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ID Tips for Fish Families and Species. Replace Redbelly Dace with Mountain Redbelly Dace on your species list Change spelling of Rosy-sided Dace to Rosyside Dace. Sea lamprey. Least brook lamprey. Family Petromyzontidae. Our only Family in Class Agnatha and Order Petromyzontiformes

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ID Tips for Fish Families and Species

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Replace Redbelly Dace with Mountain Redbelly Dace on your species listChange spelling of Rosy-sided Dace to Rosyside Dace
family petromyzontidae

Sea lamprey

Least brook


Family Petromyzontidae
  • Our only Family in Class Agnatha and Order Petromyzontiformes
  • Jawless, no paired fins, gill slits
  • Eel-like
  • Sea lamprey is larger; many teeth on oral disk
  • Least brook lamprey is smaller; with few teeth on oral disk
  • Similar species: American eel has same general shape but has jaws, operculum, paired fins
order acipenseriformes
Order Acipenseriformes
  • Family Acipenseridae
  • Lake Sturgeon
  • Heterocercal tail
  • Barbels
  • Large scutes on body
  • Ventral mouth
order acipenseriformes5
Order Acipenseriformes
  • Family Polyodontidae
  • Paddlefish
  • Long, paddle-like snout
  • Very few scales
  • Pointed flap at end of operculum
  • No teeth
  • Similar species: Longnose gar is covered with ganoid scales; has many teeth
order lepisosteiformes
Order Lepisosteiformes
  • Family Lepisosteidae
  • Longnose Gar
  • Dorsal, anal fins near tail
  • Beak-like snout with many teeth
  • Ganoid scales
order anguilliformes
Order Anguilliformes
  • Family Anguillidae
  • American Eel
  • Long, snake-like body
  • Dorsal and anal fins connected to tail
  • Similar species: lampreys lack pectoral fins, jaws, operculum
order salmoniformes


Order Salmoniformes


  • Family Salmonidae
    • All have an adipose fin
    • Rainbow Trout
      • Dark spots on light body, extend onto slightly forked tail
    • Brook Trout
      • Blue halos around pink or red spots; light wavy lines or blotches on back and dorsal fin
    • Brown Trout
      • Both black and red spots on body; many spots on operculum
    • Lake Trout
      • Tail deeply forked when compared to other 3 sp.; creamy or yellow spots on head, body, dorsal, and caudal fins



order siluriformes
Order Siluriformes

Channel Catfish

  • Family Ictaluridae
  • Scaleless, barbels, adipose fin, spine on dorsal fin
  • Channel Catfish
    • Deeply forked tail; rounded anal fin; often has dark spots on body
  • Blue Catfish
    • Forked tail; anal fin straight-edged; no dark spots on body

Blue Catfish

order siluriformes10
Order Siluriformes
  • Family Ictaluridae
  • Yellow Bullhead
    • Yellow barbels on chin; tail not forked
  • Flathead Catfish
    • Wide, flat head
    • Projecting lower jaw
    • Tail not forked
    • Whitish tip on upper lobe of caudal fin

Yellow Bullhead

Flathead Catfish

order siluriformes11
Order Siluriformes
  • Family Ictaluridae
  • Madtom adipose and caudal fins are connected (or nearly so)
  • Margined Madtom
    • Dark fin margins
  • Brindled Madtom
    • Generally speckled appearance
    • Top of dorsal fin is dark
    • Dark band extends to edge of adipose fin
  • Stonecat
    • No dark bands or darkened fin margins

Margined Madtom

Brindled Madtom


order esociformes
Order Esociformes

Chain Pickeral

  • Family Esocidae
  • Streamlined bodies; forked tails; duck-like, toothed snouts; dorsal and anal fins far back on body
  • Chain Pickeral
    • Chain-like body markings; fully-scaled cheek and operculum
  • Northern Pike
    • Light, bean-shaped spots; fully-scaled cheek, partly-scaled operculum
  • Muskellunge
    • Dark splotches or bars on light body; partly scaled operculum and cheek
  • Similar species: LN Gar has longer snout, unforked tail

