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Freshwater Fish Identification

Updated on July 9, 2015

Identification of Freshwater Fish

This page offers a variety of resources to help in the identification of North American freshwater fish.

North America is home to hundreds of species of freshwater fish, many found nowhere else in the world.

Popular freshwater fish include trout, salmon, bass, crappie, sunfish, perch, walleye, pike, catfish, minnows, carp, herring, shad, and others.

Freshwater Fish of North America

Over 700 species of freshwater fishes are found throughout North America, including fish of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Among the most well known North American fish are members of the sunfish family (Centrarchidae). This includes largemouth, smallmouth and rock bass, crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and many other sunfish. The family's 27 species are native only to North America.

The perches are one of the largest families of fishes in North America, outnumbered only by one of the minnow families. The perch family includes the yellow perch, walleye, sauger and many darter species.

The Salmonidae family is another well known group of fish. This family includes freshwater and anadromous trout, salmon, char, whitefish and graylings. Some members of this group of fish live their entire lives in freshwater. Others are anadromous; they spend all or part of their adult life in salt water and return to freshwater streams and rivers to spawn.

Well known freshwater trout include rainbow, golden, brook, lake, brown, cutthroat, dolly varden, bull and others. There are 6 species of wild salmon native to North America.

Pacific salmon include: Sockeye or Red, Chinook or King, Coho or Silver, Keta or Chum and Pink or Humpback salmon. Atlantic Salmon once swam throughout much of the Northeast, but wild populations now exist only in Maine and parts of Eastern Canada.

A comprehensive field guide to freshwater fishes of North America - covers all 790 species known in the United States and Canada. More than 700 illustrations help in identifying species of fish. Also includes distribution maps and additional drawings of key details.

Ken Schultz's Field Guide to Freshwater Fish

Ken Schultz’s Guide to Freshwater Fish is a must for anglers and sportfishing enthusiasts everywhere. This full-color guide describes 140 of the most common freshwater fish species found in North American rivers, lakes, and streams. Information covers identification, habitat, size, and diet.

Atlantic Cod
Atlantic Cod

Fish Fins

Anal Fin - The fin on the bottom of fish located between the anal vent and the tail.

Caudal Fin - The tail fin of fish.

Dorsal Fin(s) - Fin(s) running down the back of fish.

Finlets - The series of small fins situated behind the dorsal and anal fins on some species of fish.

Pectoral Fins - The fins appearing on each side of the fish immediately behind the gill opening.

Pelvic Fins - Pair of fins located on the underside of fish below and slightly rearward of pectoral fins.

Fish T-Shirts

For shoppers that need custom t shirts, sweatshirts and other apparel may want to check out this Fish - Fishing - Seafood online store. The resource offers a large collection of untitled fish art from which shoppers can choose to add their personal caption.

Fish Identification Poll

Do you own any field guides or other books that are used to identify fish?

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    • xXOUTDOORSXx profile image


      6 years ago

      love the posters

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great resources here.


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