How to Catch Sunfish

Are you an inexperienced parent trying to bring your child for a fun day at the lake? Follow these simple steps for a nice catch.


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    Be aware that there are two major types of sunfish in New Jersey. These are the Green and Spotted sunfish.
    • The Spotted sunfish are the smaller variety and are very aggressive. They can bite lures for bass. They also put up a great splashing fight for their size. You can distinguish them by their bright almost tropical coloring. They have an aqua, orange spotted carapace around the eye to their top fins, but can extend to the tail. The bottom is golden and shiny. The eyes are the most distinguishing factor, they are bright scarlet. The scale coloring is more pronounced on the smaller fish, but you should be able to notice it on the large 6 inch (15.2 cm) fish too. Like all sunfish they have spike dorsal fins, so be careful.
    • Green sunfish are the bigger species. The initial author's biggest catch was a seven inch fish, which is as big as some catfish. They put up a fair fight, using their weight to dive down when hooked. They have a dark green top that blends into yellow at the bottom. They have dark green stripes going down its sides.
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    Catch a sunfish. Sunfish are notorious for eating anything and everything as aggressively as possible for their rather small mouths. Use bait to catch sunfish, such as brown rooster tail bait. Sunfish, like people will bite on meats and starch.
    • Other successful baits include cheese, hotdog, smoked salmon, worms, and beef jerky.
    • Smelly and meaty is the best for baits. Smoked salmon is good because of the fishy smell which is used to catch catfish, but it's pricey and falls off the hook a lot.
    • Slim Jims and mealworms are recommended though earthworms (also called nightcrawlers) are good too. Slim Jims are cheap and contain a spicy juice that will attract Sunfish and catfish. You can buy earthworms 2$ for 20 or 50 “super” (type of older mealworms that are much larger) mealworms for 6$. Mealworms are recommended because, even though they are nasty little crawlers, they are natural food for catfish, bass, and sunnies. They do not smell much, so combining mealworms and Slim Jims works very well.
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    Use a very small hook. To catch sunnies, cast out as far as you can with a bobber that’s set about 2 feet (0.6 m) above the hook, though you can vary it on the depth of the fishing area. Use two small split shot sinkers set an inch apart in between bobber and hook. (Small weights that can be pressed into the lines.) They make the line sit straighter and farther down, and will help you cast considerably farther especially on windy days.
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    Wait after you cast about five minutes. If the line doesn’t tug or the bobber move by then, reel in about a foot and repeat the process. If there are no bites where you cast and you use a bait mentioned above, then there are probably no hungry fish in the area, so cast in a different place.
    • When they bite, you will see ripples and the bobber might go under then up over the water with a loud plop. Don’t move your rod. This is difficult and infuriating but the fish is probably just nibbling and smelling the bait.
    • When they bite, the bobber will go under and to the side. Jerk your rod up lightly in the opposite direction of the bobber to set the hook. If the bobber moves to one side but not down then the Sunny hasn’t bit the hook.
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    It’s tricky to know when or if to set the hook. Just feel the rod and do your best. Sunfish are fun to catch and numerous in numbers so good luck catching the feisty rascals.


  • Sunnies have spiky fins on their back (they are sharp be careful)

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Categories: Fishing