In early September, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Rare Fish Unit Biologist Doug Carlson and technician Eric Maxwell identified nearly a dozen threatened northern sunfish in the Great Chazy River in the village of Champlain, Clinton County
Also known as the longear sunfish, the northern sunfish is a small, thin, deep-bodied fish that averages three to four inches in length. It is sometimes a colorful fish with an olive to rusty-brown back, bright orange belly, and blue-green bars on the side of the head. The northern sunfish has short, round pectoral fins and an upward-slanting gill cover flap that has a white and red flexible edge. It is often mistaken for a pumpkinseed sunfish.
The northern sunfish is a threatened species in New York State and it has suffered immense losses in Western New York. Biologists have speculated that several factors are involved, including interactions with non-native fish like green sunfish and round goby. This population of this recent discovery appears robust and quite localized.
Photo: Northern Sunfish, courtesy DEC.