This is the age old question, what is the difference between bluegill and sunfish? Well, not really an age old question but it’s worth pondering. If you were to look at the fishing laws (at least for Michigan) you would see bluegill and sunfish have the same catch capacity, time of year to catch, and size limits.

So does that mean they are the same? No, there are a couple big differences between them. Here’s the questions I’ll cover on them. 

How do they look different?

What different patterns do they have?

And finally which one is better?

First let me say this, as with many panfish they have multiple names, so by sunfish I also mean pumpkinseed.

Let’s start with how they look different. You may have guessed this but bluegill have blueish green on the back of their gills. It’s not acctulay on their gills but on the flap of skin right behind them. They look like any other panfish with greenish to pale coloring. Sunfish are very similar but they look like a sunset or sunburst. They have orange and yellow on their body. That’s really the main visual difference between them. In my experience sunfish tend to be bigger but that can change on geography. 

What patterns do they have? By this I mean food, habitat, and geography patterns. Bluegill and Sunfish eat mostly the same things. Like most fish they are not picky eaters. If it gives them nutrients they’ll eat it. Examples of their prey are small grubs, worms, and insect larvae. As with other panfish they tend not to eat other fish as they have very small mouths and are very small/almost bottom of the food chain.

Both Bluegill and Sunfish also tend to live in the same areas. If you fish off a dock or in any ponds or lakes if you catch one you tend to also catch the other (unless it’s only stocked with one species). They like some vegetation and cover but also hang out in the open near the shore. Sunfish and Bluegill stay closer to the shore so they are not out in the deep with all the predators.

Geography for them is most places North America and any freshwater ponds or lakes with suitable prey and not too many predators.

Now knowing this which one is better? They are mostly the same in every category but is I had to pick one I would choose Sunfish.

I like the unique color patterns and that they get bigger than Bluegills which means more to eat. You can decide for yourself what is better for you but for me it’s Sunfish.

I highly encourage you to check out my other posts of my latest learning.

Thanks again friend!

Aaron