Lepomis gulosus




Type Locality

Lake Pontchartrain and lagoons around New Orleans (Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes 1829).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Lepomis, Greek, meaning “scaled gill cover”; gulosus, Latin, meaning “large-mouthed” (Pflieger 1975).



Pomotis gulosus: Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes 1829:367.

Chaenobryttus gulosus: Nelson 1876:37; Jordan 1878; Forbes 1884:69; Forbes and Richardson 1908:245-247; O’Donnell 1935:487; Smith 1965:9.

Choenobryttus gulosus: Large 1903:23.



Maximum size: Up to 284 mm TL (Trautman 1957; Carlander 1977; Edwards 1997).


Life colors: Black spot on opercular flap (Ross 2001); eye reddish with 3-5 reddish to purplish streaks radiating across the eye and operculum; body and upper sides brownish to olivaceous with faint vertical bars; abdomen greenish yellow. Single fins darkly mottled; pelvic fins with melanophores. Breeding male is yellow; eye distinctly red (Sublette et al. 1990).


Tooth patch: Teeth on tongue and pterygoids (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Counts: 3 anal spines (rarely 2 or 4); 6-13 dorsal fin spines; 6 or 7 branchiostegals (Hubbs et al. 1991); 36-44 lateral line scales; 10 dorsal rays; 9-10 anal rays; 13-14 pectoral rays (Ross 2001).


Body shape: Somewhat elongate and robust (Ross 2001). Body depth usually contained two to two and one-half times in standard length (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


External morphology: Supramaxilla longer than breadth of maxilla; maxillary width less than suborbital; lateral line present; scales ctenoid (Hubbs et al. 1991). Gill rakers on first arch long and thin; pectoral fin short and rounded, not reaching past the eye when bent forward; opercle bone (gill cover) stiff to its posterior margin; opercular flap short; lateral line arched anteriorly (Ross 2001).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Ranges from Kansas and Iowa to southern Wisconsin, lower Michigan, and west Pennsylvania, south to Rio Grande and Florida (Larimore 1957, Lee 1980). Presumed native on Atlantic slope north into Virginia, perhaps to Maryland. Transplanted west of Rockies and to portions of Atlantic slope (Lee 1980).


Texas distribution: Found statewide with the exception of the plains streams in the Texas Panhandle area (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) list the following drainage units for distribution of Lepomis gulosus in the state: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), Brazos River, Colorado River, San Antonio Bay (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River), Nueces River.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO):

Populations in the southern United States are currently secure (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Solitary fish inhabiting swamps, bayous, borrow ditches, oxbow lakes (Larimore 1957; Edwards 1997).


Mesohabitat: Prefers heavily vegetated habitats with limited flow (Lee 1980; Glenn 1999). Found in waters with muddy substrates, detritus, dense beds of vegetation; these habitats having sources of cover including brushpiles, stumps, cypress knees, discarded tires and barrels. Sometimes found in impoundments, generally in backwater areas with extensive brushpiles or stumps (Larimore 1957; Edwards 1997). Occasionally found in somewhat turbid waters; seem to prefer clear water with thick growths of vegetation (Gatz and Adams 1994). Species collected from pool-rootwad, backwater, backwater-bank snag habitat in the Sulphur River, Texas (Gelwick and Morgan 2000; Morgan 2002; Osting et al. 2003). Collected from riffle, run, snag habitats in Cibolo Creek, Texas; run, riffle/bank/snag, run/bank/snag habitats in the San Antonio River; riffle/channel/snag habitat in the Guadalupe River (Edwards 1999). Rose and Echelle (1981) reported collection of species mainly in pools and backwaters. Fish less than about 127 mm TL tend to remain in shallow water, usually in some form of dense cover, but larger fish occur more in deep water (Larimore 1957). Reported in brackish water up to 4.1 ppt (Carlander 1977); abundant where introduced in saline water of lowermost Colorado River, Arizona (Minckley 1973). Critical oxygen level is 3.6 ppm at 20 degrees C (Larimore 1957); however, it survives for short periods at levels as low as 1.0 ppm (Gould and Irwin 1962). Absent from much of the Great Plains, primarily because of lack of suitable backwaters, and other flooded lowland-type habitats (Tomelleri and Eberle 1990; Edwards 1997). Increased flow velocities and decreased vegetative cover will likely lead to the lateral migration of this species from a river channel onto floodplain habitats (Welcomme 1979; Glenn 1999).



