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Identification: A moderately small sunfish, with a deep body and small mouth. The upper jaw does not extend past the front of the eye. It is distinguished from other sunfish by having a long gill or “ear” flap, and wavy blue lines on the cheek and gill cover. Pectoral fins are short and rounded. Brilliantly colored (especially breeding males) with bright red-orange and iridescent blue spots on the back and sides, grading to mostly red-orange on the belly. Breeding males also develop red-orange color, often streaked with iridescent blue, on the dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. Adults can grow to 9 in., but are usually less than 6 in.
Distribution and Habitat: Common and abundant throughout the state. The Longear Sunfish is the most common sunfish in Kentucky streams and rivers. It generally prefers clear, quiet pools over gravel or sandy bottoms, but often occurs in large numbers along the shorelines of natural lakes (e.g., oxbows) and reservoirs.