Tag Archives: fish

Lake Whitefish – Coregonus clupeaformis

General: Lake Whitefish, Coregonus clupeaformis, commonly called the Great Lakes Whitefish, are freshwater fish found in northern parts of the United States and much of Canada, inhabiting cold, deep lakes, including all of the Great Lakes. This pale, reclusive member of the Salmon/Trout (salmonidae) family is known for its exceptional flavor and tendency to school, resulting in its huge popularity amongst commercial and sport fisherman. The Lake Whitefish is also considered the most economically valuable species native to the Great Lakes, a mainstay of commercial fishers since this area was settled1.

Description: A member of the Salmon/Trout family, Lake Whitefish can be identified by the signature torpedo shape and adipose fin (a small fin located on the back in front of the tail)2. Lake Whitefish also have two dorsal fins, a blunt nose, and a forked tail. This species is deep-bodied with a relatively small head. Older fish sometimes develop a “fleshy bump at the shoulders”3. Features unique to the Lake Whitefish include a sub-terminal mouth (meaning the snout overhangs the lower lip) that is small and delicate compared to trout and salmon4, and larger scales than other members of the salmonidae family. Adults typically reach lengths of 17” to 22”, but may exceed 30” if conditions allow. Typically, adult Lake Whitefish weigh between 1.5 to 5 lbs. but may reach upwards of 15 lbs5. Historically, Lake Whitefish lived approximately 25 years and grew to over 20 lbs. However, due to changing fishing trends, Lake Whitefish now have diminished life expectancies, and therefore, reach smaller sizes6.

Lake Whitefish are greenish-brown in color, shading to silver on the sides and belly. Fins are often clear or nearly clear7.

Habitat: Lake Whitefish are a reclusive species, schooling in deep, gloomy waters of the Great Lakes. Lake Whitefish may live in depths up to 200’ (seeking these depths when summer temperatures climb,) feeding along lake bottoms and often escaping the reach of sport fisherman.

Location: Lake Whitefish are found in deep, cold waters in northern parts of North America, most notably in the Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario, and Erie.) They school in these well-oxygenated waters and are abundant in many areas, despite their steady popularity amongst commercial fishers.

Diet: Lake Whitefish feed near or on lake bottoms and have limited diets due to the petite size of the mouth. These fish feed on insects and larvae, small fish and fish eggs, freshwater shrimp, mollusks, and other small bottom organisms.

Reproduction: Lake Whitefish spawn during early winter in waters less than 25’ deep. These fish may spawn in the fall if water temperatures drop below 50°F8. Females spread their eggs across reefs or in shallow basins on rock, gravel, or sand beds. Thick winter ice protects spawning areas from being disrupted by winds, increasing spawning success9, allowing the eggs to hatch the following spring. Some eggs will be lost due to predatory species including yellow perch, ciscoes, and other whitefish. Young fish may fall prey to predators including lake trout, northern pike, and walleye. The surviving young grow rapidly, and leave the protective waters for deeper areas by early summer10.

Fishing Facts: Lake Whitefish have always been popular amongst commercial fishers, but only recently have they caught on with sport anglers due to their reclusive, deep-water living habits that require special fishing techniques11.
Lake Whitefish have been a staple of the Great Lakes commercial fishing industry since settlement. Over the last four decades, over two million pounds of Lake Whitefish have been commercially harvested annually in Green Bay and northwestern Lake Michigan alone12. Commercial fishers use trapnets and gillnets to troll deep waters for schools of Lake Whitefish while sport anglers have found success using small hooks (appropriate for this species small mouth) baited with fish eggs13.
This species is known for its mild, sweet, light flavor which lends itself to many preparation styles. Fresh, this fish may be refrigerated and used within two to four days, and frozen, this fish is known for its flavor and nutritional retention14.

This flavorful fish is a high-quality, low cost, nutritional powerhouse, packed with:
More Omega 3 fatty acids than both pink and sockeye salmon
Vitamins A, E, B6, B12, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and folate
Minerals, including phosphorus, selenium, potassium, calcium, iron and zinc15

Notes of Interest: The largest recorded Lake Whitefish weighed 42.67 lbs. and was caught from Lake Superior in 191816.

Because of its mild flavor, Lake Whitefish offer an excellent alternative to those who do not like that “fishy flavor” of other species.
The Lake Whitefish is known by several alternative names, including: Sault Whitefish, Gizzard Fish, Attikmaig (Native American,) and Grande Coregone (French)17.

1. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_18958-45680–,00.html
2. http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/species_a_to_z/SpeciesGuideIndex/lakewhitefish/tabid/6670/Default.aspx
3. http://www.greatlakeswhitefish.com/
4. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_18958-45680–,00.html
5. http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/species_a_to_z/SpeciesGuideIndex/lakewhitefish/tabid/6670/Default.aspx
6. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_18958-45680–,00.html
7. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_18958-45680–,00.html
8. http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/species_a_to_z/SpeciesGuideIndex/lakewhitefish/tabid/6670/Default.aspx
9. http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/species_a_to_z/SpeciesGuideIndex/lakewhitefish/tabid/6670/Default.aspx
10. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_18958-45680–,00.html
11. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_18958-45680–,00.html
12. http://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/greatlakesfish/lakewhitefish.html
13. http://www.greatlakeswhitefish.com/
14. http://www.greatlakeswhitefish.com/
15. http://www.greatlakeswhitefish.com/
16. http://www.greatlakeswhitefish.com/
17. http://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/greatlakesfish/lakewhitefish.html


Pumpkinseed sunfish – Lepomis gibbosus



Pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus) are one of three small to medium sized species of true sunfish, along with bluegills and redbreasts. The species common name was earned because of its distinctive body shape. Pumpkinseeds are often recognized for their eagerness to bite at bait and their catchability, making them popular amongst novice fishermen and children (especially when nothing else is biting.) But anglers beware, pumpkinseeds have sharp spines along their fins that can be painful if handled incorrectly. An abundant species, they fulfill an important intermediate role in their ecosystems and are a common site in shallow waters along the edges of ponds, lakes, and slow running streams or rivers. While easy to catch and quite tasty, their petite size prevents pumpkinseeds from being a sport fish.


Pumpkinseeds are small to medium, freshwater fish that reach an average mature length of 4” to 8” (but may reach 10” in length) and a mature weight of .35lb. to .65lb. They have laterally compressed, deep-bodies typical of sunfish, which are likened in shape to pumpkinseeds, earning them their common name. They have small mouths and protective spiny, rayed dorsal, pelvic and anal fins.

Pumpkinseeds are colorful fish. Their bodies are olive, brassy yellow or brown in color and densely mottled with copper, gold, orange, blue-green, or red spots. Irregular, crescent-shaped blue or emerald streaks are present on the cheeks and gill covers. The rear portion of the dark gill cover is marked with a crimson spot contained within a pale crescent-shape. Their bellies range from yellow, to bronze to red1.

Juveniles have vertical banding on their sides and pale spots on their gill flaps (called opercle flaps2.)

Pumpkinseeds are most active during the day, feeding and hiding amongst vegetation in schools. At night they rest below cover along the bottom of shallow, fresh waters. Their home ranges average .5 to 2.75 acres.

On average, wild pumpkinseeds live five to six years but may live as long as eight years. In captivity, these fish have lived as long as twelve years3.


Pumpkinseeds live in cool to warm fresh waters, preferring depths of 3’ to 6’ and a temperature of 70° to 75°F. They tend to school in the shallow waters close to the shores of lakes, ponds and slow moving streams or rivers where ample vegetation provides cover.

Within their native habitats, pumpkinseeds are prey to largemouth bass, pike, perch, pickerel, walleye, freshwater eels, other sunfish, cormorants, herons, mergansers, and humans, to name a few. In addition to hiding in aquatic vegetation for cover, pumpkinseeds are equipped with spiny fins that are used for protection from predators. When threatened, pumpkinseeds spread these spines, making them harder to swallow4.


Pumpkinseeds are found throughout eastern Canada and the United States, with ranges reaching as far north as New Brunswick, as far west as North Dakota and southeast Manitoba and south to South Carolina and Kentucky. Their native range includes the Great Lakes, the Hudson Bay, and upper portions of the Mississippi River. Pumpkinseeds have been introduced in other areas of the United States as well as in South America, Africa and Europe, where they are considered invasive pests5.


: Like other sunfish, pumpkinseeds have a diverse diet including insects, insect larvae, snails, leeches, crustaceans, mollusks, small fish and aquatic vegetation. The majority of their feeding happens in the afternoon, although sunfish are known to feed in varying water levels throughout the day6.


Pumpkinseeds spawn from May through August. During this period, females (of two to five years old) deposit from 4000 to 7000 eggs and males may breed up to once every eleven days. Unlike many species, pumpkinseeds are unique in that males provide parental care to the nests and young during early development while females play no role after spawning.