Spawning season: Reproductive development begins when water temperature begins to rise above 4.5 degrees C, and actual spawning occurs at 21.1 degrees C (Ross 2001). Small Lepomis gulosus measuring less than 16 mm SL taken from late March through July suggesting spawning season from early March – July, in Texas (Edwards 1997). Larimore (1957) reported spawning from April – October, in Texas, with larger females spawning over a longer period than smaller females.


Spawning location: Lithophils; rock and gravel nesters (Larimore 1957; Simon 1999); Male constructs nest near a stump, clump of vegetation, cover that is not on clean sand at depths of 15 cm – 1.5 m; nests may be clumped if sites are limited, otherwise nests are separated (Larimore 1957).


Reproductive strategy: With gill covers flared and mouth open, courting male approaches potential mate. Body color of male changes rapidly to yellow and eyes become blood-red. Receptive female directed to nest by male and both fish swim in circular pattern with female nearer center of nest. Female jerks her body violently while releasing her eggs, actually striking face of the male. This contact apparently stimulates the release of sperm. Male may court and spawn with several females (Larimore 1957). Guarders (Larimore 1957; Simon 1999); nests are guarded by males until fry are free-swimming, 5-6 days after spawning (Carlander 1977; Robison and Buchanan 1988).


Fecundity: Potential fecundity of all ova (not only “ripe” ova) estimated range from 4,500 to 63,200 eggs; water hardened eggs averaged 1.010 ± 0.049 mm. Eggs adhesive, translucent, and light amber in color. Eggs hatch 33-36 hours after fertilization at temperatures between 25.0-26.4 degrees C (Larimore 1957). After hatching, young immediately hide among sand and gravel particles at the bottom of the nest (Carlander 1977). Tomelleri and Eberle (1990) report reasonably low reproductive potential for this species.


Age at maturation: Usually reach adulthood at age 1, at a size of 75 – 100 mm TL. Size presumed to be of more importance than age in attaining maturity (Larimore 1957).


Migration: NA


Longevity: About 3 years in most Texas aquatic environments (Larimore 1957; Edwards 1997).


Growth: Species attains relatively large size for sunfishes. Largest specimen found in Texas research museums is 170 mm SL (Edwards 1997). Individuals range from 41-114 mm TL after one year of growth and are 77-122 mm, 108-147 mm, 125-178 mm, 180-196 mm, 203-204 mm, 215-221 mm, and 217 mm TL at ages 2-8, respectively (Carlander 1977). Males slightly larger than females (Larimore 1957).


