Lepomis miniatus

redspotted sunfish



Type Locality

Tangipahoa River, Louisiana (Jordan 1877).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Lepomis: scaled operculum; miniatus: scarlet, in reference to the diagnostic red spots on males (Ross 2001).



Lepomis miniatus (formerly L. punctatus miniatus) was elevated to species rank by Warren (1992) based on morphological and pigmentation differences.


Lepiopomis miniatus Jordan 1877:26.

Lepomis miniatus Evermann 1899:310.

Lepomis punctatus miniatus Cook 1959:179.

Lepomis punctatus Caldwell 1966:221, Medford and Simco 1971:122; Pierson et al. 1986:13; Hubbard 1987:23; Boschung 1989:83; Mettee et al. 1989:128; Hubbard et al. 1991:10; Becket et al. 1992:131.



Maximum size: 160 mm SL (Boschung and Mayden 2004).


Life colors: No dark spot at posterior base of dorsal fin (Hubbs et al. 1991). Adults have square, red or purplish red (in males) or yellowish (in females) spots along the sides forming irregular rows. The cheeks have dark, coffee-colored spots. The back is dark brown or olive, the belly is reddish orange, and the opercular spot is black with a narrow white or reddish border. The fins are dusky, with the margins of median fins reddish orange. The front and back of the iris is reddish and the lower part light blue or turquoise (Ross 2001).


Scale counts: There are 35-41 (34-42) lateral line scales, 11 dorsal rays, 10 anal rays, and 13-14 pectoral rays (Warren 1992; Ross 2001); 3 anal spines (rarely 2 or 4); 6-13 dorsal fin spines; 6 or 7 branchiostegals (Hubbs et al. 1991). Breast scale rows 13-15 (11-16; Ross 2001), these are counted from the scale at the lower base of the pectoral fin insertion downward and forward to ventral midline, then upward and backward from the lower insertion of the right pectoral fin (Cashner and Suttkus 1977).


Body shape: Deep, slab-sided (Pflieger 1997). Body depth usually contained two to two and one-half times in SL (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Mouth position: Moderate-sized mouth (Pflieger 1997).


External morphology: Gill rakers in adults short, when depressed not reaching base of second raker below; supramaxilla one-third width of maxilla; lateral line complete; opercle stiff to its margin (not including membrane); posterior edge of opercle within opercular membrane smooth; pectoral fins short and rounded; pectoral fin contained 3.75 or more times in SL; no teeth on tounge or pterygoids; scales ctenoid (Hubbs et al. 1991). Rear margin of lower jaw extends past the front of the eye. Caudal fin emarginate (Ross 2001).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Lepomis miniatus occurs on the Gulf Slope from Mobile basin west to south Texas and north in the Mississippi River Valley to the Illinois River of Illinois in the north, Red River of southeastern Oklahoma in the west, and the lower Ohio River of Kentucky and Indiana in the east (Warren 1992).


Texas distribution: May be found in most drainages in Texas, with the exception of streams in the northwestern part of the state (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) list the following drainage units for distribution of L. miniatus 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 stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Streams, swamps (Ross 2001; Boshung and Mayden 2004); low-salinity coastal estuaries (Desselle et al. 1978).


Mesohabitat: Found in pool, chute, riffle, and backwater, run habitats in the San Antonio River, Texas (Edwards 1999). Species collected from pool habitat in the lower Brazos River, Texas (Gelwick and Li 2002). Occur most abundantly in the clearer and more sluggish ditches in the Lowlands of Missouri, where aquatic plants are abundant; and in the Ozark streams it occurs in quiet pools near boulders and submerged logs and in clear, heavily vegetated backwaters (Pflieger 1997). Found in heavily vegetated, sluggish waters (Boschung and Mayden 2004). Species occurs in streams, including those along the coastal region of Mississippi in areas of low salinity (Ross 2001). In Mississippi, Peterson (1991) noted the condition of fish appeared to be poorer at salinities above 4 ppt, perhaps due to the metabolic expense of maintaining proper water balance. Habitats of this species in the upper reaches of Lamar Creek, Mississippi, averaged 33 cm in depth and were in areas of very slowly moving water (0.4 cm/s). Compared to other sunfishes, L. miniatus occurred over finer substrata in very weedy habitats (Ross et al. 1987). In the delta in Louisiana, species was found in more diverse habitats than other centrachids (Carver 1967; Carlander 1977). L. miniatus X L. punctatus hybrids reported to have been collected from the Escambia River, FL, in salinities from 5.0 ppt. at the surface to 24.4 ppt at the bottom (Boshung and Mayden 2004).



Spawning season: L. miniatus spawn in Illinois during May (Forbes and Richardson 1920). In Mississippi, most likely spawns in late spring or summer (Ross 2001). In Missouri, nesting activity observed in early July (Pflieger 1997).


Spawning location: Nests are built in shallow water, often within 30 cm of shore (Ross 2001). Nests were found in water only a few inches in depth among the stems of water willow, over a bottom of sand and gravel. L. miniatus usually a solitary nester; however, on occasion two or more males build nests so close together that they become confluent (Pflieger 1997).