Male pumpkinseeds build colonies of up to fifteen nesting sites amongst vegetation in shallow, coastal waters. These colonies may contain a variety of species of sunfish, resulting in interbreeding. Males may construct several nest sites that are roughly 12” wide and 2” to 3” deep7. Males habitually fan these sites with their tails in order to remove fine sediment that could smother eggs8. These sites, once established, are aggressively defended by male pumpkinseeds, who charge, chase, bite, and mouth-fight intruding fish. However, when female pumpkinseeds approach from deeper waters to spawn, males will chase them into their nesting sites. During breeding times, males have been observed to change color, which is believed to play a role in breeding. Within the nest, males and females participate in a mating display in which they swim belly-to-belly in a circular motion, until the milt and eggs are released (the eggs released at intervals9.) Females may deposit their eggs in several nests throughout the breeding season and multiple females sometimes spawn with one male at the same time in the same nesting site.

With an optimal temperature of 55° to 82°F, eggs hatch in three to ten days. The young are transparent and have no ocular pigmentation for 48 hours. For the next five days, the young remain in the bottom of the nest, receiving nourishment form their yolks. The adult males guard all their nests and the young for approximately eleven days after they hatch, until the young have dispersed and are free-swimming and capable of feeding on their own (with fully developed mouths and pelvic fins, which are last to develop.) During this time, males continually fan the nests with their tails to keep them oxygenated and clean and have been known to return young to the nest within their mouths if they stray too far. For the first year of life, the young remain near the nesting sites and reach lengths of around 2”.

Pumpkinseeds reach sexual maturity in two years of age.

Notes of Interest: The DEC establishes closed seasons, quantity and size restrictions to protect fish species, particularly during vulnerable life stages, to ensure species survival as well as high quality fisheries for sport fishermen. Popular sport species receive particularly strict regulations, since they often develop slower, and have longer life expectancies. Examples of carefully protected species include small and largemouth bass. Sunfish, on the other hand, are not protected under strict regulations (even though they are a popular catch) as they reproduce rapidly and maintain healthy population numbers11.
Several countries with invasive populations of pumpkinseeds have reported negative ecological impacts due to these small fish. Since this species commonly hybridizes with other sunfish species, their presence often results in rapidly maturing, sterile males that overcrowd waters and stunt the growth of native species.

Pumpkinseeds are often kept as pets in aquariums and are also commonly used as the subjects for scientific studies12.

Pumpkinseeds readily bite at bait and have excellent flavor, but their potential as a game fish is hindered by their diminutive size.

Pumpkinseeds are also called punky, pond perch, sunnies, and sun perch.

1. http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7022.html
2. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lepomis_gibbosus/
3. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lepomis_gibbosus/
4. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lepomis_gibbosus/
5. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lepomis_gibbosus/
6. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lepomis_gibbosus/
7. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lepomis_gibbosus/
8. http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7022.html
9. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lepomis_gibbosus/
10. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lepomis_gibbosus/
11. http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7022.html
12. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lepomis_gibbosus/


Summer Flounder (Fluke) – Information



Summer flounder are also called Fluke.  When summer flounder are large they are known as “doormats”.  The summer flounder is considered to be a “left-handed” flatfish because its mouth and eyes are on the left side of the body when viewed from above. They are excellent tasting fish, one of my favorites. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishermen.

Life span:

Females live to at least 14 years, and males live to 12 years (1)

Flounder have the habit of burying themselves while waiting for unsuspecting bait fish to come by.


Summer flounder usually grow 15” – 30” and average between 3-6 pounds, although there are larger specimens. Females are larger than males. Summer flounder have a flat rounded body.  Its topside is brownish on top with 10 to 14 eye-like spots. This upper side can change from light brown to almost black, allowing the fish to blend in when it is lying on the bottom. The bottom of the fish is white. They have sharp teeth. The dorsal fin of the summer flounder stretches from the head to the tail.

Summer Flounder overlap range with the southern flounder. The southern flounder however lacks the eye-like spots of the summer flounder.


Once the summer flounder metamorphoses, it becomes a bottom-dweller. Adults usually live in deep channels and ridges while young are more common in shallow waters and on sandbars. Usually migrates offshore for winter as water temperatures decrease.


Summer flounder eat shrimp, squid, worms, crustaceans and other fish.


Summer flounder are found in waters from Nova Scotia to Florida. They are most abundant from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Fear, North Carolina – even as far south as Florida.


