The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Lepomis cyanellus
Lepomis cyanellus
(Green Sunfish)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Lepomis cyanellus Rafinesque, 1819

Common name: Green Sunfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Sublette et al. (1990); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994).

Size: 31 cm.

Native Range: Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River basins from New York and Ontario west to Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, and south to the Gulf; Gulf Slope drainages from Mobile Bay, Georgia and Alabama, to the Rio Grande, Texas. Also northern Mexico (Page and Burr 1991).

Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Lepomis cyanellus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL198019964Choctawhatchee; Lower Chattahoochee; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Middle Tallapoosa
AZ1926202332Agua Fria; Aguirre Valley; Bill Williams; Brawley Wash; Burro; Chevelon Canyon; Grand Canyon; Havasu-Mohave Lakes; Imperial Reservoir; Lake Mead; Lower Colorado; Lower Colorado Region; Lower Colorado-Marble Canyon; Lower Gila; Lower Lake Powell; Lower Salt; Lower San Pedro; Lower Santa Cruz; Lower Verde; Middle Gila; Moenkopi Wash; Rillito; Salt; San Carlos; Silver; Upper Gila; Upper Little Colorado; Upper Salt; Upper San Pedro; Upper Santa Cruz; Upper Verde; Yuma Desert
CA1891202339Antelope-Fremont Valleys; California Region; Goose Lake; Los Angeles; Lower Colorado; Lower Eel; Lower Klamath; Lower Pit; Lower Sacramento; Middle San Joaquin-Lower Chowchilla; Mojave; Monterey Bay; Owens Lake; Pajaro; Russian; Sacramento Headwaters; Salton Sea; San Diego; San Gabriel; San Jacinto; San Joaquin; San Pablo Bay; Santa Clara; Santa Maria; Santa Monica Bay; Santa Ynez; Seal Beach; Smith; Suisun Bay; Tomales-Drake Bays; Tulare-Buena Vista Lakes; Upper Cache; Upper Kern; Upper King; Upper Klamath; Upper Pit; Upper Putah; Upper Sacramento; Upper Yuba
CO1969202013Big Thompson; Cache La Poudre; Colorado Headwaters; Colorado Headwaters-Plateau; Fountain; Lower Green-Diamond; Lower Gunnison; Lower Yampa; McElmo; Piedra; St. Vrain; Uncompahgre; Upper Arkansas
CT198620227Farmington River; Housatonic; New England Region; Outlet Connecticut River; Saugatuck; Shetucket River; Thames
DE197720206Brandywine-Christina; Broadkill-Smyrna; Delaware Bay; Lower Delaware; Nanticoke; Upper Chesapeake
DC199920201Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan
FL195920205Apalachicola; Chipola; Lower Chattahoochee; Pensacola Bay; Santa Fe
GA197120209Alapaha; Altamaha; Apalachicola Basin; Broad; Etowah; Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding; Middle Savannah; Savannah; Upper Chattahoochee
ID196220237Bear; Bear Lake; Brownlee Reservoir; Curlew Valley; Lower Bear; Spokane; Upper Spokane
ME199120022Lower Kennebec River; Penobscot River
MD1980202111Cacapon-Town; Conococheague-Opequon; Gunpowder-Patapsco; Lower Potomac; Lower Susquehanna; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Monocacy; Patuxent; Potomac; Upper Chesapeake
MA199220194Concord River; Massachusetts-Rhode Island Coastal; Merrimack River; Narragansett
MI195420232Escanaba; Southcentral Lake Superior
MN198019804Mustinka; Otter Tail; Red Lakes; Vermilion
MT1940201131Beaver; Belle Fourche; Big Horn Lake; Big Porcupine; Box Elder; Boxelder; Bullwhacker-Dog; Little Powder; Lower Bighorn; Lower Kootenai; Lower Milk; Lower Musselshell; Lower Powder; Lower Tongue; Lower Yellowstone; Lower Yellowstone; Lower Yellowstone-Sunday; Middle Musselshell; Middle Powder; Mizpah; O'Fallon; Powder; Redwater; Rosebud; Tongue; Upper Little Missouri; Upper Musselshell; Upper Tongue; Upper Yellowstone; Upper Yellowstone-Lake Basin; Upper Yellowstone-Pompeys Pillar
