Key Characteristics:

  • Roughly equal number pre and post-anal myomeres.
  • Fewer total myomeres than Percidae (less than 35).
  • Double dorsal fin, but this may not be visible until they are older.
  • Dorsal and anal fins across from each other.
  • As they age, become deep bodied
  • Can have many or few melanophores.

Larval Pumpkinseed. 6 mm. United States Fish Wildlife Service. Burns Harbor, IN. Brianna McDowell. 2017.


Larval Pumpkinseed. 7 mm. United States Fish Wildlife Service. Burns Harbor, IN. Brianna McDowell. 2017.

Dr. Auer’s Dichotomous Key

  • Body not elongated, eel-shaped, round in transverse section, uniformly pigmented (1B)
  • Chin barbels absent (3B)
  • Snout short, its length usually less than 10% TL; median fins otherwise (5B)
  • Median fins or finfolds showing distinct separation (7B)
  • No adipose fin, or demarcation of one, in finfold (10B)
  • Preanal myomeres greater than or equal to postanal myomeres (14A)
  • Preanal myomeres approximately equal to postanal myomeres (difference five myomeres or less) (15A)
  • Total myomeres less than 35 (20B)
  • Total myomeres between 26 and 34 (21B)
  • Adipose fin or its position absent (23B)
  • Double Dorsal Fin (24A)
    • (Centrarchidae)

Adult History 

  • Physical Description
    • Black gill spot has orange/red crescent on opercle (gill flap), long and pointed pectoral fin, sides are dotted with blue, green, yellow, and orange, 7 – 10 vertical bands, 38-43 ctenoid lateral scales, forked or rounded tail, and terminal mouth
  • Spawning Habitat
    • Lakes, ponds, rivers, and creeks (calm areas)
    • Shallow Water (less than 2 feet)
    • Among aquatic vegetation
  • Spawning Substrate
    • Eggs are deposited on gravel, sand, clay, or mud bottoms with aquatic vegetation
  • Spawning Behavior
    • Polygynandry Behavior
    • Males builds the nest and guard the nest (before and after egg deposition)
      • Spreading their opercula, biting, charging, and chasing
      • Fans the eggs to keep them oxygenated and clean
    • Spawn in colonies (3-15 nests within one colony)
      • Often with other sunfish species
    • Male chases the female into the nest
      • Female leaves after spawning into multiple males’ nests
    • Males change colors during the breeding season
  • Time of Year
    • May – July/August in Lake Michigan
    • Spawning typically takes place at water temperatures of 50 – 65°F
    • Extreme temperatures of spawning recorded up to 85°F
  • Diet
    • Omnivore
    • Snails, small fish and eggs, leeches, aquatic crustaceans, vegetation, and insects
Sea Grant

Adult Pumpkinseed. UW – Sea Grant, UW – Madison, and NOAA. John Lyons. 2013.

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