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Minnesota Fish Identification and Characteristics

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Minnesota Fish Identification
and Characteristics
Shawn P. Linder
Grand Rapids High School
Problem Statement
• What are the various characteristics of
Minnesota Game Fish?
Learning Objectives
• List and describe the five shapes of fish
we look at to help us identify, and
characterize them.
• Identify the features that help identify a
particular fish.
• Positively identify the Minnesota game fish
important for the economy of the state.
• Understand important management
information about each game fish covered.
K.Q. #1: What are the various
shapes that classify MN game fish?
Rover Predators
Lie-in-wait Predators
Bottom Rovers
Deep Bodied
Eel Like
Rover Predators
• Streamlined shape, pointed head, narrow
caudal peduncle, always on the move.
e.g. Trout, Perch, Walleye
Lie-in-wait Predators
• Explosive ambush predators. Body
streamlined and elongate, torpedo like.
Large caudal fin. Dorsal and anal fins far
back. E.g. Northern, Musky
Bottom Rovers
• Rover type body with flattened head,
humped back, enlarged pectoral fins, E.g.
Catfish, and Sturgeons.
Deep Bodied
• Laterally flattened with a body depth at
least 1/3 that of the length. Long dorsal
and anal fin, pectoral fins high on the body
with pelvic fins immediately below. Small
mouth, large eyes, and short snout.
Highly maneuverable, spines common.
E.g. sunfish
Eel-like fish
• Elongate bodies, blunt or wedge-shaped
heads. Tapered, rounded tails.
K.Q. #2: What are the various fish
within these fish shapes?
Rover Predators
Lake Trout
Lake Trout
• They live primarily in Lake Superior and many of the
deep, cold lakes of St. Louis, Lake, and Cook counties.
• Lake trout only do well in lakes where water temperature
does not exceed 18В° C (65В° F).
• In Lake Superior, lake trout reach 45 in or more and can
weigh (40 lbs).
• Lake trout commonly reach the ages of 12-16, 25 years
• Young lake trout first eat a diet of copepods and
waterfleas. Then add opossum shrimp. Adult trout eat
mostly fish including ciscoes, bloaters, smelt, and
• Lake trout spawn in the fall, mostly in October though
early November, when water temperature falls below 10В°
C (50В° F).
Conservation and Management of
Lake Trout
• Lake trout used to be a very important
commercial fish in the Great Lakes. A
combination of predation by the sea
lamprey, declines in the cisco populations
(their main food), and overfishing caused
their populations to go way down.
Rainbow Trout
Rainbow Trout
• The rainbow trout is an introduced exotic species. It is native to the
West Coast and some of the streams west of the Rocky Mountains.
• Rainbow trout are introduced into many of Minnesota's streams and
lakes in the northern 1/2 of state.
• Inland rainbows are considerably smaller fish, 15 in long and 5.5lbs
are lunkers. Most rainbows live for 3-4 years.
• Young rainbow trout eat waterfleas and aquatic (water) insects, like
caddisflies, mayflies, and midges. As they grow larger they include
small fish, but continue to consume larval and adult insects.
• Young rainbow trout often are eaten by a variety of piscivorous (fisheating) fishes, such as sculpins, smallmouth bass, and larger trout.
• Rainbow trout are usually 3 - 4 years old when they spawn. Streamdwelling rainbows migrate upstream to spawn. most spawn in the
spring mostly in April in Minnesota.
• Water temperatures must go above 5°C (41° F) and streams must
rise (from rain) or they will not spawn.
Rainbow Trout Management and
• Rainbow trout are probably the most
important sport trout in Minnesota. They
are a part of both coldwater lake and
stream fisheries. More rainbows are
stocked each year in Minnesota waters
than any other trout or salmon.
Brook Trout
Brook Trout
Brook trout are native to headwaters and small streams of
northeastern and southeastern Minnesota.
Their preferred habitat includes headwater spring ponds and small
spring-fed streams that have cool, clear waters with sand and gravel
How big a brook trout gets is dependent on what stream it comes
from. The common size that anglers catch from heavily fished streams
or lakes is 6 to 10in, but in areas of little fishing, they can get as large
as 15 in.
In Minnesota streams, brook trout commonly live for 3-4 years.
The food of the young brook trout is mostly small insects. Older fish
eat larger invertebrates including many types of aquatic insects. They
also feed on minnows and other small fishes.