Food habits: Trophic classifications: Invertivore/carnivore; drift/whole body. Feeding behavior: water column/chasing. Main food items are insects, snails, and fishes (Larimore 1957;Goldstein and Simon 1999). Larval fish feed on small crustaceans (copepods, ostracods, cladocerans; Pflieger 1975; Ross 2001). Individuals often ambush prey by quickly darting out from cover and attacking unsuspecting prey. Diet includes small fishes, crayfish, larval aquatic insects (Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Tricoptera), and isopods (Larimore 1957; Carlander 1977; Layzer and Clady 1991; Edwards 1997). Majority of feeding activity occurs at night, during dusk, or at dawn; relatively little feeding activity occurs during midday (Larimore 1957). During summer, individuals may consume prey amounts equivalent to 4% of their body weight per day; at water temperatures of 24-25 degrees C they are able to completely digest a meal equivalent to 2.2-3.5% of their body weight in 26.2 hours (Hunt 1960).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Lepomis gulosus most similar to Lepomis cyanellus, the green sunfish, from which it can be separated by the presence of dark bars on the cheek and a tooth patch on the tongue. L. gulosus may be confused with Ambloplites rupestris, the rock bass, from which it differs in having 3 rather than 5-6 anal spines (Ross 2001).  In contrast to its ecological equivalent, Lepomis cyanellus (green sunfish), L. gulosus inhabit larger streams, bayous, and rivers with suitable habitats while L. cyanellus inhabit smaller creeks and tributaries (Layzer and Clady 1991). Species known to hybridize with at least four other Lepomis spp., including L. cyanellus and L. macrochirus; also hybridizes with Micropterus salmoides (largemouth bass), and Pomoxis nigromaculatus (black crappie; Merriner 1971; Lee 1980). Considerable ontogenetic and individual variation occurs within species, but little, if any geographic variation (Smith 1979).


Host Records

Gyrodactylus macrochiri (Harris et al. 2004); host for Posthodiplostomum minimum, the strigeid fluke; Proteocephelus ambloplites, the bass tapeworm; Camallanus oxycephalus, a nematode; Illinobdella moorei, a leech (Larimore 1957). Trematoda (Allacanthocasmus varius, Homalometron pearsei, Crepidostomum cormutum, Pisciamphistoma stunkardi, Posthodiplostomum minimum); Cestoda (Proteocephalus sp.); Nematoda (Cammalanus oxycephalus, Capillaria catenata, Contracaecum spiculigerum, Contracaecum sp., Spinitectus carolini, Spinitectus gracilis, Agamonema sp.); Acanthocephala (Leptorhynchoides thecatus, Neoechinorhynchus cylindritus, Pallisentis sp.; Arnold 1967).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Lepomis gulosus transport well, survive low dissolved oxygen levels, good bioassay animals, popular sportfish, and are excellent to eat. Unlike other sunfishes, species does not tend to overpopulate ponds and develop stunted populations (Carlander 1977).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Colle (1976); Eagle Mountain Lake (Gruninger et al. 1977); Lake Nasworthy (Colorado River Basin; Yeh 1977); Edwards (1978); Devils River (Harrell 1978); Mosier (1984); Upper San Marcos River (Hays Co.; Underwood and Dronen 1984); Hillebrandt Bayou (Linam and Kleinsasser 1987); Oyster Creek (Linam and Kleinsasser 1987); Pine Island Bayou (Linam and Kleinsasser 1987); Lower Rio Grande River (Edwards and Contreras-Balderas 1991); Linam et al. (1994); Village Creek (Hardin Co.; Moriarty and Winemiller 1997); Pinto Creek (Garrett et al. 2004).]



Arnold, John G., Jr., Harry E. Schafer, and R. L. Vulliet. 1967. The Parasites of the fresh water fishes of Louisiana, II. Check list of parasites. Proceedings of the Twenty-First Annual Conference Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners 1968:531-543

Bailey, R. M., chairman. 1970. A list of the common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. 3rd edition. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 6. 131 pp.

Carlander, Kenneth D. 1977. Handbook of Freshwater Fishery Biology. Vol. 2. Iowa State University Press, Ames. 431 pp.

Clary, P. V. 1985. Habitat characteristics and food of larval black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) and warmouth (Lepomis gulosus) in selected overflow habitats of the Atchafalaya River basin, Louisiana. Unpubl. M. S. thesis, Louisiana State Univ., 56 p.

Colle, D.E. 1976. The food habits of three centrarchids, Lepomis macrochirus (Rafinesque), Micropterus salmoides (Lacepede), and Lepomis gulosus (Cuvier) in a central Texas farm pond. M.S. Thesis. Texas A&M University, College Station.

Cuvier, G. and A. Valenciennes. 1829. Histoire naturelle des poissons. Paris. Vol 3. 500 pp.

