It sometimes takes a keen eye to identify your catches

Fish identification is important if you are a serious angler, but sometimes it is not that easy to do, especially when it comes to identifying sunfish.

Mention sunfish to a majority of anglers and it’s probably a safe bet that they think about the feisty little bluegill sunfish that we catch from our lakes and streams. It is true that the bluegill is a member of the sunfish family, but so is the largemouth and smallmouth bass. That just proves that sunfish come in a variety of sizes.

Now I’m not an ichthyologist so my fish identification could be way off so if this interests you I advise you to get on the computer for your own research.

That said I find that many of us have misnamed the species of bluegill we catch. For instance can you tell the difference between a green sunfish and a warmouth sunfish? Have you at least once misidentified a warmouth as a rock bass? Me too.

My heightened interest in this subject came about when I read a recent article on catching green sunfish in Fur-Fish-Game magazine. The article made me wonder if I had really been catching green sunfish when I thought I was reeling in a warmouth. There is a similarity between the two species. Both have thicker bodies than bluegills and each has a much larger mouth.

I wanted a more distinct variation and it does seem that the warmouth has red eyes and the green sunfish has orange around its fins. I’ve also heard that a warmouth has a tooth patch on its tongue. I’ll check if I catch another one. Say “Aaah” mister fish. I guess I can live with that because as I’ve said I am not an ichthyologist. I just like to learn about the fish I love to catch, and I love to catch sunfish including bass.

The warmouth is a voracious feeder and will attack a lure that is really meant for a larger fish. Then they fight like a crazed bull and put a healthy bend in the rod. In the past any warmouth I caught were by accident, but I now plan to seek out a place in the lake that has a fair population of warmouth and begin to target them. I won’t mind if I also add a few green sunfish to my catch.

Of course if I target warmouth I need to come up with a new fishing technique, and I guess that will be a lot like fishing for bluegills, except I can use larger hooks and lures. Since I also might run into a school of nice fat bluegills I’ll have to allow for their smaller mouths. I guess I need to use bluegill tackle, at least until I find my warmouth honey hole.

I have often caught warmouth by accident on much larger lures so I need to see if a scaled down version of the same lures will do the trick. Maybe I’ll do better with smaller jigs, especially smaller RoadRunners. But when it comes down to really catching warmouth sunfish live bait just might be the answer. How about combining a jig with live bait? It’s worth a try.

Actually I’ve been thinking a lot about using live bait on a jig and dangling it over the side of the boat. I’ve even been making some very small jigs to use this way for the large bluegills I sometimes encounter. Unfortunately this darn monsoon has hindered my trips out on the lake so I haven’t tried it yet.

But what live bait should I use? The obvious answer is the red wiggler worm, and that will be my first choice. Leeches should also work, but I need to keep them fresh and not stinking up my fridge. I might even go with maggots or wax worms, but they are kind of yucky. I’ve also had luck catching bluegills using crappie nibbles and other prepared baits.

Whatever I choose to use I plan to go after warmouth sunfish, green sunfish, and hopefully some big bluegills. Catching them will be a lot of fun, and nothing tempts my palate more than pan fried sunfish of any species.