Types of panfish

The term “panfish” generally refers to a wide variety of edible freshwater species that are small enough to cook in a frying pan, although that is not the only way to cook them. This training module will focus on the larger panfish-sized sunfishes and crappie. These fish are widely distributed across America. However, the specific species may change regionally, or from one body of water to another. Common names for these species also vary widely, with some regional names endemic to that location.

The module will focus on open-water fishing for the following species:

  • Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
    • Species overview
  • Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
    • Species overview
  • Redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
    • Species overview
  • Redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus)
    • Species overview
  • Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)
    • Species overview
  • White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis)
    • Species overview
  • Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)
    • Species overview

These species are generally abundant, relatively easy to catch, do not require elaborate or expensive fishing gear, and are good to eat. Most of the sunfishes (Lepomis spp.) can be caught with similar tactics and equipment. Both species of crappies (Pomoxis spp.) can be caught with equipment used for sunfishes, but may require different tactics. However, catching larger specimens of any of these species, or during certain times of the year, may require advanced skills and tactics. 

There are 13 recognized species of sunfishes. However, they frequently hybridize, and/or are known by numerous local or regional common names. Some common names are generic and cover many species, while others may refer to a specific species or even a locally occurring hybrid.

Most are found in warm, slow moving, relatively shallow, fresh water lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, and most are often strongly associated with aquatic weeds, or other structures such as downed trees, stumps or rocks.

There are only two species of crappies in the US. Both are similar in size and known by numerous local or regional common names. Both occupy slow moving, relatively shallow, fresh water lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, and most are often strongly associated with aquatic weeds, or other structures such as downed trees, stumps or rocks. However, white crappies are more tolerant of muddy water and can do well in areas that have sparse aquatic vegetation.

Other panfish species

Depending on the region where you will be hosting your panfishing class, you may want to consider yellow perch (Perca flavescens) or channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) as your target species.  

 

 

Resources

NY Beginners Guide to Fresh Water Fishing - Aquatic Life

We are lucky in New York to have lots of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Each represents an aquatic ecosystem; that is, a community of living things that live primarily in or on the water. These living things rely on each other to survive. Some of these relationships are obvious, such as when a frog is eaten by a fish. Others are less obvious. For example, fish waste fertilizes the water, fueling the growth of microscopic algae, which are an important food for young fish.

NY Beginners Guide to Fresh Water Fishing - Species of fish

New York State is home to more than 165 freshwater fish species, including some that were around when dinosaurs roamed the land. These fish come in all different sizes, from two-inch darters to sturgeon that can grow to more than seven feet. They come in all different shapes, too. Sunfish have compressed bodies, whereas common carp are fat and round. Pike and pickerel are long and narrow. The different sizes, shapes and colors are not accidental—each has a purpose in helping a fish survive and reproduce.

Wisconsin Fish Identification

This fish identification tool was developed by the University of Wisconsin Center for Limnology, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

Carry 174 Wisconsin fish in your pocket! Download the mobile app and you can identify Wisconsin fish wherever you go, no internet connection required.