Most commonly, Bass refers to a Largemouth Bass (Micropterussalmoides) or Smallmouth Bass (Micropterusdolomieu). Being part of the “Black Bass” family, both species are closely related to the sunfish. Largemouth are commonly found in all waterbodies and while not rare, Smallmouth are harder to find and generally do better in larger/deeper lakes and ponds. Bass provide a good filet and tend to be kept during the ice fishing season more so than in the warmer months. However, they are the most popular sportfish. They provide a great fight, grow to a large size and can be caught in a variety of different ways. Both Largemouth and Smallmouth bass are at the top of the aquatic food chain. When it comes to spawning habitat, Largemouth prefer more vegetated areas while Smallmouth prefer gravel and rocky substrates. Largemouth Bass can be identified by a horizontal stripe and a jaw that extends past the eye. Smallmouth Bass can be identified by a series of vertical strips and a jaw that only extends to about the halfway mark of the eye.
A trophy Largemouth fishery needs to be managed through a lake specific length/creel limit as well as for adequate forage (mainly Bluegill/other sunfish). The Largemouth has been recorded at over 22lbs and 29”, however 12-14lbs and 22” + would be an exceptional fish for our area with many 5+ pounders being kept to be mounted. Smallmouth can reach 27” and more than 11-12 pounds, however a 20-22” 8+ pound smallmouth would be an extraordinary fish in our area.
Black Crappie (Pomoxisnigromaculatus) is sometimes considered one of the Sunfish, but prefers a slightly different habitat and can grow a little larger. It is a popular sportfish and provides an excellent filet, larger than the other Sunfish. They have a wider gape (bigger mouth) which means they tend to compete with larger sportfish, like Bass, for food. Crappie can breed heavily and more easily reach a size where they cannot be eaten by Bass, which tends to cause an overpopulation/stunting effect in smaller ponds. Crappie can reach a maximum of 19” and 5-6lbs, although a 15” specimen would be a great catch in our area. They are the most sought after of the pan fish due to their size and filet quality. They can be identified by their upward curved snout and 7-8 dorsal (top of the body) spines.
Chain Pickerel (Esoxniger) are found in bigger ponds and most lakes. While not usually targeted by sport fishermen, they are commonly caught and provide a good fight. Some anglers do eat Pickerel but they have lots of tiny bones which deters most people. Closely related to the Pike, Pickerel don’t reach the same size, generally being caught in the 16-26” range. They have markings like a chain-link-marking, giving this fish their name.
They have sharp teeth, which only are a concern when trying to retrieve a hook stuck deep in the throat/stomach. Most freshwater fishing hooks are not stainless steel and will break down in the stomach causing less damage then trying to remove a badly hooked fish deep in the throat. Some anglers don’t like Pickerel because they directly compete with all the other sportfish, but it should be noted that the Chain Pickerel is the only original native top predator fish in Connecticut. When handling fish in the Esocidae family like pick and pickerel, they should always be held horizontally and never vertically.
Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) are found in many state stocked locations as well as naturally sustained populations in the Connecticut River. They are considered a specialty sportfish that generally will do well in all but the smallest ponds. Channel Cats are highly tolerant of different water parameters and can adapt to changing conditions better than most species. They provide an excellent fight and they produce a great tasting filet as well. Channel Cats can grow to over 50lbs, but even a 10-15lbs fish would be a quality catch in our area. They often can be a great secondary sportfish in a well-balanced ecosystem. Channel Cats (and other Catfish species) can be distinguished from the Bullhead species by their deeply forked tail and their maximum size being much larger.
The term forage fish broadly covers many species that are eaten by larger fish. They can include Minnows, Darters, Suckers, Fallfish, Killifish and Shiners. While a good portion of a fishes diet can include these types of fish, the young of all the other species in a waterbody can contribute even more to a large predatory fish. Generally, stocked forage fish are eaten quickly unless adequate spawning habitat is available and they survive long enough to utilize it. A robust spawning population of forage is a huge benefit and should be considered in any pond or lake, especially if being managed for a high-quality fishery.
Hybrid Striped Bass are a cross between two species, Striped Bass (Moronesaxatilis) and White Bass (Moronechrysops). They are generally only found in locations in which they are stocked. They are an excellent tasting fish that grows large and fights hard. They are considered a specialty sportfish and can do well in all but the smallest of ponds. While baring the name “Bass” it is not directly related to the familiar “black basses”, Small/Largemouth Bass. This hybrid of the Morone genus is considered a temperate bass, and grows bigger than either of the black basses. The Hybrid Striper is considered much better table fare, often being sold in restaurants, and is much harder to find. There are very few quality Hybrid Striper fisheries in our area and would be sure to set a lake apart.
Hybrid Stripers tend to feed on similar diets as the Largemouth and can be caught with many of the same techniques. However, they are sterile, so a continued stocking effort must be in place in order to maintain a quality fishery. Hybrid Stripers have the same general body shape as a largemouth, but are distinguished by their white coloration with horizontal black bars.
Northern Pike (Esox Lucius) are found in very few locations. They can grow extremely large and offer an exceptional fight. They are considered a specialty sportfish and generally require a bigger lake or pond to provide an exceptional fishery.
Smaller pike can easily be misidentified as Pickerel (and vice versa). Pike are most easily discerned from Pickerel by their coloration. Pike are characterized by a dark background with lighter spots, while Pickerel have a light-colored background and a darker chain pattern. Pike can grow as large as 50+” and 55+lbs, but in our area, a 3’+, 20+ pounder would be an excellent catch. They can be eaten, but (like the Pickerel) have many small bones that deter most anglers. Considered more of a “trophy” fish, anglers tend to return caught fish to “let them grow”. As with chain pickerel and other fish in the Esocidae family, Northern Pike should mainly be handled in a horizontal position and not a vertical position. Holding them in a vertical orientation can harm the fish.