N. Pike


order cypriniformes
Order Cypriniformes
  • Family Cyprinidae
  • Very diverse family
  • Most are small (< 15 cm), but can get larger
    • Largest sp is Colorado Pikeminnow
  • Have only one dorsal fin; abdominal pelvic fins
order cypriniformes14
Order Cypriniformes


C. Stoneroller

  • Family Cyprinidae
  • Central Stoneroller
    • Cartilagenous ridge on lower jaw; often has tubercles
  • Common Carp
    • Large; has two barbels on each side of upper jaw
  • Bluntnose Minnow
    • Blunt snout; dark stripe along body; dark spot at caudal fin base

C. Carp

B. Minnow

C. Stoneroller

order cypriniformes15
Order Cypriniformes


  • Family Cyprinidae
  • Daces usually have small scales
  • Rosyside Dace
    • Large, upturned mouth; dark line on side that is broken or unconnected
  • Mt. Redbelly Dace
    • Stripe breaks below dorsal fin; row of large black spots along back, side
  • Blacknose Dace
    • Black stripe on side extends through eye onto snout; longish snout; black-brown specks on back and side

Mt. Redbelly


order cyprinformes
Order Cyprinformes

Northern Hogsucker

  • Family Catostomidae
  • Thick lips, suctorial mouth
  • Northern Hogsucker
    • Saddles; flattened head
  • White Sucker
    • Nearly round in cross-section; scales increase in size from anterior to posterior

White Sucker

order percopsiformes
Order Percopsiformes
  • Family Percopsidae
  • Trout-perch
    • Head large in proportion to body; adipose fin; black spots along back and side
order atheriniformes
Order Atheriniformes
  • Family Fundulidae
    • Change family name from Cyprinodontidae
  • Banded Killifish
    • Large eyes; flattened head and back; dorsal fin placed far back on body; green-brown bars (10 – 20) along silver side
order perciformes
Order Perciformes
  • Family Percichthyidae (or Moronidae)
  • Striped Bass
    • Continuous dark stripes on silver-white side
    • Similar species: superficially similar to other “basses” in Centrarchidae, but stripes make it easily distinguishable
order perciformes20
Order Perciformes
  • Family Centrarchidae
    • Two dorsal fins; often broadly joined
    • First dorsal fin spiny; 2nd soft
    • Pelvic fins far forward
    • Body usually laterally compressed


Bl. Crappie

L.M. Bass

order perciformes21
Order Perciformes
  • Family Centrarchidae
  • Note position of upper jaw in relation to eye
  • Largemouth Bass
    • 1st and 2nd dorsals almost unconnected
  • Smallmouth Bass
    • Often has vertical bars
    • Usually no black lateral band
  • Spotted Bass
    • Rows of black spots on lower side
    • 1st and 2nd dorsals more broadly connected than largemouth




order perciformes family centrarchidae


Order Perciformes; Family Centrarchidae

Note operculum shape and markings,

Degree of compression,

Fin markings,

Dorsal fin attachment,

Size of mouth






order perciformes25
Order Perciformes
  • Family Percidae
  • Johnny Darter
    • Xs and/or Ws on side; blunt snout; black eye stripe extends to lip
  • Fantail Darter
    • Dark striping on side; tesselated tail
  • Logperch
    • Long snout; alternating long and short vertical bars on sides; dusky teardrop




order perciformes26
Order Perciformes
  • Family Percidae
  • May be more similar in color than plates indicate
  • Sauger
    • Half-moons on dorsal fin
  • Walleye
    • Dark spot on posterior of first dorsal fin
order scorpaeniformes
Order Scorpaeniformes
  • Family Cottidae
  • Members of this family have large mouth, large fan-like pectoral fins, and few or no scales
  • Mottled Sculpin
    • Pectoral fins distinguish this species from others on list
    • Note dark mottling on a lighter body