Reproductive Strategy: Nests are actively defended (Ross 2001). Gerald (1971) studied sound production in this species in Hays Co., Texas. During courtship, nesting male rushes toward a female and then turns rapidly back to the nest, producing a series of grunts throughout the entire process. The sound production may serve as a species-specific signal helping to orient the female to the male.




Age at maturation:






Food habits: Invertebrate feeder. Species feeds primarily on benthic prey. In Lake Ponchartrain, Louisiana, major food items included small crustaceans (particularly gammarid amphipods) and midges (chironomids); large fish fed to a greater extent on mud crabs (Rhithropanopeus) and sponges (sponges especially important in winter; Desselle et al. 1978). In Davis Bayou, Mississippi, small L. miniatus depended on zooplankton, whereas larger fish shifted their diets to benthic macrofauna. This species often used submerged aquatic vegetation-associated prey; however, sediment-associated and water-column associated prey were used also (Vanderkooy et al. 2000).


Growth: Finnel et al. (1956) reported that young fish grow to an average length of 33 mm TL in the first year, and reach average lengths of 74 mm TL, 114 mm TL, and 150 mm TL in their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years, respectively. Six individuals taken in a 25 mm bar measure gill net from Lake Bistineau, Louisiana averaged 124 mm (ranged from 102-140 mm; Lambou 1961; Carlander 1977).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Lepomis miniatus previously considered a subspecies of L. punctatus (Warren 1992).

The redspotted sunfish is distinguished from all congeners, except L. punctatus, by the iridescent turquoise crescent outlining the ventral curvature of the otherwise dark red iris and uniformly silvery,  creamy, pinkish, or white narrow margins on the dorsal, caudal, and anal fins (Boschung and Mayden 2004). It is distinguished from L. punctatus by the following: Breeding males have rows of spots from one to two scale rows below the lateral line to the belly; the red orange pigment covers the scale centers, and the rows resemble a chain of rough triangles with anteriorly directed, truncated apices. Breeding males also have red orange pigment covering the breast, belly, and dorsal margin of the opercular tab and three quadrate to circular blotches located below the middorsal margin of the operculum and anterior to the black opercular spot, above the opercular tab, and just above and behind the eye, the latter usually diffuse. Breeding males usually have no discrete, dark spots of the anterior exposed scale bases of the body; if present, spots on the body are diffuse or only slightly darker than the dorsal and ventral scale margins and do not form horizontal rows (Warren 1992).


Lepomis miniatus known to hybridize with the bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) in nature (Childers 1967).


Host Records

Leptorhynchoides thecatus (adult; Steinauer et al. 2006). Camallanus oxycephalus and Spinitectus carolini (Fiorillo and Font 1999). Cestoda: Bothriocephalus,

Proteocephalidae; Trematoda: Clinostomum marginatum, Crepidostomum cooperi, Diplostomatidae, Halipegus, Homalometron armatum, Posthodiplostomum minimum, Proterometra macrostoma, Textrema hopkinsi;

Nemata: Camallanus oxycephalus, Capillaria, Spinitectus carolini, Spinitectus gracilis, Spinitectus micracanthus, Spiroxys contorta; Acanthocephala: Leptorhynchoides thecatus, Neoechinorhynchus clyindratum, Pomphorhynchus bulbocolli (Mayberry et al 2000).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

[Additional literature noting collection of this species (previously referred to as Lepomis punctatus) from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Hubbs (1957); lower Rio Grande River (Robinson 1959); Bosque River (Linam and Kleinsasser 1987); Cow Bayou (Linam and Kleinsasser 1987);Village Creek (Neches River; Moriarty and Winemiller 1997); San Antonio River (Edwards 2001).]



Boschung, H. T. 1989. Atlas of fishes of the upper Tombigbee River drainage, Alabama-Mississippi. Proc. S.E. Fishes Council 19:1-104.

Boschung, H.T., Jr., and Mayden, R.L. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C. 736 pp.

Caldwell, R. D. 1966. Fishes from the freshwater streams of the Biloxi Bay and St. Louis Bay drainage systems of Mississippi. J. Miss. Acad. Sci. 12:213-231.

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

Carver, D.C. 1967. Distribution and abundance of the centrachids in the recent delta of the Mississippi River. Proc. S.E. Assoc. Game Fish. Comm. 20:390-404.

Cashner, R.C., and R.D. Suttkus. 1977. Ambloplites constellatus, a new species of rock bass from the Ozark upland of Arkansas and Missouri with a review of western rock bass populations. American Midland Naturalist 98(1):147-161.

Childers, W.F. 1967. Hybridization of four species of sunfishes. Illinois Natural History Survey 29:159-214.

Cook, F.A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi. Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, Jackson.

Desselle, W.J. and M.A. Pourrier, J.S. Rogers, and R.C. Cashner. 1978. A discriminant functions analysis of sunfish (Lepomis) food habits and feeding niche segregation in the Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, estuary. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 107:713-719.

Edwards, R.J. 1999. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes II. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. 69 pp.