NV1939202315Carson Desert; Central Lahontan; Havasu-Mohave Lakes; Imperial Reservoir; Ivanpah-Pahrump Valleys; Lake Mead; Las Vegas Wash; Massacre Lake; Meadow Valley Wash; Middle Carson; Muddy; Thousand-Virgin; Truckee; Upper Carson; White
NH201820233Black River-Connecticut River; Merrimack River; Winnipesaukee River
NJ198020238Cohansey-Maurice; Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Delaware; Hackensack-Passaic; Lower Delaware; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Raritan; Sandy Hook-Staten Island
NM1950201513Chaco; Middle San Juan; Mimbres; Rio Chama; Rio Grande-Albuquerque; Rio Grande-Santa Fe; San Francisco; Tularosa Valley; Upper Gila-Mangas; Upper Rio Grande; Upper San Juan; Upper San Juan; Zuni
NY1936202311Chemung; Housatonic; Lower Hudson; Mohawk; Niagara River; Oneida; Rondout; Seneca; Tioga; Upper Genesee; Upper Susquehanna
NC1986202341Albemarle; Cape Fear; Chowan; Contentnea; Deep; Fishing; French Broad-Holston; Haw; Hiwassee; Lower Catawba; Lower Dan; Lower Pee Dee; Lower Roanoke; Lower Tar; Lower Yadkin; Lumber; Middle Neuse; Middle Roanoke; Neuse; Nolichucky; Pigeon; Roanoke; Roanoke Rapids; Rocky; South Fork Catawba; South Yadkin; Upper Broad; Upper Cape Fear; Upper Catawba; Upper Dan; Upper French Broad; Upper Little Tennessee; Upper Neuse; Upper New; Upper Pee Dee; Upper Pee Dee; Upper Tar; Upper Tennessee; Upper Yadkin; Waccamaw; Watauga, North Carolina, Tennessee
ND198020042Middle Little Missouri; Upper Lake Oahe
OR1979202311Brownlee Reservoir; Klamath; Lost; Lower Columbia-Clatskanie; Lower Columbia-Sandy; Molalla-Pudding; Pacific Northwest; Umpqua; Upper Rogue; Upper Willamette; Willamette
PA1974202316Chemung; Conococheague-Opequon; Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Lehigh; Lower Delaware; Lower Susquehanna; Lower Susquehanna-Penns; Lower Susquehanna-Swatara; Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead; Monocacy; Raystown; Schuylkill; Susquehanna; Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna; Upper Susquehanna-Tunkhannock; Upper West Branch Susquehanna
RI202220221Blackstone River
SC1975202327Black; Congaree; Cooper; Edisto River; Enoree; Lake Marion; Lower Broad; Lower Catawba; Lower Pee Dee; Lynches; Middle Savannah; North Fork Edisto; Salkehatchie; Saluda; Santee; Santee; Seneca; South Carolina Coastal; South Fork Edisto; Stevens; Tugaloo; Tyger; Upper Broad; Upper Catawba; Upper Savannah; Waccamaw; Wateree
SD1949202010Grand; Lower Belle Fourche; Lower Moreau; Medicine Knoll; Middle Cheyenne-Elk; North Fork Snake; Rapid; Redwater; Upper James; Upper Lake Oahe
TN201520151Watauga, North Carolina, Tennessee
UT1890202215Colorado Headwaters-Plateau; Dirty Devil; Duchesne; Lower Green; Lower Green-Desolation Canyon; Lower Green-Diamond; Lower Lake Powell; Lower San Juan; Lower San Juan-Four Corners; Lower Weber; Lower White; Upper Colorado-Kane Springs; Upper Lake Powell; Upper Virgin; Utah Lake
VA1986202325Appomattox; Chowan; Conococheague-Opequon; James; Lower Dan; Lower James; Lower Potomac; Middle James-Buffalo; Middle James-Willis; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Middle Roanoke; North Fork Shenandoah; Potomac; Rapidan-Upper Rappahannock; Rivanna; Roanoke; Roanoke Rapids; Shenandoah; South Fork Shenandoah; Upper Dan; Upper James; Upper New; Upper Roanoke; Upper Yadkin
WA189120159Colville; Lewis; Little Spokane; Lower Spokane; Middle Columbia-Hood; Middle Columbia-Lake Wallula; Pacific Northwest Region; Palouse; Upper Columbia-Entiat
WV199320163Cacapon-Town; Potomac; Upper James
WI198320085Beartrap-Nemadji; Eau Claire; Red Cedar; South Fork Flambeau; Upper Chippewa
WY196720229Big Horn; Big Horn Lake; Cheyenne; Crazy Woman; Niobrara Headwaters; North Platte; Upper Bear; Upper Belle Fourche; Upper Little Missouri