Brook trout have few aquatic predators because few predator fish live
where they do. Larger trout, especially brown trout, eat smaller brook
trout. They are more likely to be eaten by fish-eating birds such as
herons, and kingfishers. Otters and snapping turtles also prey upon
Many brook trout females and some males reach sexual maturity in
their first year of life. In Minnesota, the spawning season for the brook
trout is normally in the autumn months, roughly October and
Brook Trout Management and
• Brook trout are managed as a cold-water
sport fish species.
Brown Trout
Brown Trout
• Brown trout are not native to North America.
• Today, they occur in many of Minnesota's cold-water streams and
lakes and also in Lake Superior.
• Brown trout grow fairly rapidly until they reach maturity. Then they
slow down a bit. In Minnesota, brown trout 10-15 in long and 3.5-5.5
lbs are fairly common in streams.
• Because brown trout are somewhat resistant to the pressures of
fishing, they can easily get to 5-7 years old.
• The brown trout is a very active feeder and it eats a great variety of
• The main predators for this secretive trout are bigger trout and
• Most will spawn multiple years and often near the same place.
Spawning habits and seasons are similar to the brook trout, except
that brown trout take 3-4 years to mature.
• Brown trout spawning season begins in October and goes into
December. If there are no barriers as there are in many North Shore
streams, brown trout swim up into headwater areas to spawn.
Brown Trout Management and
• Brown trout is an exotic species that has
become self-sustaining in some stream
and maintained by repeated stocking in
• Because of their good taste, size, fighting
ability, and the challenge in getting them to
bite, brown trout have become a favorite of
many anglers.
Tulibee (Whitefish)
• Naturally found in most northern
Minnesota lakes. Once an important
species in Lake Superior.
• Reach a weight of 5 pounds, avg of 3-4.
• Spawning happens in the fall only at night,
eggs are not cared for and hatch the
following spring.
• Feed on plankton, then aquatic larva and
Whitefish Management and
• Once considered an important species
now replaced, by smelt and lake trout in
northeast Minnesota.
• Walleye occur in all major drainages of Minnesota,
but they were probably introduced in the
southwestern part of the state.
• Walleye favor clear, cool and calm waters, but can
occupy turbid (cloudy. When water temperatures go
over 22В° C (72В° F), walleye head for deeper, cooler
• Grows to 26 in, and catches 15-19 in range are
common. Walleye in these lakes often weigh 6-9 lbs,
with the rare fish reaching nearly 15 lb.
• The maximum age of walleye is in question, but most
believe its 20 years, but commonly 3-4 years due to
fishing pressure.
• Walleye are piscivores (fish-eaters) and will eat any
species of fish they can catch and swallow. Yellow
perch and many species of minnows.
• Walleye spawn in April and early-May soon after iceout and water temperatures in the shallows reach 47° C (40-45° F).
Walleye Management and
• The walleye is the official state fish of Minnesota as well
as the state's most popular sport fish. More people go
fishing on the opening day of walleye season than any
other day of the year.
• The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources raises
a huge number of walleye every year for stocking.
Stocking efforts vary greatly across the state and often
are done cooperatively with various Lake Associations
(groups of property owners around a given lake). Many
of these cooperative efforts have been very successful.
• Minnesota's premiere walleye lakes include Lake of the
Woods, Lake Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, Lake
Winnibigoshish, Otter Tail Lake, Gull Lake, Lake
Saganaga, and others. Large populations also exist in
the Rainy, St. Louis, St. Croix, and Mississippi rivers.
• Similar to the Walleye but on a smaller
• Found mostly in Lake of Woods, and large
• Avg weight of 1 ½ pounds.
Yellow Perch
Yellow Perch
• Yellow perch occur in all major drainages of Minnesota.
• Yellow perch are more abundant in lakes and backwaters of large
rivers than they are in swift-flowing streams.
• Female yellow perch grow faster and reach an overall bigger size
than males do. Some females get to 15 in and weigh over 1 lb.
• Yellow perch typically live for 7-9 years. The oldest known age is 13.
• Larval yellow perch commonly eat copepods, waterfleas, and other
small crustaceans. Juveniles eat aquatic insect larvae and larval
fish. Adult perch eat small fish, crayfish, leeches, and snails in their
• The yellow perch is a common prey to many piscivorous (fisheating) fishes, mostly Walleye.
• Yellow perch spawn fairly early, soon after ice-out in April and early
May. Water temperature only needs to reach 7В° C (45В° F) to induce
Yellow Perch Management and
• Yellow perch are usually not the sport fish most
anglers try for, but they are one that most
anglers catch.
• They are especially common in the ice-anglers
bucket. Yellow perch flesh is firm and very good
• One of the problems with perch is that they have
a tendency to overpopulate, especially in lakes
where too many of the larger sport fish have
been harvested.
