Three of Wisconsin’s panfish portion of the Centrarchidae family have larger mouths than do bluegills. Well, actually five do, but I’m saving the minnow loving crappies for a later article in this series.
The largest is the northern rock bass whose Latin name is Ambloplites repestris meaning having a blunt armature (Ambloplites), and living among rocks (repestris) per “Fishes of Wisconsin” by George C. Becker, University of Wisconsin Press. Most anglers in our area just call them “rock bass.”
Nicknames for the “rocky” include redeye, redeye bass, goggle eye and rock sunfish with the latter being the most accurate, since the rock bass, like the largemouth bass and the smallmouth bass are not true bass.
As mentioned, these fish are found in rocky bottomed areas where they spawn in warmer temperatures than do other sunfish. These fish are often found in shallower water that warms earlier.
When fishing for bluegills on a lake, such as Walworth County’s Lake Beulah, panfish anglers casting almost onto the shore are often surprised to get a bite in mini-depth water. This is rockbass territory. These fish are seeking terrestrials, that is insects like grasshoppers who end up in near shore water, and any other tasty invertebrate or fish deemed edible. The diet for a rocky is a combination of meat and fish. Think of them as eating what both bluegills and crappies eat. Rock bass are nocturnal, so midnight snacks are common.
The slightly smaller and darker colored warmouth, Lepomis (Chaenobryttus) gulosis, whereas Lepomis means “sealed operculum” and gulosis means “gluttonous.” It can survive in lentic, “still,” or slow-moving, waters having low oxygen content.
This specie is a fairly recent addition to the family. The warmouth had been thought to be the solo member of the genus Chaenobryttus, but it is now considered a Lepomis family member, and Chaenobryttus is considered a subgeneric rank.
The Wisconsin record warmouth came from Eagle Lake, in Racine County, before its current redoing.
Other nicknames for this aggressive sunfish include warmouth bass, goggle-eye (shared with the rock bass), black sunfish, wide-mouthed sunfish, stumpknocker, mud bass, wood bass and weed bass.
Our final triple panfish threat member is the green sunfish. This tasty fish is best described as looking like a bluegill with a big mouth. Green sunfish, Lepomis cyanellus, whereas Lepomis is a scaled operculum and cyanellus means blue, are usually smaller than are warmouth, but occasionally a larger fish is caught. This sunfish can tolerate turbidity.
Green sunfish, like many of the sunfish panfish members can stunt due to inadequate food supply and lack of angler harvest. It can hybridize, making for difficult fish identification.
Among the sound making fish, green sunfish males grunt during courtship.
Nicknames for this inhabiter of lakes, ponds and slow-moving creeks include green perch, black perch, logfish, blue-spotted sunfish, sunfish, little red eye, blue bass, creek sunfish, rubbertail and sand bass.
The green sunfish diet consists of invertebrates and smaller fishes, so it too prefers a combination of the bluegill and crappie menus.
Milwaukee Fishing Examiner
L.A. Van Veghel