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Fishes of North Dakota

Sunfish Family

Sunfish Family

Sunfish family members are deep and stockily built, attractive in coloration, and popular as panfish. Their dorsal fin has a spiny front portion and a soft rayed rear portion that are joined together. The dorsal fin is almost separated into two parts in the large and smallmouth basses.

Largemouth Bass

The back and upper sides of the largemouth is a dark green color and its sides have dark irregular patches. As its name implies, the mouth is large with the end of the upper jaw extending to or beyond the rear margin of the eye. It prefers small lake (stock dam) habitat. Its eyes are golden in color. Also called largemouth black bass.
JPG -- Picture of a Largemouth Bass.

JPG -- Picture of a Smallmouth Bass.

Smallmouth Bass

The samllmouth is similar in color to the largemouth except for barred markings on its sides and red colored eyes. The mouth is smaller and the rear of the upper jaw does not extend beyond the center of the eye. It prefers habitat similar to the walleye and is also known as smallmouth black bass.


This wonderful and scrappy little fish varies in coloration but usually is dark olive above with dark vertical bars on the upper sides and orange or yellow on the throat and belly. Its gill covers are blue with a black tip on the flap. It is probably the most popular member of the sunfish family in North Dakota, however, at times it may be stunted due to overpopulation. It is also called bream, sunfish, and sunny.
JPG -- Picture of a Bluegill.

JPG -- Picture of an Orange-spotted Sunfish.

Orange-spotted Sunfish

Similar to the bluegill but usually more colorful and smaller in size. It has a black tab on its gill cover that is edged in white. It is not common in North Dakota.


Similar to the bluegill but lighter in color and usually not as large. It has a red or orange spot on the flap of the gill cover. It may hybridize with the bluegill and is not abundant in North Dakota.
JPG -- Picture of a Pumpkinseed.

JPG -- Picture of a Rock Bass.

Rock Bass

The rock bass, found in the Red River drainage, is also similar to the bluegill but has a larger mouth and a red eye. At times it is caught in the Red, Sheyenne, and Forest rivers. It is also called redeye.

Green Sunfish

The green sunfish is small and hardy and ofter overpopulates our waters. It also resembles a bluegill but has a much larger mouth and a black tip on the gill cover that is edged in a lighter color. Quite common in southwestern North Dakota, it is seldom important as a sport fish.
JPG -- Picture of a Green Sunfish.

JPG -- Picture of a Black Crappie.

Black Crappie

Flat and silvery in appearance and marked with irregular dark spots, the crappie is a very attractive and desirable fish. The black crappie has 7 or 8 eight spines in the dorsal fin. It prefers clear water conditions.

White Crappie

Looks similar to the black crappie but only has 5 or 6 spines in the dorsal fin. The dark spots on its sides are consolidated into vertical bars. The white crappie is more tolerant of turbid water than the black crappie and well suited to reservoirs such as Lake Tschida and Patterson Lake.
JPG -- Picture of a White Crappie.

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