Spotted sunfish are found in Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from Cape Fear River in North Carolina to Nueces River in Texas, north in Mississippi River basin to central Illinois. They prefer slow-moving, heavily vegetated streams and rivers with sand, or gravel substrates. This More saline tolerant than other sunfishes, they exist in coastal streams with some saltwater intrusion.
Adult Spotted sunfish are typically three to five inches, but specimens to eight inches have been recorded. They are olive-green to brown in color. There are black or reddish spots on the base of each scale that form rows of dots on its sides. The belly will often range from a light yellow to pinkish in color.
Spotted sunfish spawn when water temperatures approach 70 degrees. Nests are built in shallow water. These sunfish tend to be solitary nesters, and the males are extremely aggressive and antagonistic toward fish in their nesting area.
Typically bottom feeders, spotted sunfish will rise to the surface to feed. They feed primarily on immature insect larvae, but also consume a variety plants and animals associated with aquatic structures. Spotted sunfish are commonly called "stumpknockers", due to their tendency to feed on insects attached to submersed logs.
Spotted Sunfish in Florida
The following is courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
Appearance: Spotted sunfish are olive-green to brown in color, with black or reddish spots on the base of each scale forming rows of dots on its sides.
Habitat: The preferred habitat is slow-moving, heavily vegetated streams and rivers with limestone, sand, or gravel substrates.
Behavior: A nest-builder that tends to be more solitary than other members of the sunfish family. Males are very aggressive and antagonistic toward other fish in their nesting area. They generally feed on the bottom, but will rise to the surface to feed. The bulk of their diet consists of a variety of plants and animals that are usually associated with aquatic vegetation, brush, or rubble.
State Record: 0.83 lbs. Big Catch: 8 inches or 0.50 lbs.