Edwards, R.J. 1978. The effect of hypolimnion reservoir releases on fish distribution and species diversity. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 107(1) :71-77.

Edwards, Robert J. 1997. Ecological Profiles for Selected Stream-Dwelling Texas Freshwater Fishes. Texas Water Development Board. 89 pp.

Edwards, Robert J. 1999. Ecological Profiles for Selected Stream-Dwelling Texas Freshwater Fishes II. Texas Water Development Board. 69 pp.

Edwards, R.J., and S. Contreras-Balderas. 1991. Historical changes in the ichthyofauna of the lower Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte), Texas and Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist 36(2):201-212.

Forbes, S. A. 1884. A catalogue of the native fishes of Illinois. Report of the Illinois State Fish Commissioner for 1884:60-89.

Forbes, S. A. and R. E. Richardson. 1908. The fishes of Illinois. Illinois State Laboratory of Natural History cxxxi + 357 pp. + separate atlas containing 102 maps.

Garrett, G.P., R.J. Edwards, and C. Hubbs. 2004. Discovery of a new population of Devils River minnow (Dionda diaboli), with implications for conservation of the species. The Southwestern Naturalist 49(4):435-441.

Gatz, A.J., Jr. and S.M. Adams. 1994. Patterns of movement of centrarchids in two warmwater streams in eastern Tennessee. Ecol. Freshwater Fish 3:35-48.

Gelwick, F.P., and M.N. Morgan. 2000. Microhabitat use and community structure of fishes downstream of the proposed George Parkhouse I and Marvin Nichols I reservoir site on the Sulpher River, TX. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. 90 pp.

Glenn, J.L. 1999. Relative abundance of largemouth bass and warmouth in the river channel. South Florida Water Management District. 7 pp.

Goldstein, R.M., and T.P. Simon. 1999. Toward a united definition of guild structure for feeding ecology of North American freshwater fishes. pp. 123-202 in T.P. Simon, editor. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Gould, W.R. III and W.H. Irwin. 1962. The suitabilities and relative resistances of twelve species of fish as bioassay animals for oil-refinery effluent. Proc. Southeast. Assoc. Game Fish Comm. 16:333-348.

Gruninger, T.L., C.E. Murphy, J.C. Britton. 1977. Macroparasites of fish from Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist 22(4):525-535.

Harrell, H.L. 1978. Response of the Devil’s River (Texas) fish community to flooding. Copeia 1978(1):60-68.

Harris, P. D., A. P. Shinn, J. Cable, T. A. Bakke. 2004. Nominal species of the genus Gyrodactylus von Nordmann 1832 (Monogenea: Gyrodactylidae), with a list of principal hosts. Systematic Parasitology 59:1-27

Hubbs, C. L., R. J.Edwards, and G. P.Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56

Hunt, B.P. 1960. Digestion rate and food consumption of Florida gar, warmouth, and largemouth bass. Trans. Amer. Fish Soc. 89(2):206-211.

Jordan, D. S. 1878. A Catalogue of the Fishes of Illinois. Bulletin of the Illinois State Laboratory of Natural History 1(2):37-70

Large, T. 1903. A list of the native fishes of Illinois with keys. Appendix to Report of the State Board of Fish Commissioners for Sept. 30, 1900 to Oct. 1, 1902. 30pp.

Larimore, Kenneth D. 1957. Ecological Life History of the Warmouth (Centrarchidae). Illinois Natural History Survey, Bulletin 27(1):1-83

Layzer, J. B., and M. D. Clady. 1991. Microhabitat and diet segregation among coexisting young-of-year sunfishes (Centrarchidae). NOAA Technical Report NMFS. Thirteenth Annual Larval Fish Conference, 95:99-108

Lee, D. S. 1980. Lepomis gulosus (Cuvier),Warmouth. pp. 595 in D. S. Lee, et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N. C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

Linam, G.W., and L.J. Kleinsasser. 1987. Fisheries use attainability study for Hillebrandt Bayou. River Studies Report No. 1. Resource Protection Division. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin. 18 pp.

