Lepomis gibbosus(Linnaeus, 1758)

member of the Sunfish Family (Centrarchidae)













What's In a Name?
Pumpkinseed: taken from the seed-shaped orange spot on its gill cover

Lepomis (Leh-poe´-miss) means "scaled gill cover" in Greek
gibbosus (gib-bow´-suss) means "wide margin" in Greek


    Where Do They Live?
Pumpkinseeds occur in all major drainages of Minnesota, but are more common in the central and north-central parts of the state. They very likely were introduced to the Lake Superior drainage. Pumpkinseeds are common in most of our clear lakes and in many of our slow-moving streams. They favor clear water 1-2 m (3-6.5 ft) deep in areas with lots of vegetation. They share their habitats almost always with bluegill, rock bass, largemouth bass, and many species of minnows.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
The pumpkinseed is a medium-sized fish, similar to a bluegill and much smaller than a largemouth bass. In Minnesota waters, pumpkinseeds typically grow to 150-200 mm (6-8 in) long and weigh 171-286 g (6-10 oz). Occasionally a whopper reaches 230 mm (9 in) and gets near 454 g (1 lbs). The state angling record is 0.63 kg (1 lbs 6 oz). Pumpkinseeds typically live for 5-6 years, rarely them make it to 8 years.

    What Do They Eat?
Pumpkinseed young and adults have similar diets; the main difference is the size of the food they are consuming. Their diet is mostly made up of animals, but they do eat small amounts of vegetation. Items that are common in their diet include aquatic (water) insect larvae, terrestrial (land) insect adults, young snails and clams, leeches, and larval fishes.

What Eats Them?
The small adult and young pumpkinseeds are eaten by most of the predatory fish that share their habitat. These include walleye, largemouth bass, yellow perch, northern pike, muskies, and even other sunfish. Fish-eating birds such as mergansers, cormorants, and herons, also eat them. This fish is one of the state's favorite panfish. So, humans are also one of their main predators.


How Do They Reproduce?
Pumpkinseed start to spawn in late May in southern Minnesota and early to mid-June in the north when the water temperature rises to about 15°C (68° F). They continue spawning into August at least in the north. The male builds a nest by clearing a depression in the lake or stream bottom to expose gravel. The nest usually is situated in the shallower, weedy bays of the lake or at the edges of runs and pools in streams. The male defends the nest and a territory around it aggressively against all other male pumpkinseeds. While the male is building the nest, the female stays in the deeper water. When a female approaches the nest, the male attempts to drive her into it. If he is successful, the two will swim around it side by side many times. At intervals, the female turns her belly toward the nest and releases eggs that the male fertilizes. This is repeated many times until the female has laid all her ripe eggs. A single female may produce 4,000-7,000 eggs during the season, depending on her size. The female then leaves the nest and the care-taking to the male. He guards the nest, fanning it with his fins to keep it clean and well-oxygenated until the larvae are able to feed themselves.

The embryos hatch quickly in 2-3 days and spend another 5 days or so in the nest as "wrigglers". When they swim up to feed, they have fully developed mouths and partially developed fins. The male will continue to spawn and bring off broods every 10 days or so through the summer.


Conservation and Management
Crappies, bluegill, and pumpkinseeds make up our most popular sport panfish. In most Minnesota waters, anglers are just as happy to land a nice pumpkinseed as they are a bluegill.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002