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Of all the sunfish in New York State, the pumpkinseed is the favorite of children. It is one of the most catchable of all freshwater species, occurring in large numbers in shallow water close to shore and readily biting small pieces of bait.
Pumpkinseeds are the most abundant and widespread species of sunfish in New York State. They live in a wide range of habitats from small lakes and ponds to shallow, weedy bays of larger lakes and quiet waters of slow moving streams.
Pumpkinseeds are a small- to medium-sized fish, averaging four to eight inches in length. They are one of the most colorful warmwater fish, with a bronze to red-orange belly and irregular, wavy interconnecting blue-green lines over a golden brown to olive background. Although often confused with bluegills, they can be recognized by the pale margin surrounding a bright scarlet spot on the rear portion of their gill flaps and the wavy emerald or blue streaks on the sides of the their heads. In addition, pumpkinseeds have long, pointed pectoral fins and no spot on the soft portion of their dorsal fins.
Pumpkinseeds have similar feeding habits to other true sunfish. They eat a wide variety of prey, including insects, crustaceans, and small fishes. Spawning takes place from May until August. Like bluegills, pumpkinseeds construct their nests close to shore in colonies. Nests are usually found in areas of submerged vegetation in six to 12 inches of water.
Pumpkinseeds provide hours of fishing fun for all anglers. They are strong fighters and have sweet-tasting fillets. Pumpkinseeds often provide good sport when other fish are not biting.