In nature, longear sunfish have been observed to hide in aquatic vegetation near hard structures (like stumps or woody debris) or in otherwise shaded areas to avoid predation. They also will dart into deeper waters when threatened. Predators of the longear sunfish, like the largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, and wading birds, are visual predators and the brightly colored longear sunfish probably benefits by hiding where it is less likely to be spotted. Adult longear sunfish have been shown to occupy deeper, and thus darker, waters in the mornings and evenings when large predators are most active. Spawning occurs in shallow waters. The shallowness of the waters may afford longear sunfish nests and eggs some protection from larger aquatic predators.
Goddard and Mathis’s (1997) laboratory studies showed that given a choice longear sunfish prefer to occupy low light intensity conditions without cover rather than submerged cover under higher light intensity conditions. The authors stated that areas with more vegetation may be harder to maneuver in and make escape from predators more difficult. In equally well lit conditions, the longear sunfish will choose the area with submerged cover, so it chooses some protection over none.