Rock Bass vs Bluegill – What’s The Difference? We Compare

Rock bass and bluegill share many similarities. For this reason many people ask if they’re the same or different. Therefore, let’s answer, is a rock bass the same as a bluegill?

Rock bass and bluegill are different species of fish although they are from the same family. Rock bass is the A. Rupestris and bluegill is the L. macrochirus species. The most identifiable difference is the rock bass bright red or orange eye color compared to the bluegill’s dark eyes. 

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.

Rock Bass vs Bluegill: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

How can you tell the difference between a rock bass and a bluegill?

To tell the difference between a rock bass and bluegill is to check their cheeks, belly colors and dorsal fins. Bluegill have blue color on the sides of their mouth and chin. Rock bass has no blue, just a dark tear drop below their eyes. Bluegill has an orange belly compared to rock bass white/silvery belly. Bluegill has a dark spot on the base of the dorsal fin rock bass doesn’t have.

Other ways to tell the difference between bluegill and rock bass:

  • Bluegill has a rounder body with the mouth more streamlined with the body. Rock bass has an elongated body with the mouth more pointier.
  • Rock bass has 5-7 anal fin spines, bluegill has 3 anal fin spines.
  • Rock bass has teeth in the mouth, bluegill has no teeth.
  • Rock bass has red or orange eyes, bluegill has dark eyes.
  • Bluegill has a small mouth, rock bass has a large mouth.
  • Rock bass has dark spots forming laterals lines, bluegill has no lateral lines but vertical bars.

Rock Bass and Bluegill Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Bluegill are from:

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

Rock bass are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Ambloplites
  • Species: A. rupestris
  • Common nicknames: Red eye, rock perch, goggle eye.

Rock Bass and Bluegill 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.

Rock Bass

  • Rock bass are native to North America and can be found from Canada down to Florida and west to Texas. They are mostly found in the eastern and central United States.
  • Rock bass are found in streams, ponds, lakes and rivers.
  • Rock bass prefer rocky shorelines and vegetation areas. They can be found under docks and near swimming areas.
rock bass and bluegill comparison photo
top Bluegill<br >bottom Rock bass

Rock Bass and Bluegill Appearance

Rock Bass and Bluegill 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.
  • Rock bass have an olive green to golden brown upper back and sides fading down to a silvery, white belly. Rock bass have black spots which form broken lateral stripes down the body. The eyes are red. Rock bass have the ability to change colors to match their surroundings for protection.

Dorsal Fins

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

Anal Fins

  • Bluegill has three anal spines followed by 10-12 rays.
  • Rock bass has 5-7 anal spines followed by 10-12 rays.


  • The bluegill mouth is small, and the jaw doesn’t extend to the eye line. Bluegill doesn’t have teeth.
  • The rock bass mouth is large located below the snout. Rock bass have teeth.

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

Body Shape

  • Bluegill are flat and have a rounder shape. The mouth hardly protrudes and is more streamlined.
  • Rock bass are flat and not round like bluegill. They are more elongated.

The body of the bluegill is rounder than the rock bass 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.
  • Rock bass has red eyes and rows of dark spots forming lateral lines down the body. Rock bass has a dark tear drop below their eye.

The rock bass does not have a dark spot on the dorsal fin base like a bluegill.

Rock Bass and Bluegill Size and Weight

  • Bluegill average 6-7″ long and weighs less than 2 pounds.
  • Rock bass average 6-10″ long and weighs about one pound.

Rock Bass and Bluegill Lifespan

  • Bluegill average 5-6 years.
  • Rock bass lives up to 8-10 years.


Bluegill consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Small crustaceans
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae

Rock bass consume the following:

  • Smaller fish
  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Small crustaceans
  • Minnows
photo of a rock bass
Rock bass

Rock bass, bluegill 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 10 11 12

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.

Rock Bass and Bluegill: 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 rock bass taste like bluegill?

Rock bass taste similar to bluegill and has a mild to sweet taste. Rock bass 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 rock bass fish taste good? Rock bass 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, rock bass 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.

Rock Bass and Bluegill Substitutions

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

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

Bluegill substitutes:

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

Rock bass substitutes:

  • Bluegill
  • White crappie
  • Black crappie
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Green sunfish
  • 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 Rock Bass

Popular ways to cook rock bass are:

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

Flavor pairings for rock bass:

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

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

How Much Rock Bass 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, rock bass or bluegill?

Rock bass and bluegill have a similar price. The average cost for rock bass or bluegill fillets are $19.43 per pound. 

Rock bass 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

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.

Rock Bass and Bluegill Mercury Levels

The EPA and The FDA have issued suggestions and warnings about mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 13. This is especially important for young infants, pregnant women and developing children.

They established three lists:

  1. Best fish
  2. Good choices
  3. Ones to avoid based

Therefore, does rock bass or bluegill have more mercury?

Rock bass and bluegill have similar levels of mercury. Bluegill and rock bass 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 14.

Rock Bass and Bluegill Nutrients

Rock bass and bluegill are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, minerals and B vitamins. 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 15 16

Rock bass and bluegill provide a similar percentage of the same nutrients. Keep reading the next section below to find out how the nutrients benefit health, especially omega-3s.

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

Rock Bass and Bluegill Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids contained in rock bass 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 17.

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.


Potassium provided by rock bass 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 18.

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 19.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 20.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided by rock bass 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.


There are 14.2 mcg of selenium per four ounces of rock bass and bluegill. Numerous studies 21 show selenium may help to protect the following:

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


Rock bass 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.


Both sunfish 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 22.

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 23.

The magnesium in rock bass 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.


Bluegill provides 90.4 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 vessels 24.

Calcium also helps the following:

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

Find out if the nutrients in redear sunfish differed from bluegill in my article, Bluegill vs Redear Sunfish – Are They The Same? We Compare.

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

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: Rock bass[]
  9. Rock Bass[]
  10. USFWS National Digital Library: Rock bass[]
  11. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Rock bass[]
  12. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources: Rock Bass[]
  13. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  15. The Topeka Capital-Journal: Keto, Paleo or Atkins diet? Hunting, fishing can help trim your waistline in 2020[]
  16. Nutritiondata: Fish, sunfish, raw[]
  17. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  18. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  19. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  20. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  21. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]
  22. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  23. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  24. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]

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