Freshwater Fish - Species

Warmouth - Click to enlarge photo

Species Specific Regulations


Freshwater Fishing License required.

Complete fishing regulations

Guide to Freshwater Fishes

Guide to Freshwater Fishes
(Adobe PDF - 3MB)

Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus) - Native

Description: (Anatomy of a Fish)
The warmouth gets its name from the large mouth that extends to beneath the pupil of the large red eye. The body is an overall olive brown with a purple sheen. The sides of the body are mottled dark brown with dark red-brown lines that radiate out towards the gill flap or operculum from the eye. The edge of the operculum is stiff and short with a reddish spot. A patch of teeth is found on the tongue and in the roof of the mouth. Breeding male warmouths develop a bright orange spot at the base of the dorsal fin.

Range: Statewide in all flowing and impounded habitats

Average Length: 5-8 inches

Average Size: 2 pounds

South Carolina State Record: 2 pounds 2.5 ounces (1973)

Life Expectancy: Approximately 8 years

Preferred Habitat

The warmouth prefers slow moving streams, swamps, Carolina bays, ponds and reservoirs, especially areas with submerged cover—riprap or vegetation.

Food Habits

  • Aquatic insects, mussels, crayfish and fish.


  • Warmouth begin spawning in late spring through the summer months when water temperatures are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Male warmouth build multiple nests sometimes in groups with other warmouths on top of gravel or sandy bottoms.
  • Females then lay their eggs in multiple nests, depositing as few as 2,000 eggs to as many as 20,000 eggs.
  • The eggs are guarded until hatching and after for a short period.


The larger mouth size of warmouths allows the fish to consume a wider variety of food items than other sunfish species. The warmouth grows better and is more productive in coastal plain waters than in piedmont waters.

Commonly Mistaken Species

Some species of fish that are commonly mistaken for this species:

Literature Cited

Rohde, Fred C, Arndt, Rudolf G., Foltz, Jeffery W., Quattro, Joseph M. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 2009. South Carolina Guide to Freshwater Fishes.

Fish Illustration by Duane Raver.