Redear Sunfish Lepomis Microlophus which is also known in the southern states as “Shellcrackers”, was first stocked in Michigan around the mid-50’s. At that time some good populations and fisheries developed and became self-sustaining for over three decades. Some of these waters occasionally produced trophy-sized fish, from an area of the state with heavily fished water that gave up very little trophies of native panfish.At the time no other large-scale, purebred stocking programs were developed until 1984 for Redear Sunfish. In 1991 the Fisheries Division developed and adopted a sunfish management plan. The plans primary goal was to offer anglers opportunities to catch large and even trophy size panfish in the southern lower peninsula.
Stocking took place between the years 1984 and 1998. A total of 57 lakes had been stocked with mostly fall fingerlings. For the most part, the stocking rates were between 50 and 200 fingerlings per surface acre of water.Most lakes were stocked for two or three years in succession, with hopes of creating breeding populations with multiple year classes.Since that time a few other lakes had been stocked. As of 2003, it was too early to tell how those populations were doing.
According to a Technical Report from 2003 entitled Redear Sunfish Management in Michigan. The primary goal of the sunfish management “have been realized”.When you take a comparison of panfish sizes(average and largest per species) it greatly favored the Redear. The two benchmark species used in the study where the Bluegill Lepomis Macrochirus and the Pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosis. There were 30 lakes that have mature redear populations(over 5 years old)at the time of the study. The DNR trap nets surveys showed an avg size of 8.7 for Redears, and the avg maximum size is 10.3 inches. In those same lakes and nets, the avg size of Bluegill and Pumpkinseed sunfish were 6.6 and 6.5 inches, with a maximum size averaging 8.8 and 7.6 inches respectively.
One of the main purposes of the study from 2003 was to see how or if the Redears affected the Pumpkinseed populations.Redears and Pumpkinseed general feed on the same food sources, so there was some concern that the Redears may out-compete the Pumpkinseed.It was found though that “No significant impacts to the pumpkinseed could be demonstrated by comparing catch and growth statistics before and after Redear Sunfish introductions.” The study also showed some evidence that Redear Sunfish prey on exotic zebra mussels.
Tight Lines, and Screaming Drags!
Sources: Gary L. Towns of the MDNRE Fisheries Division, Redear Sunfish Management in Michigan Technical Report