Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
The Bluegill is the Illinois State Fish, and rightly so. If an Illinoisan has only caught one fish in their life, there’s a good chance it was a Bluegill. The naturalist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque named the species in 1819. Unlike the Northern Pike or Walleye, it is not a sporting fish. But the Bluegill cruises for bait with the best of them. No doubt this ubiquitous fish frustrated Native Americans for centuries before Europeans came along. Not much has changed in that regard. You get a strike on the line, start imagining a trophy, and then you reel in a Bluegill. It’s like pulling out Circus Peanuts from the Halloween bag.
The Atlas of Illinois Fishes offers a detailed entry on Lepomis macrochirus. “During the breeding season,” the authors say, “males have a blue head and back, bright red-orange breast and belly, and black pelvic fins.” Bluegills can grow to over sixteen inches long, though given their love of bait, perhaps only a modest number survive to that great size?
An Atlas of Illinois Fishes: 150 Years of Change
Part nature guide and part natural history, An Atlas of Illinois Fishes is the authoritative resource on the topic. The 259 color photographs and 227 maps guide readers to up-to-date scientific information on Illinois’s 217 current and extirpated fish species.