Summer flounder migration occurs in late Autumn possibly due to decreasing water temperatures and declining photoperiods. They move offshore but stay on the continental shelf. When spring comes along the flounder move back to shore.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Spawns in autumn and mid-winter in coastal ocean waters. After hatching, larvae look like regular fish fry – one eye on each side of the head. Eventually,  the right eye moves to the left side which becomes the upper side of the fish.
Reproduction:, Depending on their size, females can have 460,000 to over 4 million eggs. Summer flounder spawn several times throughout the spawning season. Eggs are buoyant and released in the water column and hatch in waters of the continental shelf. Larvae are transported by prevailing water currents toward coastal areas where they develop into juvenile summer flounder.
From winter through early spring, larvae enter estuaries and coastal lagoons and develop into juveniles that bury in the sediment. Juveniles use estuarine marsh creeks, seagrass beds, mud flats, and open bay areas for habitat. Juveniles are most abundant in areas with a predominantly sandy bottom or sand-shell substrate, or where there is a transition from fine sand to silt and clay. Adults spend most of their life on or near the sea bottom burrowing in the sandy substrate. They can also be found in marsh creeks, sea grass beds, and sand flats.


When I lived on Long Island (NY), we would go out at night into the Great South Bay spotlighting for eels. I was amazed at the numbers of flounder we would encounter in 6’ – 8’ of water, almost always on sandy bottoms. It got to the point where we were able to spot the fish when they were partially buried into the bottom. These flounders were not tiny either – they were good sized fish. Why I say this is so the reader can understand the areas where you can fish. You can make fishing for flounder simple, a pole and bait fished from shore, or more expensive – out on a boat.

There are many ways you can fish for summer flounder. These include drifting, fishing at anchor and using chum, trolling, casting from shore, and angling from piers and banks.

Drifting is an effective method. Basically you let the boat drift with the wind or tidal current. Drifting can be particularly effective diagonally across channels, where summer flounder move along lanes in search of food. Drifting increases your chances by covering the areas where summer flounder are. It also keeps the bait or lure in motion. Summer flounder find moving bait attractive. The optimum drift speed is about 1 mph.

Chumming, or fishing at anchor and using chum, is a popular method for both summer flounder and winter flounders. It also can be done while drifting, provided the drift speed is not too fast; and it is effective when the fish are scattered. Chumming for summer flounder is accomplished in either of two ways.

1. A chum pot, fashioned from netting or other material. I use an old bucket with a lid that I have drilled ¼” holes all around.  I use cracked mussels but cut bait such as bunker or even the guts etc. of fish carcasses / guts can be used. The chum pot is attached to a length of rope and bounced on the bottom at intervals to release the tiny bits of meat and juices to attract fish.

2. Chumming also can be done by dropping a cracked mussels or bits of chopped fish every few minutes. You will need very slow current when doing this. If the current is too strong the chumm will not get to the bottom.

If you cannot drift, anchor in a likely spot and cast out your bait. Retrieve your line to keep the bait in motion. If you’re anchored in a channel where the tide is moving at a fair clip you can let it carry the bait away from the boat (use a round or oval sinker for this), then reel it in along the bottom.

Trolling has an advantage in that it also covers ground and you determine the area covered. Summer flounder-trolling speed is a matter of opinion, but best results are obtained with a speed of about 1-2 miles an hour. Remember you want the bait down on the bottom so a weight is necessary.

Pier, shore, and bank angling can produce summer flounder in channels and deep creeks, at inlets, and in close in shore ocean zones. Channels and inlets can be particularly productive of summer flounder. Occasionally summer flounder will come very close to shore, and at such times surf and jetty fishing with natural baits work well.

The Basic Summer flounder Rig: The basic rig starts with a three-way swivel tied to the line. To the middle of the swivel’s remaining two loops attach a hook on 2-3 feet of monofilament leader. To the lowest loop tie a sinker. A refinement can be added to this rig by attaching one or two shiny spinner blades to the leader not far above the hook. Their motion and glitter provide an extra eye-catching attraction.

Two-Hook Rig: This is essentially the same as the basic rig except that a second hook is added. The first hook is rigged as before. The second hook is tied into the first hook’s leader at about the midpoint or slig

Bait: When drifting or fishing from shore / piers, spearing and squid work well as does small live bait fish. When fishinf from a boat you can also slow drift and jig with bucktails and fluke balls. Remember, your line must be on the bottom!

1. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/summer_flounder.htm

2. http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/fishfacts/summerflounder.asp

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