You’re probably familiar with the scene. Alongside a rural road, someone is fishing in a water-filled ditch where it meets a culvert running under the road.
Stop and ask the angler what he or she has caught. If that person shows the day’s catch, chances are it will be green sunfish.
Oh, the name may vary. Green sunfish are known in various parts of Arkansas as ricefield slicks, often shortened to rice slicks or just slicks. Yes, they are found in Arkansas rice fields. Someone may call them mud bass. Most likely the label will simply be perch.
But perch they are not. Sunfish is the proper category, a family that includes other members of the wide bream assortment along with crappie and the black basses — largemouth, smallmouth and spotted or Kentucky.
Green sunfish are found all over Arkansas and in great numbers. But they are not great in size. The state record is 1 pound, 11 ounces, a fish caught in 1976 in a farm pond near Dierks. Most green sunfish are much smaller, just a few ounces in weight.
The smaller ones are favored for trotline bait. State regulations allow bream of any type under four inches in length to be sued as bait.
Outside Arkansas, green sunfish are found almost everywhere east of the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to northern Mexico.
These fish live in varied habitats, and they are especially common in waters not suitable to most other game fish – muddy, scummy, stagnant places. And they are found in clear, fast-running streams as well.
A few days ago the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission held its monthly meeting in Mountain Home, as a side attraction, some of the officials went fishing on Crooked Creek, that premier smallmouth bass water that runs from south of Harrison to the White River downstream from Bull Shoals. Crooked Creek was low, not the best condition for smallmouth work, but some of the anglers caught smallmouths. More caught green sunfish.
Another fishing float involved this writer and three others a couple of decades back. It was on the Kings River, another northern Arkansas stream of renown and another smallmouth standout.
We caught smallmouth for a few hours in the morning, then they shut off completely.
“Put some little bitty lures on,” our guide instructed. We did, and we caught green sunfish – lots of green sunfish.
This species is prolific, and many times they overpopulate a pond, a creek, a slough or even a ditch until the fish are stunted.
Green sunfish eat almost any insect they can grab. This means they will hit almost any item you put on a hook that may resemble meat. Many a green sunfish has been caught on small pieces of hot dogs. Take the strip of wrapping from a slice of bologna, thread it on a hook, and you’ve got green sunfish bait.
For anglers with a bit of daring, wasp larva is excellent green sunfish bait. Find a wasp nest with some of its cells filled. Knock the nest down and run. Come back after a while, look around carefully then scoop up the nest and run again. You’ve got green sunfish bait.
Like other bream, the bluegill and the red-ear and the others, green sunfish are good to eat in spite of their small size. Clean the fish or fillet it. Use any way you choose, but it will take a bunch to make a meal.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.