Indiana Fish Identification PDF Print E-mail
Tidbits

 

     
  Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)
The blue catfish typically has a bluish-gray body above, fading to white on its side and belly.  Small individuals are sometime mistaken for channel catfish, but blue catfish have no spots.  To distinguish between a blue catfish and a channel catfish, look at the anal fin.  The anal fin of a blue catfish has a straight outer edge and 30 to 36 rays.  The anal fin of a channel catfish is round with 24 to 29 rays.
     
 

Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
The bluegill is noted for the darkened spot at the base of the dorsal fin, vertical bars on their sides, and a relatively small mouth.  The spiny dorsal fin usually has 10 spines (but may have as many as 11 or as few as 9), and is broadly connected to the soft dorsal.  The anal fin has 3 spines.  The back and upper sides are usually dark olive green blending to lavender, brown, copper, or orange on the sides, and reddish-orange or yellow on the belly.  Colors are more intense in breeding males, and vertical bars may take on a reddish hue.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 58 degrees F, Peak - 69 to 72 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 80 degrees F.

     
  Bowfin (Amia calva)
A close relative of the gar, the bowfin is a stout-bodied fish with a long, undulating dorsal fin that covers more than half the length of its body.  The tail fin is rounded, and adult males have a very prominent black spot with an orange halo at the upper base of the tail.  The dorsal and tail fins are light olive with dark mottling.  Some bowfin have barbel-like nostrils that project from the head. In addition to gills, the bowfin has a modified air bladder that enables it to use air by gulping at the water’s surface.  This feature allows it to thrive in back waters and swamps that are often very low in oxygen.
     
  Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
The brook trout is greenish brown, often iridescent, with light red spots on its sides. It has dark, wavy, worm-like lines on the back and white edges on the fins, including the tail.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 44 degrees F, Peak - 58 degrees F, Upper avoidance -  70 degrees F.
     
  Brown Trout (Salmo trutta)
The brown trout is golden brown to olive brown with yellowish sides.  Its back and sides have dark spots encircled with light yellow or white.  Some brown trout also have orange or red on their sides.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 44 degrees F, Peak - 56 to 66 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 75 degrees F.
     
  Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
The channel catfish has a deeply forked tail with black spots on its back and sides.  Its top and sides vary from gray to slate-blue and are often olive with a yellow sheen.  Its body is scaleless, and it has 8 barbels (whiskers) around its mouth that serve as taste sensors for locating food.  To distinguish between a channel catfish and a blue catfish, look at the anal fin.  The anal fin of a channel catfish is round with 24 to 29 rays.  The anal fin of a blue catfish has a straight outer edge and 30 to 36 rays.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 55 degrees F, Peak - 82 to 89 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 90+ degrees F.
     
  Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha)
Adults are iridescent green to blue-green on the back and top of the head.  The sides are silvery, turning to white on the belly.  They have black spots (at least a few) on the upper half of their body and on all fins.  Chinook differ from coho salmon and other Great Lakes salmonids by having gray or black mouth coloration with teeth set in black gums, a squared tail with spots on both halves, and 15 to 19 rays in the anal fin.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 44 degrees F, Peak - 55 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 60 degrees F.
     
  Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
Adults are steel-blue to slightly green on the back, brilliant silver on the sides, and white on the belly.  There are small black spots on the back, sides above the lateral line, base of the dorsal fin, and upper half of the caudal fin.  Coho differ from the chinook and other salmonids of the Great Lakes by having the inside of teeth set in hite gums, their tail slightly forked with spots on the top half, and having 12 to 15 rays in their anal fin.
Peferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 44 degrees F, Peak - 55 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 60 degrees F.
     
  Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
The common carp usually has an olive-to-green back, fading to a yellow-brown side, with a yellow belly.  The fins are yellow to yellow-red.  Two pairs of barbels are present on the upper jaw, which help to distinguish carp from suckers.  The mouth is small and is supported by tough cartilage.  The carp has small teeth on the back of the last gill arch near the throat.  These teeth, similar to human molars, are used for crushing shells, seeds and plants.
     
  Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)
The flathead catfish has a broad, flat head, with a lower jaw protruding beyond the upper jaw.  Its back and sides are brown to yellow, with black-to olive-brown mottling, fading to a dirty white or yellow belly.  Inside the mouth on the upper jaw, it has a large tooth plate with backward extensions on each end.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 81 degrees F, Peak - 85 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 90 degrees F.
     
  Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
The green sunfish has a moderately compressed body but is not as round as other sunfish.  It is bluish green with emerald and yellow iridescent flecks and streaks.  Its mouth is far larger than other sunfish with an upper jaw that extends back to the middle of the eye.  Its pectoral fin is short and rounded, and its ear flap is black with a white to yellow margin.  It frequently has a black spot near the end of its dorsal and anal fins.
     
 

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)
The largemouth bass are usually green with dark blotches that form a horizontal stripe along the middle of the fish on either side.  The underside ranges in color from light green to almost white.  They have a divided dorsal fin with the anterior portion containing 9 spines and the posterior portion containing 12 or 13 soft rays.  Their upper jaw extends past the rear margin of the eye.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 50 degrees F, Peak - 65 to 75 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 85 degrees F.

     
  Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)

A member of the pike family, the muskellunge has an olive-to dark-gray back with a silvery side.  Its side usually have vertical bars and blotches, and its fins have spots or streaks.  The muskellunge has 12 to 18 small pores underneath the jaw, 6 to 8 on each side.  The norther pike, a close relative of the muskellunge only has 10 underneath the jaw.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 55 degrees F, Peak - 63 to 67 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 78 degrees F.

     
  Northern Pike (Esox lucius)
The northern pike is a long and slender fish with a duckbill shaped mouth and lots of needle sharp teeth.  The dorsal fin is soft and located near the tail fin.  In contrast to the muskellunge, the lower half of the opercle (gill cover) does not have scales while the cheek is fully scaled.  Northern pike also have numerous white or yellow-green spots on the sides of the body which are arranged in oblique rows.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 55 degrees F, Peak - 65 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 74 degrees F.
     
  Rainbow Trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss)
The rainbow trout is named for the broad, lateral stripe on its sides, which ranges from pink to red.  Its back is olive-green, and its belly is whitish with heavy black speckling on all fins and the entire body.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 44 degrees F, Peak - 61 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 75 degrees F.
     
 

Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
The redear is a deep-bodied sunfish with a relatively small mouth.  Color ranges from dark olive green above to almost white on the belly.  The sides are usually yellow to green.  The spinous dorsal fin, which is anterior to the soft dorsal fin, is normally equipped with 10 spines, and it is broadly connected to the soft dorsal fin.  The anal fin has 3 spines.  The species’ most distinct characteristic is the red edge on the opercle (ear) flap of the male (orange on the female).

     
  Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris)
A member of the sunfish family, the rock bass has a short, robust body with an olive-green top and gold or brassy-colored sides.  The scales along its sides have a dark spot, often forming a striped-like appearance.  The anal fin has five to seven hard spines, and on adult rock bass, this fin has a dark outline.  There is a dark spot on the ear flap, and the cheeks are scaled.
     
  Sauger (Sander canadensis)
A member of the perch family, very similar to walleye. Its best identifying marks are its spotted spiny dorsal. Its body colors are more of a dusky-brown to yellowish-olive, with large, irregular patches on its side, peppered in between with smaller dark markings and a white underside. Very slim build in comparison to walleye. Has a silvery, reflective eye similar to the walleye's, and a mouth full of canine teeth.
     
 

Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
The smallmouth bass is generally green with dark vertical bands rather than a horizontal band along the side.  There are 13 to 15 soft rays in the dorsal fin, and the upper jaw doesn’t extend beyond the eye.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 60 degrees F, Peak - 65 to 70 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 73 degrees F.

