Broken lateral line and turquoise ring on the tail are diagnostic; general coloration includes 6-8 bars that can be faint or dark; body color varies greatly in intensity sometimes with bright red on the chin, throat, and breast; has both spiny and soft dorsal fins and a rounded caudal fin.
First recorded in Florida Bay in 1983, now established and abundant in south Florida as far north as Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie Canal. Native to Atlantic slope of Central and South America.
Very adaptable and lives well in variety of habitats including canals, rivers, lakes and marshes; tolerates wide range of salinities.
Spawning Habitats: Nest building primarily occurs in April, followed by peak spawn in May and June; both parents guard young for up to six weeks; generally spawn once per year.
Feeding Habits: Consumes grass shrimp, small fish, snails, and insects along with some incidental detritus and vegetative matter.
Age and Growth:
Largest measured by Commission scientists was 12.6 inches and weighed 1.5 pounds, but may reach larger sizes as the IGFA world record is listed at 15 inches and 2.5 pounds; maximum reported age is 7 years.
Sometimes referred to as the "atomic sunfish;" takes variety of natural baits including live worms, grass shrimp, crickets, as well as almost any small artificial, particularly jigs, fished on light tackle; wooly worms, small streamers, and popping bugs used by flyfishers also taken aggressively.
Good; white, flaky meat with mild flavor; no bag or size limits.
Image Credit: © Diane Peebles