Pumpkinseed, sunfish, bream
Average 3-6 inches. Pumpkinseed can grow to 8 inches in quality Washington populations
1.09 lbs; Barbie Hathawayn; Lake Terrell, Whatcom County; July 2, 2007
Pumpkinseeds are the most common sunfish species in Washington. These small fish are familiar to anyone who has enjoyed fishing warmwater lakes. They are often called just “sunfish”. Similar to Bluegill, Pumpkinseed Sunfish are one of several “panfish” species in Washington, which are widely dispersed, easy to catch, and have flaky white flesh of excellent flavor. These brightly-colored little fish both have smaller mouths than bass or crappie and may be told apart most easily by remembering that the bluegill has a blue-black spot on the margin of the gill cover. On the pumpkinseed, that spot is bright orange-red. Subtle differences in coloration are noticeable too; the pumpkinseed is usually lighter and more brilliantly-hued, with turquoise and orange cheek stripes in larger individuals.
Pumpkinseeds characteristically inhabit vegetated, quiet or slow-moving waters. Like other warmwater species, Pumpkinseed Sunfish were introduced in Washington in the early 1890s by the U.S. Fish Commission and are widely distributed. They are found in a variety of habitats including lowland lakes, ponds, and reservoirs statewide. They also inhabit the Columbia, Snake and lower Yakima Rivers, particularly in sloughs and backwaters. They spawn when water temperatures approach 70° F, congregating in large groups on common spawning grounds in shallow water six to 12 inches deep.
Sunfish are very active feeders, and strong fighters for their size. A bobber and worm is the most common tackle used, but a wide variety of baits, such as crickets and grubs, work well. Small tube jigs and curly-tail plastic jigs are effective as the water warms. In late spring and summer, fly-rodders have great evening sport with small poppers, wet flies, and imitation ants and bees. See Bluegill for additional tips on catching sunfish.