The first thing most anglers who catch their first flier think is that they’ve caught a hybrid bream/crappie. The flier, Centrarchus macropterus, is a sunfish native to muddy-bottomed swamps, ponds, weedy lakes and backwaters, mostly in the coastal planes in both Carolinas. The biggest fliers, which can live up to five years, get to about 12 inches and a pound.
Fliers are well-known for having a sunfish-shaped body, with a tear drop below the eye. Across both sides of the body are horizontal lines of dark spots, and the mouth is small. With small, relatively deep bodies, fliers have large dorsal and anal fins that can sometimes be close in size, much like a crappie. The dorsal side of this fish is olive green, flowing into a grayish, pale yellow on the ventral side. Young fish have a spot on the dorsal; adults tend to lose this spot. Anglers mostly find them too small to keep, but as aquarium fish, they are beautiful and extremely popular.
Fliers will feed on aquatic insects, smaller fish, worms, leeches and sometimes phytoplankton. Fliers prefer heavily vegetated water; they will frequently hide under plant matter or swim around submerged tree roots or bridges. They like water between 70 and 85 degrees.