Lepomis gulosus – Warmouth
Scientific Name: Lepomis gulosus
Common Name(s): Warmouth, Goggle-eye, Red-eyed Bream
The warmouth Lepomis gulosus is commonly mistaken for the rock bass Ambloplites rupestris; however, the two species can be easily distinguished from one another. The warmouth has 3 anal spines, as opposed to 5 or 6 found on the rock bass. Warmouth can be distinguished from other sunfish by the 4-5 dark lines that radiate backward from the eye and looks like “war paint.” Adult warmouth are olive-brown on the back, sides, and fins and mottled heavily with dark brown, while juveniles and smaller individuals can have a purple tint. The belly is a light yellow, and the iris of the eye is red-brown. There are 10-11 sharp spines in the fin on their back. Their mouth is large and they have a small patch of teeth located on the tongue. Adults rarely get larger than 8inches in length or 0.5lb in weight. The current state record is 1lb 8oz (Black Dog Bayou).
Lepomis gulosus is native to the Great lakes and Mississippi River basins from western Pennsylvania to Minnesota, and south to the Gulf Coast. In Arkansas, it is widely dispersed in all major water bodies, but it is more common in the coastal plain lowlands. In mountainous areas, it is more common in lakes and ponds as it prefers slack waters.
The warmouth is considered a warm water fish, preferring summer water temperatures of 80-85°F. They favor calm, clear water bodies with mud bottoms, thick growths of aquatic vegetation, and submerged timber. Although not preferred, warmouth are able to tolerate reasonable levels of turbidity and rocky bottoms found in many reservoirs.
In Arkansas, warmouth spawn multiple times from April to August when water temperatures range from 65-80°F, with peak spawning usually in June. Warmouth do not spawn in colonies unless nesting habitat is limited. The male will build a nest by fanning his tail and making a circular indention on the bottom near submerged timber or other objects. The female will deposit eggs while the male fertilizes the eggs and guards them. The male aggressively defends the nest until the fry swim off, usually around a week after spawning. Maximum life span of warmouth is about 7 years.
Warmouth are strongly predacious and consume smaller fish, crayfish, and aquatic insects. The warmouth is commonly known as a “goggle-eye” to many anglers and are important game fish in lowland waters. Warmouth are quick to attack natural or artificial baits, but they tire quickly after a strong initial strike.
Here in Bella Vista, warmouth can be found in the lakes, most commonly Windsor, Lomond, and Avalon. They also occur in larger pools in Little Sugar Creek. Fishermen hoping to catch a warmouth can use a variety of natural or artificial bait, including earthworms, grubs, small fish, crickets, jigs, and small spinners. Fishing near logs, stumps, and other submerged timber or vegetation would be helpful. Remember to always be careful of the sharp spines on their back when taking them off a hook.