Freshwater Fish Identification

Freshwater Fish Identification

Brook Troutbrook-trout

Scientific Name:  Salvelinus fontinalis

Common Names:  Aurora Trout, Brookie, Coaster, Common Brook Trout, Eastern Brook Trout, Mountain Trout, Mud Trout, Sea Trout, Speck Trout

Brook trout have a dark body with light spots and a worm-like pattern on back, head, and sides. The lower fins are typically red-orange with a white leading edge. Stocked brook trout are typically less colorful than wild brook trout. <return to top of page>

Brown Trout

Scientific Name:Salmo trutta

Common Names:  Brown, Brownie, English Brown Trout, European Brown Trout, German Brown Trout, German Trout, Lochleven Trout, Von Behr Trout

Brown trout have a light body with dark spots. The lower fins are typically brown, tan or nearly colorless and may have a white leading edge. Wild brown trout may have bright red and orange spots and an orange adipose fin. The tail is more rounded than forked. Brown trout and atlantic salmon look very similar. <return to top of page>

Lake Trout

Lake Trout

Scientific Name:  Salvelinus Namaycush

Common Names: Mackinaw, Lake char (or charr), Touladi, Togue, Grey trout, Siscowet, Paperbelly and Lean

Lake trout inhabit cold, oxygen-rich waters. They are pelagic during the period of summer stratification in dimictic lakes, often living at depths of 20–60 m (66–197 ft).

The lake trout is a slow-growing fish, typical of oligotrophic waters. It is also very late to mature. Populations are extremely susceptible to overfishing. Many native lake trout populations have been severely damaged through the combined effects of hatchery stocking (planting) and over harvest.

Three subspecies of Lake Trout are accepted. There is the Common Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush namaycush), the Siscowet Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush siscowet), and the less common Rush Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush huronicus). Some lakes do not have pelagic forage fish during the period of summer stratification. In these lakes, lake trout take on a life history known as planktivory. Lake trout in planktivorous populations are highly abundant, grow very slowly and mature at relatively small sizes. In those lakes that do contain deep-water forage, lake trout become piscivorous. Piscivorous lake trout grow much more quickly, mature at a larger size and are less abundant. Notwithstanding differences in abundance, the density of biomass of lake trout is fairly consistent in similar lakes, regardless of whether the lake trout populations they contain are planktivorous or piscivorous.

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Rainbow Trout

Scientific Name:   Oncorhynchus mykiss

Common Names:  Redband Trout, Bow

Rainbow trout are steel-blue to slate in color with a broad pink or red lateral stripe, dark spots and a lighter underside. They are native to the Northwest but have been widely introduced across the U.S. Thry can weigh an average of 2-20 pounds and measurements of 35 inches in length are not uncommon. Rainbows are among the most popular trout with American anglers.<return to top of page

Palomino Trout

Scientific Name:  Oncorhynchus mykiss (variation)

Common Names:  Golden Rainbow Trout

Palominos are a deep golden-yellow in body color, with pinkish lower fins, pink or red tones on their cheeks and with the rainbow’s reddish lateral stripe. There is no spotting on the body or fins.>

Tiger Trout

Scientific Name:  Salmo trutta X Salvelinus fontinalis

Common Names:  Zebra Trout

Tiger trout(hybrid) have worm-like markings covering the entire body. They usually do not have spots. Tiger trout are a sterile cross between a male brook trout and a female brown trout. <return to top of page>

Steelhead Trout

Scientific Name:  Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus

Common Names:  Sea-Run Rainbow Trout, Steelie

Steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species, but rainbow are freshwater only, and steelhead are anadromous, or go to sea. Unlike most salmon, steelhead can survive spawning, and can spawn in multiple years.<return to top of page>

Kokanee Salmon


Scientific Name:   Oncorhynchus nerka

Common Names:  Sockeye salmon, Red salmon, blueback salmon, kokanee, koke, and silver trout

Kokanee salmon are silver without spots until spawning season when they undergo significant changes in both the shape and they turn red. Males often develop a large hooked jaw (kype). The Kokanee salmon die after they spawn. <return to top of page>

