Can You Identify These Canadian Freshwater Fish From an Image?


By: Ashley Linkletter

7 Min Quiz

Image: Eric Engbretson via WikiCommons

About This Quiz

Canada has 31,752 lakes, each with an area of over three square kilometres; 561 of those lakes are over 100 square kilometres in size (including the Great Lakes, the largest group of freshwater bodies by area on Earth.) With those numbers in mind, did you know there are more than 180 species of freshwater fish native to Canada? And those numbers don't include the many fish considered invasive or newly introduced to bodies of fresh water. When it comes to variety, Canada takes home top honours for its catalogue of freshwater fish.

From sturgeons to minnows and Arctic char to rainbow trout, some freshwater fish are instantly recognizable by their colourful markings. Others are classified by the direction in which their eyes are pointing. You may have encountered some of these species on the end of your fishing line, at the aquarium, or snorkeling in Georgian Bay. Some of these fish may even be a part of your favourite meal! Learning about Canada's freshwater fish population is not only enjoyable, but it will also give you a better understanding of our country's fragile aquatic ecosystem. 

Grab your fishing pole or a guide to Canada's freshwater fish. You may find you need some help with some of the rarer species on the list (but maybe not if you're a whiz when it comes to freshwater fish!) 

This ROYGBIV-friendly trout can be found in streams and rivers all over Canada. What is it called?

Rainbow trout don't actually have a rainbow pattern. They're covered with silver scales marked by a stripe of pink or red. In the same family as salmon and Arctic char — which explains their similar taste — rainbow trout can weigh up to 2-3 kilograms (although they tend to be on the small side when they've lived in streams versus lakes.)


Also known as a pickerel, what is the other name for this common freshwater fish?

If you guessed a walleye, you'd be correct! Walleyes get their descriptive name because their eyes appear to be pointing forwards (get it? Like they're looking at a wall!) In addition to their unique placement, walleye eyes are coated with a reflective layer that allows them to see in the dark.


A carnivorous fish known for its imposing size, this fish is found in the northern hemisphere. What is its name?

True to their name, northern pike can be found across Canada as well as in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Long and powerful, northern pike (or pike as they're less formally known in the rest of the world) can weight up to 65 pounds.


Teeny tiny and covered with white dots, what are these big-eyed fish called?

Black crappie fish are very small (the biggest one on record comes in at only 5 pounds!) and are deep black with tiny white dots. Despite their minuscule bodies, black crappie fish have gargantuan eyes in relation to the rest of their size.


Can you identify the fish pictured above? Hint: It's not a pike!

Although the silver redhorse resembles a pike at first glance, it's a much smaller fish — a silver redhorse weighs a mere 1-3 kilograms. If you're looking to catch a silver redhorse, you'll need to make the trip to Alberta or Quebec. They're also sometimes found in the St. Lawrence River.


This bright little fish has one of the cutest names around! Do you know what it's called?

A pumpkinseed fish may be able to fit in the palm of your hand, but its bright colours make them easy to spy! Yellow, green, orange and blue are all common colourings for pumpkinseed fish. You may also know pumpkinseed fish by their other names: pond perch, punkie, sunfish, kivver and sunnies.


The female of this species of fish lacks a black eyespot on the tail (while the males are marked with this tell-tale spot.) What is the name of this fish?

When you're fishing in Canada, you'll need to head to southern Ontario or Quebec to find bowfin (although they can be found in warm freshwater lakes and rivers all over the world). Female bowfins are bigger than their male counterparts and can reach up to 10-12 kilograms.


Do you know the name of this large-mouthed fish?

Largemouth bass are one of the most common freshwater fish in lakes and rivers across Canada. With their giant mouths and greenish grey colouring, largemouth bass can grow to be over 60 centimetres long and can weigh up to 9 kilograms.


Meow! Which type of fish is the most plentiful of its kind across North America?

Known for their distinctive whiskers, channel catfish prefer the warmer waters of southern Canada and are right at home in brooks, rivers and lakes. Channel catfish continue to grow as they age, although fish caught in Canada tend to be smaller and weigh in at 1-5 kilograms or less (with 2-3 kilograms being the most common weight.)


This fish isn't yellow like the sun; it's green! Which fish meets this description?

Equally as popular with aquarium hobbyists as they are for those with an interest in fishing, green sunfish are small fish that appreciate rocky riverbeds and muddy waters. These environments are perfect for hiding from nearby hunters — a necessity when you weigh less than a kilo!


