Redear Sunfish Have Bad Attitudes

by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

Hefty Redear Sunfish from the Blanco River

Hefty Redear Sunfish from the Blanco River

Here in South Central Texas, we have many kinds of panfish, and they’re all fun on light tenkara gear. Bluegills, Redbreast, and Green Sunfish all provide plenty of sport on the right gear. A one-ounce rod and a six-inch bluegill is about all the fun an angler can stand.

There’s one panfish, however, that’s in a class by itself, and that’s the Redear Sunfish, or Shellcracker. To say it plainly, they have bad tempers and always wake up on the wrong side of the weed bed. When they strike, it’s like you owe them money. They don’t quit.

Lepomis microlophus are tremendous quarry for lightweight tenkara gear. I can always tell when I have one on the line because they hit hard and often run circles around me. They will bend a sensitive tenkara pole nearly in two. During spawning season they tenaciously protect their nests and will not tolerate any nymph that comes near.

Redear Sunfish are indigenous to the Southeastern United States, but their range is expanding. They usually inhabit slow moving warm water, often lurking on the bottom, near brush or rocky ledges. I have my best success with them by casting dark-colored nymphs as close to cover as I can, often right beside a log or beneath an overhanging tree. A weighted Hare’s Ear Nymph or a Utah Killer Bug, really fuzzed up, are perfect medicine.

Redears can grow to good size, with the Texas State Record weighing more than two pounds. Ounce-for-ounce, they fight harder than any other fish I know. Glamourous? No. Tough to land? You betcha.

The first photo above shows a mongo-size Redear that I caught in the Blanco River recently on a super-light, 8-penny, Nissin Royal Stage Syunki. It was one of the best tussles I’ve had in a long time. The second photo shows another nice Redear from the Cibolo Creek in Boerne, TX.

If you’re fortunate to have these worthy fish in your home waters, tie up some nymphs and get after them. Just beware of bad attitudes.

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