Rainbow Smelt
Rainbow Smelt
• Accidentally introduced into Lake
Michigan, spread throughout great lakes.
• “Smelting” occurs every spring, where
anglers have a week to ten days before
the run is over. This best done at night.
• DNR is trying to prevent the spread on
smelt in land lakes.
Lie-in-Wait Predators
Northern Pike
Northern Pike
• Northern pike occur in all drainages of Minnesota, but are most
abundant in central and northern Minnesota east of the prairie.
• They inhabit lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers and are most
common in weedy areas with cool to warm, slow-moving water.
• Northerns grow fast first few years of life (14-26 in) long after
their first two growing seasons. Max size of 40 inches and 40
• Northerns typically live for 6-9 years, but there are records of a
few who reached the ripe old age of 25. Some captive northerns
have lived for 75 years!
• Most often it lies still in the weeds waiting for a fish to swim by.
Then it lunges quickly and grabs the startled fish in its huge,
toothy jaws.
• Silver lampreys and sea lampreys in Lake Superior attack large
adult pike, but the largest predators for them are humans and
bigger northerns.
• Northerns spawn in April or early May as soon as the ice melts.
They move up into small streams during the night hours or
select shallow, flooded marshlands or grassy lake margins as
their spawning sites.
Northern Pike Management and
• Northern pike are one of Minnesota's
premier sport fish. They strike on live bait
and many kinds of crank-baits. Hook a 2.3
kg (5-lb) northern and you're in for a fight!
Even small northerns provide a tussle if
you are fishing with light tackle.
• Northerns are a tasty fish, but it is a good
idea to learn how to remove their "Y"
bones as you fillet them.
Muskellunge (Musky)
• In Minnesota, the muskellunge is native to lake and rivers
in the Rainy and upper Mississippi river drainages, and
the lower Mississippi River south to Lake Pepin.
• Muskellunge normally live in lakes and slow-moving
rivers with clear water and numerous underwater weed
• Lunker Muskies grow to 45-50 in long and weigh 35-50
• One musky from Canada was estimated to be 30 years
• As do large northerns, adult muskies supplement their
fish dinners with the occasional duck or muskrat.
• The musky spawning season is in the spring (April or
May) about 2 weeks or more later than the northern pike
• As with the northerns, newly hatched muskies attach
themselves to the vegetation using the adhesive organ
on their heads. Here they develop their mouths and fins
over another 1-2 weeks before they swim free and begin
to feed.
Musky Management and
• The so-called "aristocrat of trophy fishes" is the largest
sport fish in Minnesota. It is called the "aristocrat"
because of its huge size and because it is very difficult to
catch a musky. Many anglers try, but few succeed. Most
musky anglers never land their trophy. That is the great
• They are especially well known from Lake of the Woods,
Rainy Lake, Leech Lake, Cass Lake, Lake
Winnibigoshish, and some of the smaller lakes near Park
Rapids and Grand Rapids.
• They have been planted in many lakes and some rivers
all over the state.
Long-Nose Gar
Long-Nose Gar
• The distribution for the longnose gar in Minnesota is limited because
of its preference for warmer water. It lives in the lower Mississippi,
St. Croix, and Minnesota rivers and some of their tributaries.
• The longnose gar lives in large rivers that have backwaters with little
to no current and in weedy, floodplain lakes.
• By gulping air at the surface, gar can live in hot, shallow water
where most other fish cannot (because there isn't enough oxygen in
• Large adults easily grow to 3 ft or more. They can weigh 6-10 lbs.
• They eat fish of all sizes and all kinds. Often gar will lie near the
surface of the water barely moving and wait for schools of small fish
to swim by. With a quick sideways snap of the head, a gar grabs one
or more fish in its long, many-toothed jaws. Gar also catch their prey
by swimming up along side of them.
• Humans do not eat this poor tasting fish. It eggs are even said to be
• Female longnose gar can be mature at 4 years old, males at 3. Their
spawning season in Minnesota is probably late May into June when
water temperatures are 19В° C (67В° F) or more.
Bottom Rovers
German Carp
German Carp
• Native to Asia, accidentally released into
public waters from a hatchery.
• It’s a rough fish and destroys natural fish
• Large amounts of money are used to
control these fish (gates, and rotenone).
• Carp reach as much as 20 pounds.
• There are no limits on this fish and can be
taken in many ways.
White Sucker
White Sucker
• The white sucker is one of Minnesota's most common
fish, and it is the most widely spread distributed sucker in
• White suckers are benthic (bottom dwellers) and live in
all kinds of lakes and streams from clean, stream-fed
brooks to slow-moving, turbid (cloudy) rivers.