Now that's a big fish! Can you name the legendary fish shown in the photo?

Muskies love to swim in the deep waters of the Great Lakes (smaller lakes are the second favourite of these impressive fish.) Muskies prefer chillier temperatures, the colder and deeper the better. Most muskies weigh in at around 5 to 12 kilograms, but 35+ kilogram muskies have made the rare appearance in cold waters around the world.


Found in lakes all over Canada, which fish has a name stemming from its home?

Also called lake char, lake trout are found all over Canada, in all kinds of freshwater bodies — not just lakes. The only places lacking in lake trout are James Bay and the Hudson Bay Lowlands; everywhere else is fair game for trout fishing.


What type of fish was introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1870s?

Chinook salmon were initially introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1870s but experienced a steep decline in numbers until the late 1960s, when the province of Ontario and the states of Michigan and Wisconsin banded together to protect the species. The effort was successful and chinook salmon have upheld healthy numbers ever since the co-effort between countries.


Which member of the salmon family is known for its short mouth?

The shortjaw cisco loves the deep waters of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron (particularly when the water is deeper than 50 metres). Shortjaw cisco are on the smaller side — adult fish only grow to be about 30 centimetres — and have silver and green scales.


This little fish (with a rather mean-spirited name) is easily found in bodies of freshwater all over Canada. What is this fish called?

Maybe it's the name, but fathead minnows are a favourite snack for larger fish such as walleye, yellow perch and pike (to name just a few). What do fathead minnows like to eat? These resourceful fish root through the dirt to find insects, tiny crustaceans, zooplankton and algae.


Sometimes called a humpback fish because it has a tiny head and a large body, this fish is also called what?

Lake whitefish are easily identified by their forked tail and adipose fin (a type of fin that only a few species of fish have). You can find lake whitefish in many inland lakes across Canada where they are fished commercially and for sport.


Can you name this uniquely speckled freshwater fish?

Brook trout can be found in the Maritimes, with Newfoundland and Labrador being a favourite spot for brook trout angling. Their bellies are marked with red dots surrounded by blue circles and when spawning season hits, the bellies of male brook trout turn bright red or orange.


Which member of the minnow family has a chubby name?

These little fish love the cold waters of Canada. They're the only minnows that have been found so far north! Lake chubs love to eat algae, zooplankton, phytoplankton and insect larvae — the bigger fish (those that are 10 centimetres or larger, like to eat other small fish).


Despite its name, this fish doesn't have a black eye. What is its name?

Members of the minnow family, redside shiners are native to the province of British Columbia and eastward to the Rocky Mountains where they can be found in ditches, rivers, ponds and lakes. Due to their size, redside shiners are regularly eaten by other fish and birds.


Do you know the name of the extra-tiny fish in the picture?

If you guessed the eastern sand darter, you know your freshwater fish! In Canada. The eastern sand darter calls the southern parts of Lakes Erie, Michigan, Ontario and Huron home. They enjoy eating zooplankton and black fly larvae but only in small amounts. Their tiny mouths won't allow for any greedy eating habits!


These fish aren't as vicious as their name suggests. What are they called?

Known for their bright orange gill plates (the place where you grab and hold onto bigger fish after catching them), the westslope cutthroat trout can be found in southeastern British Columbia. In Montana, the westslope cutthroat trout holds a special place as the official state fish!


What is the name of this lemon-hued fish?

The yellow perch is unique to North America and is smaller than other members in its family. Bright yellow with dark stripes, yellow perch are a common sight when fishing in the Great Lakes. In British Columbia — particularly on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands — yellow perch are considered an invasive species.


Depending on where it lives, this fish can grow to be very small or very large. Do you know its name?

Common carp are an invasive species in Canada, although they've been swimming in Canadian waters for over a century (other types of invasive carp have been in the country for a much shorter amount of time). The largest common carp caught in Manitoba was a record-breaking 107 centimetres!


What is this super-small type of salmon called?

Kokanee fish are a subspecies of sockeye salmon that have been landlocked. Kokanee are modest in size when compared to ocean-dwelling salmon because they have evolved to eat smaller and smaller prey over a long period of time.


The freshwater fish pictured above is not just a sucker. What is it?

The largescale sucker gets its name from, you guessed it, the position of its mouth. Largescale suckers have a mouth on the bottom of the front of their body, which they use to eat tiny plant life. Speaking of eating, largescale suckers are a favourite source of food for bigger fish, otters and eagles!


