Native to eastern North America, Pumpkinseeds original range is from southern Canada to Georgia and North Carolina. This sunfish is rarely found in running water, preferring still heavily vegetated ponds. It frequently coexists with the bluegills, its competitor. These species occasionally hybridize. When bluegills are present, Pumpkinseeds occupy the shoreline zone, leaving the open water habitat to the gills. These smallish fish are typically six to eight inches in length, with fish to twelve inches possible.
These colorful sunfish are deep-bodied with a small mouth. Their underside is typically orange to yellow. Sides are speckled with orange, yellow, blue, and emerald spots. The cheeks have wavy blue lines. Ear flaps are short, black, and have a red-orange rear edge.
Males, as is typical of sunfish, build nests in colonies in gravelly areas. Nest building starts hen water temperatures approach 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Extremely territorial males chase everything away, including early-arriving females. Females deposit approximately 1,500 eggs which settle through a cloud of milt and stick to the bottom. Males then guard their nest as the eggs hatch in a few days. Once hatched males herd the fry into ball-like clouds for a couple weeks. Sexual maturity generally occurs by the second year. In the wild, pumpkinseeds can live upwards of eight years.
Pumpkinseeds have diverse diet, insects, insect larvae, mollusks, snails, other crustaceans, and small fish are all on the menu. Feeding is primarily during the day and they are especially active in the afternoon. All levels of the water column are utilized.
Pumpkinseed in Colorado
Found in impoundments of eastern Colorado, the pumpkinseed spawns in the same manner as the bluegill and at the same time. Growing to a length of 6 inches, the pumpkinseed is not apt to be found in open water like the bluegill but prefers weed patches, docks and sunken vegetation. Staying close to shore, this snappy fish is easily taken by a variety of baits ranging from a juicy grub or worm to small lures or wet flies.
Courtesy of Natural Diversity Information Source, Colorado Division of Wildlife