegill have similar levels of mercury. Bluegill and redear sunfish 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 13.

Redear Sunfish and Bluegill Nutrients

Redear sunfish and bluegill are an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals. Both sunfish fish contain the following:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • B6
  • B12
  • B5
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Calcium
  • Zinc

Bluegill provides the following number of nutrients per four raw ounces:

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

Nutrient Resources 14 15

Redear sunfish and bluegill provide almost an equal number of the same nutrients. Keep reading the next section below to find out how the nutrients benefit health, especially omega-3s.

Redbreast sunfish is a different species than redear. Find out how they compared to bluegill in my article, Bluegill vs Redbreast Sunfish – What’s The Difference?

Redear Sunfish and Bluegill Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids contained in redear sunfish 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 16.

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.


Both fish provide about 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.

The magnesium in redear and bluegill 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.

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.


Potassium provided by redear and bluegill is approximately 400 mg. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 19.

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 20.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 21.


Redear sunfish and bluegill provide approximately 203 mg of phosphorus per four ounces. It has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:

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


There are 14.2 mcg of selenium per four ounces of redear sunfish and bluegill. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies 22 show selenium may help to protect the following:

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

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


Do redear sunfish eat bluegill?

Adult redear sunfish are slightly larger than adult bluegill, not big enough to eat a bluegill. Redear sunfish’s favorite diet is consuming snails and mussels. 

Is a redear a bluegill?

A redear is not a bluegill. They both belong to the same family and genus of sunfish but redear sunfish and bluegill are different species of fish.


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. Bluegill[]
  5. USDA: Bluegill – Lepomis macrochirus[]
  6. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Sunfish biology and identification[]
  7. The Department of Natural Resources: Sunfish[]
  8. Wikipedia: Redear sunfish[]
  9. Florida Springs Institute: Redear Sunfish[]
  10. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources: Freshwater Fish – Species Redear sunfish[]
  11. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Redear Sunfish[]
  12. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  13. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  14. The Topeka Capital-Journal: Keto, Paleo or Atkins diet? Hunting, fishing can help trim your waistline in 2020[]
  15. Nutritiondata: Fish, sunfish, raw[]
  16. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  17. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  18. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  19. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  20. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  21. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  22. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]

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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