Atlantic Salmon


Scientific Name: Salmo salar

Common Names:  Atlantic Salmon, Kennebec Salmon, Black Salmon

Atlantic salmon have a light body with dark spots. The adipose fin is brown or dark brown. The lower fins are brown with no color on the leading edge. There may be spots on the head and tail. Wild atlantic salmon recently entering freshwater typically are silver, turning brown after being in freshwater for a while. Small atlantic salmon will have a deeply-forked tail. Atlantic salmon are stocked as fry into many tributaries of the Connecticut River. All atlantic salmon must be immediately released, unless it is from one of the areas the Inland Fisheries Division stocks with surplus adult atlantic salmon. <return to top of page>

Largemouth Bass


Scientific Name:  Micropterus salmoides

Common Names:  Black Bass, Bigmouth, Bucketmouth, Mossback, Larry, Greenback

Largemouth bass have a dark stripe along the side of the body. The end of the jaw typically reaches past the eye. Largemouths are highly sought after by anglers and are known for an exciting fight. LMB tend to feed early in the morning or in the evening, although a knowledgeable angler will succeed during all hours of the day or night.<return to top of page>

Smallmouth Bass


Scientific Name:  Micropterus dolomieu

Common Names:   Smallmouth, Bronzeback, Brown Bass, Brownie, Smallie, Bronze Bass, Bareback Bass, Sally

Smallmouth bass may have vertical stripes on the side of the body. The end of the jaw typically reaches to the center of the eye. The smallie is one of the best freshwater game fish sought after by anglers. They are known for an amazing fight from beginning, right up to the end.<return to top of page>

Striped Bass

Scientific Name:  Morone saxatilis

Common Names:   Atlantic Striped Bass, Striper, Linesider, Pimpfish,Schoolies, Rock or Rockfish

The striped bass is currently the most sought-after coastal sport fish species in Connecticut. This highly migratory fish moves north from the mid-Atlantic area during the spring and back southward during the fall, spending roughly the months of May through October feeding on whatever food it can find including river herring, crabs, lobsters, menhaden, and silversides. The Chesapeake Bay and Hudson River estuaries contain the major spawning and nursery areas for East Coast striped bass. Spawning typically takes place during April and May in the freshwater tributaries of these estuaries. Almost all females are mature by the time they reach 36 inches in length and 5 to 9 years in age. The striped bass has a large mouth and sharp, stiff spines located on the gill covers, anterior dorsal fin and anal fin. A full-bodied fish, the striped bass is bluish to dark olive dorsally, with a silvery belly and sides. Several dark, lateral stripes, reaching from the gills to the base of the tail, are the most prominent features distinguishing the striped bass from other coastal species. Stripers caught in Connecticut range from 10 to more than 50 inches in length, and can weigh in excess of 50 pounds. The world record striped bass was caught in Connecticut waters and weighed 81.88 lbs. Striped Bass fishing over the years has started to decline again so the amfc along with the state’s themselves are in the process of implementing new regulations on them.

Catching Striped Bass: Striped bass can be taken from shore and from a boat while casting, trolling and drifting. Fly fishing for stripers has become increasingly popular in recent years. Popular striped bass fishing spots include shorelines, bridges or docks with nearby drop offs, holes, or strong currents. Striped bass fishing is especially good during an evening or early morning tide, as stripers are nocturnal feeders. Live or natural baits are effective, especially live eels, pogies (menhaden), and chunks of mackerel, squid or herring, use of a circle hook is required when using bait. An 8- to 10-foot surf rod and reel spooled with 30- pound test or a medium to heavy spinning rod with 12- to 20-pound test line is preferable, depending on fishing location. Effective lures include the spoons, poppers, lead-head jigs and swimming plugs. Effective flies include streamers that look like bait fish. A particularly good one is Lefty’s Deceiver. <return to top of page>

White Perch


Scientific Name:   Morone americana

Common Names:Sea Perch, Black-back

The white perch is a small schooling fish caught in Connecticut. It spends most of the year in estuarine waters, migrating to brackish or fresh water to reproduce in late March and early April. Adults can reach 8 to 10 inches in length and weigh up to 1 pound. White perch have spines on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. A member of the bass family, it is distinguishable from striped bass by the lack of prominent lateral stripes and its generally smaller size. Most anglers targeting them will fish with brine shrimp, grass shrimp, and sandworms. For lure fishermen they will throw swedish pimples, and kastmasters.<return to top of page>

Yellow Perch

Scientific NamePerca flavescens

Common Names:  Perch, American Perch, Coontail, Lake Perch, Raccoon Perch, Ring-tail Perch, Ringed Perch, Jumbo Perch, Jack Perch and Striped Perch

