Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus)

Category: Fish
Common names: Pumpkinseed, Sunfish, Bream

Description and Range

Physical description

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. Average 3-6 inches. Pumpkinseed can grow to 8 inches in quality Washington populations

Where you may encounter pumpkinseed sunfish

Lakes where this species may be found

Grant County
Klickitat County
Mason County
San Juan County
Skagit County
Thurston County
Whitman County

How to fish for pumpkinseed sunfish

Fishing prospects calendar

Pumpkinseed Sunfish are ubiquitous in most lowland lakes and readily caught year-round. Fishing is best in the spring and summer, peaking during the spawn in June. Fish move offshore into deeper waters through the fall as water temperatures cool making it more difficult to target them. Winter is the most difficult season to catch Pumpkinseed, but persistent anglers can find nice-sized schools offshore.
Chart of fishing prospects throughout the calendar year

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.

State record

1.09 lbs
Barbie Hathawayn
Lake Terrell, Whatcom County
Date Caught
July 2, 2007

See all sportfish records