Table last updated 4/13/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Means of Introduction: Accidentally stocked as bluegill L. macrochirus or with other intended species (i.e., stock contaminant). In Hawaii, first discovered in the Western Kauai Lagoons. That site had been previously stocked with "bluegill" from various plantation reservoirs on Kauai; therefore, it is likely that L. cyanellus was present in Hawaii some time prior to its collection (Devick 1991a). It has been suggested that Green Sunfish were planted inadvertently in Lake Mead in 1937 (Holden and Stalnaker 1975). It may have reached the upper part of the Colorado River either by moving upstream from Lake Mead or by being introduced separately in that region (Holden and Stalnaker 1975).

Status: Established in most locations where it has been introduced.

Impact of Introduction: Green Sunfish appear to be at least partially responsible for local extinctions of California roach Hesperoleucus symmetricus in California (Moyle and Nichols 1974; Moyle 1976a, 1976b; Smith 1982). In California, aggressive Green Sunfish outcompete native Sacramento perch Archoplites interruptus (Moyle 1976a). They may chase Sacramento perch away from spawning areas and out of favored places, such as shallow weedy areas, and into open water (Moyle 1976a). Once in open water, the perch are more vulnerable to predation and have less available food. Introduced Green Sunfish also compete with and prey on other native fishes (Moyle 1976a; Lemly 1985). Lemly (1985) found that Green Sunfish reduced populations of native species, and altered population structure, relative dominance, and distribution patterns in North Carolina Piedmont streams. In that study, he found that Green Sunfish preyed heavily on minnows, and in fact, may have been responsible for the elimination of two cyprinid species in the study area. Introduced Green Sunfish prey heavily on the native Gila chub Gila intermedia in Sabino Creek, AZ (Dudley and Matter 2000). Green Sunfish may compete with and adversely affect young Colorado pikeminnow Ptychocheilus lucius, an endangered species (Karp and Tyus 1990). Green Sunfish readily hybridize with other Lepomis species (Moyle 1976a; Sigler and Sigler 1987). In cold lakes the often overpopulate and reduce trout populations (McKechnie and Tharratt 1966). Their large mouth allows them to compete with larger fish for prey items, and to prey on eggs and young of other fishes (McKechnie and Tharratt 1966). Green Sunfish and other introduced predatory centrarchids are likely responsible for the decline of native ranid frogs in California, California tiger salamander Ambystoma californiense populations (Hayes and Jennings 1986; Dill and Cordone 1997), and the Chiricahua leopard frog Rana chiricahuensis in southeastern Arizona (Rosen et al. 1995).

Remarks: Tyus et al. (1982) gave a distribution map of this species in the upper Colorado basin. The Green Sunfish has been widely stocked in Ohio (Trautman 1981). But stockings appear to have taken place within its native range.

References: (click for full references)

Anonymous 2001. Oregon's Warm Water Fishing with Public Access. [online]. URL at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/warm_water_fishing/index.asp

Bradley, W. G. and J. E. Deacon. 1967. The biotic communities of southern Nevada. Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers No. 13, Part 4. 201-273.

Dill, W.A., and A.J. Cordone. 1997. History and status of introduced fishes in California, 1871-1996. California Department of Fish and Game Fish Bulletin, volume 178.

Dudley, R.K. and W.J. Matter. 2000. Effects of small green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) on recruitment of Gila chub (Gila intermedia) in Sabino Creek, Arizona. The Southwestern Naturalist 45(1): 24-29.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tenneessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Halliwell, D.B. 2003. Introduced Fish in Maine. MABP series: Focus on Freshwater Biodiversity.

