Redbreast sunfish occur naturally along the Atlantic Coast and across southern Georgia and northern Florida to the Chattahoochee River. They tend to be more of a cool river species, but also inhabit fresh water lakes. Introductions have been made as far west as Louisiana and Western Texas. They tend to prefer areas with shadows and holes around submerged rocks or overhanging banks.
Redbreasts run from olive to brownish shades along the back, changing to blues and gold down the side turning to a bright orange/yellow belly. There are generally several bluish stripes on the cheeks and gill covers. Its gill flap is one of the longest of all sunfish and may exceed an inch in length. Typically, these fish don’t much exceed eight inches, although specimens to twelve inches have occurred. Life expectancy is five to six years.
Spawning occurs when water temperatures reach the upper 60’s in the spring. Nests in shallow water are built by the males over a sand/gravel substrate. Female release their adhesive eggs, and leave the male to guard and fan the eggs. A typical clutch size is around 2000. Most Redbreasts are sexually productive by their second year.
These sunfish have one of the more varied diets among all sunfish. Aquatic insects, such as mayflies and dragonfly larvae make up the bulk of the sunfish’s die. However, being an opportunistic feeder, they will readily eat small fishes, snails, crayfish, and mollusks. Making them a ready and willing player for anglers.
Redbreast Sunfish in Florida
The following is courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
Appearance: A very long black ear flap distinguishes this fish from other Florida bream.
Habitat: Also known as river bream and redbellies, these are the flowing water cousins of bluegill. Redbellies often can be found in backwater areas with less flow, especially where there are sandy bottoms. Common in rivers of north Florida, but absent from south Florida.
Behavior: The redbreast's diet is probably the most varied of any of the sunfishes. Principal food organisms are bottom-dwelling insect larvae, snails, clams, shrimp, crayfish, and small fish. Compared to some sunfish, redbreasts grow slowly. Redbreast reach six inches in about two to three years.
State Record: 2.08 lbs. Big Catch: 10 inches total length or 0.75 lbs.