Edwards, R.J. 2001. Ecological profiles for selected stream-dwelling Texas freshwater fishes III. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. 59 pp.

Evermann, B. W. 1899. Report on investigations by the U.S. Fish Commission in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, in 1897. Rept. U.S. Fish Comm. 24:287-310.

Finnel, J.C., R.M. Jenkins, G.E. Hall. 1956. The fishery resources of the Little River system, McCurtain County, Oklahoma. Oklahoma Fishery Research Laboratory. Report. 55:1-81.

Fiorillo, R.A., and W.F. Font. 1999. Seasonal dynamics and community structure of helminthes of spotted sunfish, Lepomis miniatus (Osteichthyes: Centrarchidae) from an oligohaline estuary in southeastern Louisiana, U.S.A. Journal of the Helminthological Society of Washington 66:101-110.

Forbes, S.A., and R.E. Richardson. 1920. The Fishes of Illinois. Ill. Nat. Hist. Surv. 3:1-357.

Gelwick, F.P., and R.Y. Li. 2002. Mesohabitat use and community structure of Brazos River fishes in the vicinity of the proposed Allens Creek Reservoir. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. 25 pp.

Hubbard, W. D. 1987. Distribution and diversity of fishes in the Noxubee River drainage, Mississippi. J. Miss. Acad. Sci. 32:19-30.

Hubbard, W. D., C. E. Tucker, and H. Boschung. 1991. Fishes of the Sucarnoochee River system, Alabama and Mississippi. Proc. S.E. Fishes Council 24:1-11.

Hubbs, C. 1957. Distributional patterns of Texas fresh-water fishes. The Southwestern Naturalist 2(2-3):89-104.

Hubbs, C., 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

Jordan, D. S. 1877. Contributions to North American ichthyology, based primarily on the collections of the United States National Museum. No. 2A. Notes on Cottidae, Etheotomatidae, Percidae, Centrarchidae, Aphredoderidae, Dorysomatidae, and Cyprinidae, with revisions of the genera and descriptions of new or little known species. Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus. 10:1-68.

Lambou, V.W. 1961. Efficiency and selectivity of flag gillnets fished in Lake Bistineau, Louisiana. Proc. S. E. Assoc. Game Fish Comm. 15:319-359.

Lee, D. S. 1980. Lepomis punctatus (Valenciennes), spotted sunfish, p. 602. 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 (Revised 1989). Fisheries use attainability study for the Bosque River. River Studies Report No. 4. Resource Protection Division. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin. 24 pp.

Linam, G.W., and L.J. Kleinsasser. 1987. Fisheries use attainability study for Cow Bayou (segment 0511). River Studies Report No. 5. Resource Protection Division. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin. 14 pp.

Mayberry, L. F., A. G. Canaris, and J. R. Bristol. 2000. Bibliography of parasites and vertebrate host in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (1893-1984). University of Nebraska Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology Web Server pp. 1-100.

Medford, D. W., and B. A. Simco. 1971. The fishes of the Wolf Fiver, Tennessee and Mississippi. J. Tenn. Acad. Sci. 46(4):121-123.

Mettee, M. F., P. R. O'Neil, R. D. Suttkus, and J. M. Pierson. 1989. Fishes of the western Mobile River Basin in Alabama and Mississippi. Atlas 24. Geological Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

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.

Peterson, M. S. 1991. Differential length-weight relations among centrarchids (Pisces: Centrarchidae) from tidal freshwater and oligohaline wetland habitats. Wetlands 11(2):325-332.

Pflieger, W. L.  1997.  The Fishes of Missouri.  Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, 372 pp.

Pierson, J. M., C. A. Schultz, and H. T. Boschung. 1986. Fishes of the Buttahatchee River system of Alabama and Mississippi. Proc. S.E. Fishes Council. 4(4):11-13.

Robinson, D.T. 1959. The ichthyofauna of the lower Rio Grande, Texas and Mexico. Copeia 1959(3):253-256.

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

Ross, S. T., J. A. Baker, and K. E. Clark. 1987. Microhabitat partitioning of southeastern stream fishes: temporal and spatial predictability, pp. 42-51. In: Evolutionary and community ecology of North American stream fishes. W. J. Matthews and D. C. Heins, eds. Univ. Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Steinauer, M.L., J.E. Parham, B.B. Nickol. 2006 Geographic analysis of host use, development, and habitat use of an acanthocephalan species, Leptorhynchoides thecatus. J. Parasitol. 92(3):464-472.

Vanderkooy, K.E., C.F. Rakocinski, and R.W. Heard. 2000. Trophic relationships of three sunfishes (Lepomis spp.) in an estuarine bayou. Estuaries 23(5):621-632.

Warren, M. L., Jr. 1990. Occurrence of the spotted sunfish, Lepomis punctatus, in the Devils River, Texas. Southwest. Nat. 35(3):349-351.

Warren, M. L., Jr. 1992. Variation of the spotted sunfish, Lepomis punctatus complex (Centrarchidae): meristics, morphometrics, pigmentation and species limits. Bull. Ala. Mus. Nat. Hist. 12:1-47.

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.