The yellow perch have a yellow body with dark vertical bands and orange lower fins. The yellow perch can be found in a vast variety of water habitat. Perch are commonly active during the day and inactive at night except during spawning, when they are active both day and night. Perch are most often found in schools. <return to top of page>


Scientific Name:  Sander vitreus

Common Names:  Walleyed Perch

The walleye generally have a greenish or brownish back fading to a white belly. They may have irregular dark green blotches on the body. They have very large and sharp teeth. Fishing for walleye is fairly popular among some anglers. Walleye have a nocturnal feeding habit. They will feed more actively on cloudy and overcast days with turbulent water when the light is disrupted. Target the shallow to moderate depths during the springtime when spawning occurs. The rest of the year use the general rule of thumb: dawn and dusk try the shallow to moderate depths but while the sun is up move towards the deeper waters. <return to top of page>


Scientific Name:  Lepomis gibbosus

Common Names:   Pond Perch, Common Sunfish, Punkys, Sunfish, Sunny, Kivver, Yellow Sunfish, Pumpkinseed Sunfish, Round Sunfish, Bream and Sun Bass

Pumpkinseeds are orange, green, yellow or blue in color, with speckles over their sides and back and a yellow-orange breast and belly. The sides of the pumpkinseed are covered with vertical bars that are a slight green or blue, which are typically more prevalent in females. Orange spots may cover the dorsal, anal, and caudal fins and the cheeks have blue lines across them. The pumpkinseed is noted for the orange-red spot on the margin of its black gill cover. Pumpkinseeds have a small body that is shaped much like that of a pumpkinseed, giving them their common name. They have a small mouth with an upper jaw stopping right under the eye. <return to top of page>


Scientific Name:  Lepomis macrochirus

Common Names:  Bream, Blue Bream, Copperhead, Copperbelly, Blue Sunfish, Sun Perch, Roach

Bluegill are most identifiable by their black gill flaps and the black vertical bars along its body(although not always visible). Bluegill are popular panfish targeted by not only experienced anglers but children as well. <return to top of page>

Redbreast Sunfish

Scientific Name:  Lepomis auritus

Common Names:Yellowbelly Sunfish, Redbreasted Bream

The redbreast sunfish is laterally compressed or flattened like other sunfishes; however, it has a more elongated body than other sunfishes. The redbreast’s body is a bluish-green that fades into a bright orange-yellow belly in females and a deep orange-red belly in males. Both males and females have vertical rows of red-brown to orange spots on the sides of the body. Traces of these spots can sometimes be seen tapering on the edge of the tail or caudal fin where the body connects. The caudal fin is generally an orange-red color. The operculum or gill cover has a distinguishing long black lobe. Blue lines can be found on the face or cheek area of the redbreast sunfish. Teeth are present on the roof of the mouth. <return to top of page>

Green Sunfish

Scientific Name:  Lepomis cyanellus

Common Names:

Green sunfish are very tolerant of poor water quality and are often the only sunfish found in very muddy waters. They do have a strong preference to hide around structures such as rocks, logs, or brush piles. They are quite often the only sunfish found in very small streams. Both green sunfish and bluegill readily hybridize with other species of sunfish, most often each other. Hybrids between two other sunfish species are relatively rare. Green sunfish feed on aquatic insect, larvae, insects that fall on the surface of the water, snails, crayfish, and some small fish.>

Rock Bass

Scientific Name:  Ambloplites rupestris, Ambloplites constellatus

Common Names:  Rock Perch, Goggle-eye, Red Eye

Rock bass have a very large red-colored eye. The pattern on the side of the body resembles camouflage print. They are a freshwater fish in the sunfish family. <return to top of page>

Calico Bass(white/black crappie)

Scientific Name:  Pomoxis annularis(white), Pomoxis nigromaculatus(black)

Common Names:  Strawberry Bass(black), Papermouth(black or white), Sac Au Lait(white), Speckled Perch(white)

Calico bass(crappie) have a distinct curved profile from the head to the dorsal fin. The body is very thin when viewed looking from head on. They body silvery or brass colored with dark spots. Black crappie have seven to eight spines on its dorsal fin and are darker in color while the white crappies have five to six spines. <return to top of page>


Scientific Name:  Lepomis gulosus

Common Names: Warmouth Sunfish, Warmouth Bass, Molly, Redeye, Goggle-eye, Red-eyed Bream, StumpKnocker and Strawberry Perch