You can find this freshwater fish in the Arctic, but do you know its name?

You won't find any other freshwater fish further north than Arctic char! In the same family as salmon and trout, Arctic char is especially prevalent in Nunuvat, where it is considered a major component of the Inuit diet.


The fish above is nobody's wife — even if its name implies otherwise! What is the name?

Another Great Lakes invasive species, the alewife got into Canada's freshwater supply via the Welland Canal, which allowed them to circumvent Niagara Falls. The alewife fish was able to thrive in the Great Lakes because lamprey, another invasive species, decimated predator fish who would otherwise prey on alefish.


Not a Canadian, this eel is named after which country?

Although the American eel inhabits freshwater rivers in the United States, it can also be found in the St. Lawrence River. Freshwater American eels live by estuaries, so the females can make the long trip to the Sargasso Sea to lay their eggs (the baby eels then swim back to freshwater rivers where they reach full maturity).


Also called a mud cat or a mud pout, what is the actual name of this muddy fish?

With its tell-tale whiskers and lack of scales, the brown bullhead can be found in the province of Saskatchewan and all the way to the Maritime provinces. According to the stories of the Ojibwe people, the brown bullhead is one of six figures that came from the sea to form their clan.


Can you name the pickerel seen in the picture above?

Over the course of a chain pickerel's life, it will grow into a ferocious freshwater hunter. Beginning with an appetite for smaller fish, the chain pickerel will eventually begin hunting frogs, worms, crayfish and even mice. They can also be seen jumping out of the water to capture low-flying insects!


This fish can be a bit of a pest (despite having an inclusive and colourful name). What is it?

Rainbow smelt are an invasive species in the Great Lakes and although small in size, they'll eat as many fish as they can find. When small fish aren't available, rainbow smelt snack on zooplankton and other super-tiny sources of food.


What is the name of the striped fish pictured here?

With their striking pattern, striped bass can be found in freshwater rivers near estuaries (the St. Lawrence River, in particular). An impressive 50 to 90 centimetres in length and up to 10 kilograms in weight, striped bass can live up to 30 years!


As its name suggests, this fish is a precious commodity. What kind of fish is it?

Golden trout were originally brought into Canada from California in the 1960s thanks to an international agreement between the two countries. They can only be found in bodies of freshwater located in the province of Alberta and are considered a self-sustaining species.


The name of this fish sounds more like a puppy or a wolf cub. What is its name?

Arctic grayling are found in Alberta and Hudson Bay, close to the Arctic Ocean. Because of their relatively small population, Arctic graylings have been introduced to the protected lake areas in the Canadian Rockies (as well as in Wyoming and Utah).


Brrr! Can you name this cold water-loving fish?

Also called a lingcod, the burbot is the only fish similar to a cod that lives in freshwater. Burbot love cold waters, the colder the better! In fact, burbot fish prefer to live under sheets of ice for a substantial part of the year (and can only mate when water temperatures are extremely low).


Often mistaken for a walleye, what is this fish called?

You can find sauger fish in Central and Southern Canada where they inhabit freshwater rivers. While sauger are often mistaken for walleye fish, the two types of fish share one common feature. They're both members of the largest vertebrae order of fish!


This silver fish has a golden name. What is it?

True to form, goldeye fish have golden eyes (and blue-green silver scales on the rest of their bodies). Goldeye fish are tiny and weigh less than a kilogram, but they'll still go after larger prey, such as crustaceans, frogs and other fish.


Can you name the tiny but super-aggressive fish in the picture?

At only 25 centimetres (Tops! They usually only reach half this length), the ruffe is aggressive in its hunting habits as well being a very problematic invasive species in the Great Lakes. Despite being native to Europe and parts of Asia, marine biologists believe the ruffe's eating habits haven't changed despite the change in environment.


What is the largest game fish in Alberta called?

Looking to catch some lake sturgeon? You'll have to travel to Saskatchewan — specifically, the Red Deer, North and South Saskatchewan river systems. Catch and release laws are in effect for lake sturgeon (and considering they've been known to live for 100 years, the average sturgeon may experience this several times throughout its long life.)


What is the name of this fish hailing from the north?

Now considered an endangered species, the northern madtom is a very small catfish (only 13 centimetres!) that can be found in Ontario. These elusive fish prefer to live in freshwater systems — such as creeks and rivers — where they live on even smaller fish, insects and crustaceans.


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