Pike can be voracious predators and, as with many top predators, can drastically alter the community structure of an ecosystem. The pros and cons must be considered and accounted for in your management plan. Pike are a highly sought-after fish for anglers and can draw fishermen from other areas of the state, or from nearby states, if a trophy fishery is produced.
A closely related fish called the Muskie (Esoxmasquinongy) is very similar and can grow even bigger than the Pike. These two fish can hybridize and produce the Tiger Muskie, a fast growing, highly sought-after fish. We can help you determine which of these species would do best in a lake and fit with a particular management plan.
The name Perch can refer to multiple species. The two most common are the Yellow Perch (Percaflavescens) and the White Perch (Moroneamericana). These are not usually found in a small backyard pond, but are common in bigger ponds and lakes. These are also considered to be a good eating pan fish and typically will provide a larger filet than the sunfish.
The White Perch, actually more closely related to the bass family, can reach a length of up to 19” but more commonly 12-15”. White Perch can be identified by its two dorsal fins, lower and upper jaws of the same length, and its gray to white color. Yellow Perch in particular make a great pairing with Walleye especially where natural reproduction of Walleye is found, due to the timing of egg hatch. Yellow perch can reach upwards of 17”, but 12-14” is more common. Yellow Perch can quickly be identified by their multiple dark vertical bands going across their body and orange pelvic and anal fins. They have two separate dorsal fins, and have a sharp point on their gill cover (operculum).
Sunfish is a general term used to refer to several different species. These usually include Bluegill (Lepomismacrochirus), Pumpkinseed (Lepomisgibbosus), Red Breast (Lepomisauritus) and Green Sunfish (Lepomiscyanellus). The odds are that every lake or pond will contain at least one of these species, if not more. Not only do they provide a base of forage for other fish, they also are considered a good eating pan fish.
Bluegill in particular, make a great pairing with Largemouth Bass ecologically. This is because Bluegill spawn several times throughout the summer providing an excellent forage base for Bass, and the Bass keep the numbers of Bluegill down which aids in discouraging stunting. The Bluegill also has a smaller mouth than some of the other Sunfish which reduces their competition with the Bass for food. Bluegill can reach a length of 10-12” given the right conditions. They can be identified by their blue gill cover (operculum), blue to black vertical bands, and pectoral fins that reach beyond the eye when pulled forward. Pumpkinseeds can be identified by a bright vibrant orange dot on their gill cover (operculum). Red Breast sunfish can be identified by its long blue gill cover (operculum), pectoral fins that do not reach beyond the eye when pulled forward, and a bright orange breast. The green sunfish is invasive to the northeast and can outcompete our native sunfishes due its aggressiveness. They can be identified by their much larger mouth than other sunfish in our area, a pectoral fin that does not reach beyond the eye when bent forward, and their overall green color often with bright green bans near their mouth.
In our area, the name Trout includes several species; Brown Trout (Salmo trutta), Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Brook Trout (Salvelinusfontinalis), Tiger Trout (Salmo trutta x Salvelinusfontinalis), and Lake Trout (Salvelinusnamaycush).Trout require cooler water to survive warm summer temperatures. This makes them a good candidate for waterbodies that are fed by a spring, a cool brook, or have an area of deep water. All trout are prized for their meat and fight well. They are commonly stocked for a specific event such as opening day or a winter/spring fishing tournament, especially because they can easily be caught by kids from shore. Brown Trout have dark spots on a light background with no spots on their tail fin and have red or orange spots on their sides. Rainbow Trout have many dark spots on a light background with spots on their tail fin and have variable color. They are most often brown on top, pink in the middle and silver on their belly. Brook Trout have light spots on a dark background, wormlike markings along their body, red spots encircled in blue rings on their sides, and pectoral, pelvic and anal fins that have a white stripe followed by black and then orange. Tiger Trout are a hybrid species of Brown Trout and Brook Trout. They have a mixed pattern of light and dark markings that resemble the wormlike markings on Brook Trout. They are sterile fish and are highly sought after by anglers due to their beauty and aggressive nature. Lake Trout have light spots on a dark background, no stripes on their lower fins (pectoral, pelvic, and anal), and have a forked tail fin unlike the other trout species mentioned.
When stocked in a waterbody that can hold over (allow survival from one year to the next) trout, they can grow to trophy sizes. Maximum sizes can vary wildly between these species (14-60lbs) and their preferred water parameters vary as well. To determine which specie(s) would best be suited to your lake management plan, you should give us a call and speak with one of our biologists.
Walleye (Sander vitreus) are only found in several state stocked locations in Connecticut, and some larger fisheries are found in parts of New York/New Jersey. Walleye can grow extremely large and provide a great fight. They are also considered to be one of the best tasting freshwater fish and can provide large filets. Walleye present several identifying characteristics, but most notably their namesake large reflective eye. They also have a dark spot at the back end of their first dorsal fin, a forked tail fin, and large canine teeth. They are considered a specialty sportfish and generally require a bigger or deeper waterbody than other fish. Walleye pair well ecologically with Yellow Perch, but they will feed on most any other fish found at a high density within the lake.
Walleye can grow to 40” + and well over 25lbs, but instead of being “returned to grow” after being caught, most legal sized walleye is kept due to their table quality. This means that most Walleye are caught well before they even reach half of that size. Management strategies could focus on lots of walleye to be harvested by anglers for food, or could encourage growth from a more trophy-oriented fishery depending on specific management objectives for your lake. They have also been used for biomanipulation management techniques. If you are interested in Walleye, please give us a call and speak with one of our biologists.