The warmouth sunfish is commonly dark olive with mottled brown sides that often contain numerous yellow markings. The body is highly compressed and deep (similar to most other members of the Lepomis genus). Each side of the head possesses 5 distinct dark lines (often referred to as war-paint) that radiate out from the snout and eyes. They possess a tongue with a very small tooth patch. Unlike most other members of theLepomis genus, warmouth possess a rather large mouth. They are often confused and misidentified as rock bass, however, warmouth possess three spines in the anal fin, while the rock bass has five to six spines present in the anal fin. <return to top of page>

Yellow Bullhead

Scientific Name:  Ameiurus natalis

Common Names:  Yellow Hornpout

Yellow bullhead have a rounded tail and the chin whiskers are light colored. Both the belly and chin are usually yellow. The yellow bullhead is a voracious scavenger that will almost eat anything.<return to top of page>

Brown Bullhead


Scientific Name: Ameiurus nebulosus

Common Names:  Brown Catfish, Bullhead, Catfish, Common Bullhead, Common Catfish, Horned Pout, Marbled Bullhead, Minister, Mudcat, Northern Brown Bullhead, Red Cat

Brown bullhead have a rounded tail and the chin whiskers are dark colored. Both the belly and chin are light colored and usually white. It has few natural predators because of sharp, sawtoothed spines at the base of the dorsal and pectoral fins which can be locked in an erect position. That and the fact that it is not popular with fishermen have allowed it to thrive. <return to top of page>

Channel Catfish


Scientific Name: Ictalurus punctatus

Common Names:  Spotted Cat, Blue Channel Cat, River Catfish, Channel Cat, Willow Cat, Forked-tail Cat, Fiddler, Spotted Cat, Lady Cat

Channel catfish have a forked tail (pointed tips), very long whiskers on the side of the mouth, and dark chin whiskers. Compared to the white catfish, the channel catfish has a narrow head. They are the most sought after catfish in the United States by anglers. When removing the hook from a catfish, anglers should be mindful of the sharp spines on the pectoral and dorsal fins. <return to top of page>

White Catfish

Scientific Name:  Ameiurus catus

Common Names:  Forked-tail Cat, White Bullhead

White catfish have a forked tail (rounded tips), very long whiskers on the side of the mouth, and light chin whiskers. Compared to the channel catfish the white catfish has a broad head. The eyes may have a light blue band around the iris. <return to top of page>

Northern Pike

Scientific Name:  Esox lucius

Common Names:  Jackfish, Northern, Pike

Northern Pike have a dark colored body with light spots. The entire cheek and only ½ of the gill cover is covered in scales. The mouth has large and sharp teeth. Pike are one of the largest freshwater fish in North America. They are known for their aggressive strikes and aerial show while fighting them. Although being a bony fish, the larger fish are more easily filleted, having a nice white meat and a very mild flavor. <return to top of page>

Chain Pickerel

pickerelsChain Pickerel
Scientific Name:  Esox niger

Common Names:  Pickerel, Eastern Pickerel, Lake Pickerel, Gunfish, Federation Pickerel, Federation Pike

Chain Pickerel have a yellow colored body with a dark “chain-like” pattern. Both the cheek and gill cover are completely covered with scales. Typically there is a dark vertical band below the eye. The mouth has large and sharp teeth. Pickerel are aggressive and put up a very nice fight. Although being very bony, the meat is white and flaky with a nice mild flavor. It is also considered a very lean fish with very little oils in comparison to other freshwater table fair.

Redfin Pickerel Scientific Name: Esox americanus 

Grass Pickerel Scientific Name: Esox americanus vermiculatus
Both subspecies are native to North America. They are not to be confused with their aggressive counterpart the Northern pike. The redfin pickerel’s range extends from the Saint Lawrence drainage in Quebec down to the Gulf Coast, from Mississippi to Florida, while the grass pickerel’s range is further west, extending from the Great Lakes Basin, from Ontario to Michigan, down to the western Gulf Coast, from eastern Texas to Mississippi.

The two subspecies are very similar, but the grass pickerel lacks the redfin’s distinctive orange to red fin coloration, its fins having dark leading edges and amber to dusky coloration. In addition, the light areas between the dark bands are generally wider on the grass pickerel and narrower on the redfin pickerel. These pickerels grow to a maximum overall length of 40 cm (16 in) and a maximum weight of 2.25 pounds

The redfin and grass pickerels occur primarily in sluggish, vegetated waters of pools, lakes, and swamps, and are carnivorous, feeding on smaller fish. Larger fishes, such as the striped bass (Morone saxatilis), bowfin (Amia calva), and gray weakfish (Cynoscion regalis), in turn, prey on the pickerels when they venture into larger rivers or estuaries.