• White suckers in Minnesota normally grow to about 300
mm (20 in) and weigh in at about 0.9- 1.4 kg (2-3 lbs).
• White suckers typically live for about 10-12 years.
• Their diet is highly variable and depends on where
they've been feeding.
• The spawning season in Minnesota for the white sucker
begins in April and goes into early May.
Lake Sturgeon
Lake Sturgeon
• They are present in limited numbers in the lower
Mississippi, St. Croix, Minnesota, Red, and Rainy rivers.
• In rivers, lake sturgeons tend to live in the deepest parts
of the channels or in deep pools.
• Many lake sturgeon reach over 50 kg (over 100 lbs). The
big ones weigh in at over 100 kg (220 lbs) and can be
over 2 m (6.5 ft) long.
• We know of several that were over 80 years old when
• Adults suck their food up from the lake or river bottom.
• The spawning season for lake sturgeon in Minnesota
spans the months of April, May, and sometimes June.
Males do not reach sexual maturity until they are 20
years old, and females are usually 25 years old before
they spawn for the first time. Females only spawn every
4 to 6 years, while the males usually spawn every other
Lake Sturgeon Management and
• Lake sturgeons currently are listed as a species
of special concern. Overfishing, habitat
alteration, and pollution turned this species from
one of our most abundant large fishes into one
of our rarest.
• Lake sturgeon have been reintroduced to the
Red River system, and recovery of populations
in the upper St. Croix and Rainy river systems
has been reasonably good.
• Poor water quality and migration barriers (locks
and dams) continue to prevent recovery in the
lower Mississippi River.
• At the end of the 1800s, caviar (eggs) of this
species were in high demand.
Channel Catfish
Channel Catfish
• Channel catfish live in many of Minnesota's medium to
large rivers and their interconnecting lakes.
• Channel catfish occupy a variety of habitats from clear,
rocky riffles to deep, muddy pools in turbid (cloudy)
• In Minnesota channel catfish commonly reach 19-23 in
and weigh in at 3 to 5 lbs, but they can get as big as 40
• This fish normally lives to be about 5-8 years old.
• They consume a huge variety of foods, including aquatic
insect larvae, crayfish, clams, green algae, water plants,
worms, and many kinds of small fishes.
• Channel catfish spawn mostly in May and June in
Minnesota when the water temperature reaches 24В° C
(75В° F).
Black Bullhead
Black Bullhead
• Black bullheads are common throughout Minnesota, but
they are most common in the southern half of the state.
• They prefer slow moving, turbid water that have soft
bottoms made up of mud and sand, sometimes with
gravel mixed in.
• 6-10 inches, or two pounds.
• This bottom dweller is considered a scavenger (eats
dead things) and an opportunist (eats whatever comes
its way).
• Spawning starts in late April and goes through to early
June, when water temperatures are about 68-70В° F.
Deep Bodied (Pan Fish)
Blue Gill
Blue Gill
• The bluegill lives throughout Minnesota, but it is most
abundant in the central area of the state.
• This popular pan fish lives in the shallows of many lakes
and ponds.
• They can easily grow to a range of 3.5- 5.1 inches in 3
years and up to 8 inches in 7-9 years.
• The adult bluegill's diet is mostly aquatic insect larvae
(such as mayflies, caddisflies, and dragonflies), but also
includes crayfish, leeches, snails, and sometimes small
• Mostly larger predatory fish, such as largemouth bass,
northern pike, yellow perch, and even bigger bluegill,
target the young and small adult bluegills for a food
• The spawning season for the bluegill starts in late May
and goes into early August, (peak spawning is in June)
at water temperatures of 19-27В° C (67-80В° F).
Blue Gill Management and
• The bluegill is the most sought-after sunfish in
• All total there are probably more bluegills caught
by anglers in Minnesota than any other species
of fish.
• We do little to manage this species, except in
some lakes where adult sizes are small.
• In these lakes we try to reduce the population
size by increasing the number of fish caught by
anglers. It usually doesn't work.
Pumpkin Seed
Rock Bass
Rock Bass
• Found throughout Minnesota
• Found in shallow weeding areas and weed
• Reaches 10 inches, 2 pounds
• Eats mostly insects, snails, and small
• Attractive to young anglers for fast action.
• Rock bass spawn in May and June.
Largemouth Bass
Largemouth Bass
• Largemouth bass occur in all of the major drainages of
Minnesota, but are most common in the central to northcentral portions of the state.