     
  Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
The spotted bass gets it name from the numerous dark spots that cover the lower side of its greenish, slender body, below a dark lateral line.  Often confused with the largemouth bass, spotted bass have a sandpaper-like tooth patch on the tongue that largemouth bass lack and the rear of the jaw does not extend behind the eye as it does in largemouth bass.
     
  Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
The steelhead has two dorsal fins including one adiposee fin, mouth and gums are light, small spots along rays on the entire tail, 10 to 12 rays on the anal fin.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 38 degrees F, Peak - 55 to 60 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 65 degrees F.
     
 

Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)
Belonging to the true bass family, the dorsal fin is clearly separated into spiny and soft-rayed portions.  Striped bass are silvery, shading to olive-green on the back and white on the belly, with seven or eight uninterrupted horizontal stripes on each side of the body.  Younger fish may resemble white bass.  However, striped bass have two distinct tooth patches on the back of the tongue, whereas white bass have one tooth patch.  Striped bass have two sharp points on each gill cover, and white bass have one.  Additionally, the second spine on the anal fin is about half the length of the third spine in striped bass, and about two-thirds the length of the third spine in white bass.

     
 

Walleye (Sander vitreum)
The walleye is equipped with 2 separate dorsal fins.  The anterior fin has spines, and the posterior dorsal has 19 to 22 soft rays.  The anal fin has 12 to 14 rays and two spines.  The body is generally mottled with dark blotches on a yellowish-to-greenish brown background.  Colors on the lower body shade to white on the belly.  The lower lobe of the tail fin has a light tip.  Walleyes are obvious carnivores with teeth in the jaws and on the roof of the mouth.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 50 degrees F, Peak - 64 -70 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 76 degrees F.

     
  Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus)
Similar in appearance to the rock bass and sunfish, the warmouth has a thick, oblong body, which varies from brassy to dark olive-green.  It has broad, irregular dark bars that give it a mottled appearance.  It is easily identified by red eyes and a large mouth, which is similar to a bass.  Its upper jaw extends to or beyond the middle of the eyes.  Three or four conspicuous dark stripes radiate back from the eyes across to the cheek and gill cover.  The soft-rayed portions of the dorsal and anal fins are marked with rows of dark spots.  The anal fin on the warmouth has three spines compared to the rock bass which has six anal spines.
     
 

White Bass (Morone chhrysops)
Belonging to the true bass family, the dorsal fin is clearly double, separated into spiny and soft-rayed portions.  White bass are silvery shading from dark-gray or black on the back to white on the belly.  Several incomplete lines or stripes run horizontally on each side of the body.  Adults resemble young striped bass, and the two are often confused.  However, striped bass have 2 distinct tooth patches on the back of the tongue, and white bass have one tooth patch.  Striped bass have two sharp points on each gill cover, as opposed to white bass which have one, and the second spine on the anal fin is about half the length of the third spine in striped bass, whereas it is about 2/3 the length of the third spine in white fish.

     
  White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis)
The white crappie is deep-bodied and silvery in color, ranging from silvery-white on the belly to a silvery-green or even dark green on the back.  There are several vertical bars on the sides.  The dorsal fin has a maximum of 6 spines.  Males may develop dark coloration in the throat region during the spring spawning season.
     
  Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis)
A deep-bodied fish, it is characterized by a small head with a blunt snout overhanging the lower jaw.  Older fish often develop a fleshy bump at the shoulders, which makes the small head look even smaller.  In general, its coloration is greenish brown over the back, shading to silver on the sides and silvery white below.
     
  Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)
The yellow perch is greenish yellow along the back, with darker-colored bands on its sides.  It has two separate dorsal fins.  The first dorsal fin is spiny, and there is a very sharp edge on the gill covering.  The pelvic and anal fins are amber to bright orange.
Preferred water temperatures: Lower avoidance - 58 degrees F, Peak - 68 degrees F, Upper avoidance - 75 degrees F.
     
     
 
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