These fishes reproduce by scattering spherical, sticky eggs in shallow, heavily vegetated waters. The eggs hatch in 11–15 days; the adults guard neither the eggs nor the young.
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Scientific Name: Esox masquinongy

Common Names: Muskelunge, Muscallonge, Milliganong, or Maskinonge (and often abbreviated “Muskie” or “Musky”)

Muskellunge closely resemble other esocids such as the northern pike and American pickerel in both appearance and behavior. Like the northern pike and other aggressive pikes, the body plan is typical of ambush predators with an elongated body, flat head, and dorsal, pelvic and anal fins set far back on the body. Muskellunge are typically 28–48 in (0.71–1.22 m) long and weigh 5–36 lb (2.3–16.3 kg), though some have reached up to 6 ft (1.8 m) and almost 70 lb (32 kg). The fish are a light silver, brown, or green, with dark vertical stripes on the flank, which may tend to break up into spots. In some cases, markings may be absent altogether, especially in fish from turbid waters. This is in contrast to northern pike, which have dark bodies with light markings. A reliable method to distinguish the two similar species is by counting the sensory pores on the underside of the mandible. A muskie will have seven or more per side, while the northern pike never has more than six. The lobes of the caudal (tail) fin in muskellunge come to a sharper point, while those of northern pike are more generally rounded. In addition, unlike pike, muskies have no scales on the lower half of their opercula.<return to top of page>

White Sucker

Scientific Name:  Catostomus commersonii

Common Names:  Bay Fish, Brook Sucker, Common Sucker, Mullet and Gray Sucker

White Suckers have a streamlined body with a round mouth. The body is usually dark brown on top and bronze color on the side. Suckers are not fished for food but rather used for bait.<return to top of page>

Common Carp

Scientific Name:  Cyprinus carpio

Common Names:  Carp, German Carp, Israeli Carp, Leather Carp, Mirror Carp, Koi, Fantail, Ghost Carp

Carp can be a very large fish (up to 40 pounds) and have large scales. Carp have a small whisker on each side. Common carp are omnivorous. They can eat a herbivorous diet of water plants, but prefer to scavenge the bottom for insects, crustaceans (including zooplankton), crawfish, and benthic worms. Carp fishing has taken off to new levels in recent years. Here in the states we are seeing the European style of carp fishing meld together with the North American fishing styles. Long rods, pre-baiting, bait packs, open bail and horizontal rods to just name a few of the basics. <return to top of page>

Grass Carp

Scientific Name:  Ctenopharyngodon idella

Common Names:  White Amur

The grass carp is a herbivorous, freshwater fish species. Grass carp have elongated, chubby, torpedo-shaped body forms. The terminal mouth is slightly oblique with non-fleshy, firm lips, and no barbels. Body color is dark olive, shading to brownish-yellow on the sides, with a white belly and large, slightly outlined scales. Grass carp can be difficult to catch be herbivorous, however, chumming with corn will improve your chances. Chumming with white bread, and a piece of bread pinched on a hook and floated on the surface works well, especially for pond grass carp. <return to top of page>


Scientific Name: Amia calva

Common Names:  Mudfish, Mud Pike, Dogfish, Grindle, Blackfish, Cottonfish, Swamp Bass, Cypress Trout

The body of the bowfin is elongated and cylindrical, with the sides and back olive to brown in color, often with vertical bars, and dark reticulations, or camouflaged pattern. As a sport fish, bowfin are not considered desirable to many anglers. <return to top of page>


Scientific Name: Semotilus corporalis

Common Names: Fallfish

The fallfish is the largest northeast minnow, occasionally reaching 50 cm in length. Juvenile fallfish have a dark stripe that runs down the center of their body. They are a silvery shade on the top and sides of the body, but have a white shading on the belly. Breeding males develop a pinkish tone on the opercular region, although the species does not develop bright breeding colors. A typical size is 17 cm, but can grow to be up to 50 cm long. Fallfish found in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, where it inhabits clear streams, lakes, and ponds. It prefers swift currents predominately, however.<return to top of page>

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