• True largemouth anglers will tell you there are plenty of
(5-lb) fish in our lakes, but rarely does one end up in the
• A largemouth bass can live up to 15 years, but fish over
10 years old are rare.
• Largemouth consume many species of fishes (including
sunfishes, yellow perch, and minnows), crayfish, surface
insects, and frogs.
• Largemouth bass spawn mostly in May and June in
Minnesota when water temperature goes above 15.5В° C
(about 60В° F).
Largemouth Bass Management
and Conservation
• Largemouth bass is one of the top 3 warm-water
sportfish in Minnesota.
• This species sometimes is planted in ponds or
small lakes to get a population going.
• The usual management strategy for most
populations is to protect bass from angling
during at least part of the spawning season and
limit the number of bass that can be taken daily.
Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
• The most popular sportfish in the B.W. C.A. is actually an
exotic species. But its native to MN.
• Smallmouth bass prefer clear, strong-flowing streams
and rivers and medium-sized clear lakes with gravel or
boulder shores.
• Many anglers catch smallmouth that weigh 2-4 lbs. in
Minnesota. 7-10 years old
• Eat mostly fish (darters, minnows, yellow perch,
sunfishes, and others) and crayfish.
• Spawn mostly from the middle of May through the end of
June when water temperature exceeds 15.5В° C (about
60В° F).
Smallmouth Bass Management
and Conservation
• One of the top three warm-water sportfish
in Minnesota (largemouth and northern
pike are the other two).
• This species has been planted in many
lakes and streams over the years.
• The principal management strategy is to
protect it during the early spawning
season and limit its daily catch.
Black Crappie
Black Crappie
• They are most abundant in the central portion of the
state and least abundant in the deep, rocky lakes of the
Arrowhead region.
• They prefer clear, calm, warm water with lots of
• (10-12 in) and about (1-2 lbs). can live for 7-9 years.
• Black crappies continue to consume insect larvae, but
minnows, small bluegill, and small yellow perch become
their major prey.
• Black crappies spawn in May and June in Minnesota,
when the water temperature goes above 15В° C (59В° F).
Black Crappie Management and
• Both black and white crappies are much sought
after panfish.
• More anglers catch black crappies than white
because black crappies are more abundant and
• Crappies are notorious for their short feeding
frenzies, often in the early morning or late
evening. At these times, anglers can get a bite
almost as fast as they can rebait their hooks.
White Crappie
Eel-Like Fish
American Eel
American Eel
• American eels are found mostly in the lower Mississippi
River and its larger tributaries, such as the St. Croix and
Minnesota rivers.
• Typically 3 feet long, 2-4 pounds.
• We do not know exactly how long American eels live, but
females spend 10-20 years before they become mature
and return to the oceans. They die after breeding once.
One American eel lived in captivity for 88 years.
• American eels do most of their feeding at night and are
exclusively meat eaters.
• Once the female eel has reached maturity (after 10-20
years in the freshwater streams and lakes), she starts
back down the main river (Mississippi River or St.
Lawrence Seaway) towards the ocean to spawn.
• This species has no special concern status in Minnesota.
Sea Lamprey
Sea Lamprey
Fish Parasite of Northerns and Lakers
Spawn in tributaries on Lake Superior in
April and May.
• 3-4 inches long, ¼ pound. Live only 2-3
Bowfin (Dog Fish)
Bowfin (Dog Fish)
• Relative to Burbot, but prefers the warmer
water lakes.
Burbot (Eel Pout)
Burbot (Eel Pout)
• The burbot is a cold-water species and can be found in
most of Minnesota's northern lakes and rivers, including
Lake Superior.
• Burbot are not present in waters that typically exceed
21В° C (69В° F) during the summer.
• Typically they are less than 28 in and weigh 6- 8 lbs.
• Since this fish lives a secretive life, it easily reaches the
ripe old age of 10-15 years.
• They eat mostly other fish.
• The spawning season for this fish is very unusual. It
spawns during mid-winter into early spring, before the
ice is off the water. Burbot spawn in pairs or sometimes
in a ball of many fish.
Eel Pout Management and
• Burbot do not have special conservation status
in Minnesota and are not actively managed.
However, they are a big winter hit in Walker,
Minnesota. Each year the city hosts the
International Eelpout Festival on Leech Lake.
More then 2,000 anglers try to bring the biggest
burbot up through the ice.
• During the ice-fishing season, when they are
very active, burbot often are caught by anglers
fishing for walleyes. Some anglers won't touch a
burbot. They cut their lines and discard the fish
not realizing that burbot is a tasty relative of the
Atlantic cod.
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