Hayes, M.P., and M.R. Jennings. 1986. Decline of ranid frog species in western North America: are bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) responsible? Journal of Herpetology 20(4):490-509.

Hocutt, C.H., R.E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic Coastal Plain. 161-212 in C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Karp, C.A. and H.M. Tyus. 1990. Behavioral interactions between young Colorado squawfish and six fish species. Copeia 1990(1):25-34.

Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

Lemly, A.D. 1985. Suppression of native fish populations by green sunfish in first-order streams of Piedmont North Carolina. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 114:705-712.

Loyacano, H.A. 1975. A list of freshwater fishes of South Carolina. Bulletin of the South Carolina Experimental Station 580:1-8.

Matern, S.A., P.B. Moyle, and L.C. Pierce. 2002. Native and alien fishes in a California estuarine marsh: twenty-one years of changing assemblages. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 131: 797-816.

McKechnie, R.J., and R.C. Tharratt. 1966. Green sunfish. Pages 399-401 in A. Calhoun (ed). Inland fisheries management. California department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA.

Moyle, P.B. 1976a. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Moyle, P.B. 1976b. Fish introductions in California: History and impact on native fishes. Biological Conservation 9:101-118.

Moyle, P.B. and R.D. Nichols. 1974. Decline of the native fish fauna of the Sierra Nevada foothills, central California. The American Midland Naturalist 92(1):72-83.

Moyle, P.B. and J. Randall. 1999. Distribution maps of fishes in California. [on-line] Available URL at http://ice.ucdavis.edu/aquadiv/fishcovs/fishmaps.html.

Rohde, F. C, R. G. Arndt, J. W. Foltz, and J. M. Quattro. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC. 430 pp.

Rosen, P.C., C.R. Schwalbe, D.A. Parizek, Jr., P.A. Holm, and C.H. Lowe. 1995. Introduced aquatic vertebrates in the Chiricahua region: effects on declining native ranid frogs. Pages 251-261 in DeBano, L.H., P.H. Folliott, A. Ortega-Rubio, G.J. Gottfried, R.H. Hamre, and C.B. Edminster, eds. Biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago: the sky islands of southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. Fort Collins, CO.

Sigler, W.F., and J.W. Sigler. 1987. Fishes of the Great Basin: a natural history. University of Nevada Press, Reno, NV.

Smith, J.J. 1982. Fishes of the Pajaro River system. Pages 83-170 in Moyle, P.B., J.J. Smith, R.A. Daniels, T.L. Price, and D.M. Baltz, eds. Distribution and ecology of stream fishes of the Sacramento-San Joaquin drainage system, California. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA.

Sommer, T, B. Harrell, M. Nobriga, R. Brown, P. Moyle, W. Kimmerer, and L. Schemel. 2001. California's Yolo Bypass: Evidence that flood control can be compatible with fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, and agriculture. Fisheries. American Fisheries Society. 26 (8): 6-16.

Starnes, W.C., J. Odenkirk, and M.J. Ashton. 2011. Update and analysis of fish occurrences in the lower Potomac River drainage in the vicinity of Plummers Island, Maryland—Contribution XXXI to the natural history of Plummers Island, Maryland. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 124(4):280-309.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

Trautman, M.B. 1981. The fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH.

Tyus, H. M., B. D. Burdick, R. A. Valdez, C. M. Haynes, T. A. Lytle, and C. R. Berry. 1982. Fishes of the upper Colorado River basin: distribution, abundance, and status. Pages 12--70 in W. H. Miller, H. M. Tyus, and C. A. Carlson, editors. Fishes of the upper Colorado River system: present and future, Western Division, American Fisheries Society.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Pam Fuller, Matt Cannister, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 8/14/2019

Peer Review Date: 1/20/2012

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller, Matt Cannister, and Matt Neilson, 2024, Lepomis cyanellus Rafinesque, 1819: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=380, Revision Date: 8/14/2019, Peer Review Date: 1/20/2012, Access Date: 4/14/2024

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [4/14/2024].

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