Redear sunfish record broken at Lake Murray


On June 30th we received a submission to our Big Fish List, a database of our member’s notable fish catches, for a 2.355 pound bluegill caught at Lake Murray that same day. A couple days later, I received a private message from a member (fishbreath) raising doubt to the species of the fish, stating he believed it to be a redear sunfish.

Taking a second glance at the pictures that were included with the submission, the fish displayed several attributes of a redear sunfish, but also lacked the most obvious, the tell-tale sign of a redear, the red ear.

I publicly consulted with Hugh Marx, Supervising Ranger at Lake Jennings, through our new Special Feature Forum. I consider Hugh to be the last “fish expert” in the county with an official working position, and we’re priviliged here at to be able to provide a forum for him to answer all fisheries type questions. Hugh provided a response, stating that he believed the fish to be a hybrid between the two, but more redear than bluegill, so if a classification had to be made, he supported it as a redear. That conclusion coincided with my belief of it being a hybrid, but more redear, and fishbreath’s initial diagnosis of redear.

I submitted an email to Lori Felchin, the new City Lakes Office Manager, who replaced the long-tenured, and now retired, Sharon Smith last month. I submitted the anglers information with the stats of the catch, and let her know that we would be honoring the catch as a lake record on our unofficial list of San Diego lake records here at Felchin replied that she would pass this on to be considered, and try to get it to Larry Botroff, the former City Lakes’ biologist who retired several years ago but still consults for the City.

This morning I received an email from Felchin announcing that the fish would be officially honored by the City of San Diego as the new lake record at Lake Murray for redear sunfish. The previous record was 1.50 pounds, and surprisingly stood for nearly 20 years having been set on August 3rd, 1991.

It should also be noted, this catch would have also stood as the lake record bluegill, with the current record for that species sitting at 2.15 pounds, caught in August of 2001. There is a good chance however that fish could have also been a misidentified redear.

Earlier this year, John Thomas of San Diego caught a 38.6 pound blue catfish that was first identified as a channel catfish, and announced as a new lake record for that species. Again, with the help of Hugh Marx we helped clear that up and the city officially switched the record to a blue catfish.

Look for more redear sunfish records to fall in San Diego County with the spread of quagga mussels in our reservoirs. Redears, tellingly nicknamed ‘shellcrackers’ have an appetite for small clams and mussels.

Quagga mussels, a non-native invasive species have been confirmed (according to the California Dept. of Fish & Game and City of San Diego Water Authority) in 11 local reservoirs; Dixon, Lower Otay, San Vicente, Murray, Miramar, Sweetwater, El Capitan, Jennings, Olivenhain, Ramona, and Poway. With all that extra food, those redears will be given the opportunity to grow bigger and faster than they had before in San Diego County.

We’ve already seen this play out at Lake Havasu, where quaggas have taken foot, with a new world record redear sunfish produced a couple months ago that weighed 5.55 pounds (pictured at right).

Don’t forget to submit your catches to the Big Fish List, any catches made within San Diego County, or saltwater catches made on boats fishing outside of San Diego, but having originated in San Diego will be accepted. Add your catch today.

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