Linam, G.W., and L.J. Kleinsasser. 1987. Fisheries use attainability study for Oyster Creek (segment 1110). River Studies Report No. 3. Resource Protection Division. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin. 15 pp.

Linam, G.W., and L.J. Kleinsasser. 1987. Fisheries use attainability study for Pine Island Bayou (segment 0607). River Studies Report No. 6. Resource Protection Division. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin. 21 pp.

Linam, G.W., J.C. Henson, and M.A. Webb. 1994. A Fisheries inventory and assessment of Allens Creek and the Brazos River, Austin County, Texas. River Studies Report No. 12. Resource Protection Division. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Austin. 14 pp.

Merriner, J.V. 1971. Egg size as a factor in intergeneric hybrid success of centrarchids. Trans. Amer. Fish Soc. 100(1):29-32.

Minckley, W. L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department, Phoenix 293 pp.

Morgan, Michael Neal. 2002. Habitat associations of fish assemblages in the Sulphur River, Texas. Masters Thesis. Texas A&M University, 58 pp.

Moriarty, L.J. and K.O. Winemiller. 1997. Spatial and temporal variation in fish assemblage structure in Village Creek, Hardin County, Texas. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 49(3):85-110.

Mosier, D.T. 1984. Records of Lepomis symmetricus Forbes and Fundulus chrysotus (Gunther) from Aransas County, Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist 29(4):504-505.

Moyle, P. B. 1976. Inland Fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkley. 405 pp.

Nelson, E. W. 1876. A partial catalogue of the fishes of Illinois. Illinois Museum of Natural History Bulletin 1(1):33-52.

O'Donnell, D. J. 1935. Annotated list of the fishes of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 20(5):473-500.

Osting, T., R. Matthews, and B. Austin. 2003. Analysis of instream flows for the Sulpher River: Hydrology, hydraulics, and fish habitat utilization. Report to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 22 pp.

Pflieger, W. L. 1975. The Fishes of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation 343pp.

Robison, H.W. and T.M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 536pp.

Rose, D.R., and A.A. Echelle. 1981. Factor analysis of associations of fishes in Little River, Central Texas, with an interdrainage comparison. American Midland Naturalist 106(2):379-391.

Ross, S. T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson.  624 pp.

Simon, T. P. 1999. Assessment of Balon’s reproductive guilds with application to Midwestern North American Freshwater Fishes, pp. 97-121. In: Simon, T.L. (ed.). Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press. Boca Raton, Florida. 671 pp.

Smith, Philip W. 1965. A preliminary annotated list of the lampreys and fishes of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Biological Notes 54:1-12.

Smith, Philip W. 1979. The Fishes of Illinois. University of Illinois Press, Chicago. 314 pp.

Sublette, J.E., M.D. Hatch, and M. Sublette. 1990. The Fishes of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 393 pp.

Tomelleri, Joseph R. and Mark E. Eberle. 1990. Fishes of the Central United States. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence 226 pp.

Trautman, M. B. 1957. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, 683 pp.

Underwood, H.T., and N.O. Dronen, Jr. 1984. Endohelminths of fishes from the Upper San Marcos River, Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist 29(4):377-385.


Warren, L. W., Jr., B. M. Burr, S. J. Walsh, H. L. Bart, Jr., R. C. Cashner, D. A. Etnier, B. J. Freeman, B. R. Kuhajda, R. L. Mayden, H. W. Robison, S. T. Ross, and W. C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries 25(10):7-29.


Welcomme, R.L. 1979. Fisheries ecology of floodplain rivers. Longman Group Limited. London, England.


Yeh, C.F. 1977. Relative selectivity of fishing gear used in a large reservoir in Texas. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 106(4):309-313.