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FISH OF SASKATCHEWAN

Saskatchewan is home to 67 different species of fish. While that may seem like alot, only one-third of these fish are sport fish. Some are extreamly tiny and some, like the Lake Sturgeon, can weigh over 250 pounds! Lets learn more about the fish in Saskatchewan!


QUICK FACTS

  • All Fish have a backbone
  • All fish are cold blooded
  • Fish have been around for over 500 million years
  • There are over 25000 species of fish in the world
  • The slime on a fish protects it from parasites & helps it move through water
  • Some fish, such as walleye, see very well in low light
  • All fish sleep
  • Fish do not drink. They get their water by absorbing it through their skin
  • Someone who studies fish is called an ichthyologist


    PARTS OF A FISH

    Fish are very interesting creatures. The diagram below shows all the different parts of a fish.


    Parts of a Fish

    A FEW SPECIES THAT ARE FOUND IN SASKATCHEWAN

    The following are fish species you may come accross while fishing right here in Saskatchewan:


    Walleye

    A Walleye

    The walleye, the most popular member of the perch family, gets its name from the large eye with its light reflecting retina which gives the fish its walleyed appearance. This fish is probably the most economically valuable species in Canada's inland waters and is probably the most sought after species of fish in Saskatchewan. Some of the largest walleye in Saskatchewan are found in Tobin Lake and along the North Saskatchewan River. Walleye have a dark green back, golden yellow sides and a white belly. The lower tip of the caudal fin is white, and there is a large black blotch at the rear base of the first dorsal fin. The scales are rough, and the dorsal fin has sharp barbs on it.




    Yellow Perch

    A Yellow Perch

    The yellow perch is a favourite sport fish of all anglers. This small fish is widely distributed in Saskatchewan in lakes and small dugouts. The yellow perch is dusky olive green over the back, and its sides to below the pectoral fins are yellow or yellow-green marked with six to eight broad, dusky, vertical bars. Its belly is white. Like other members of the perch family, such as the walleye and sauger, it has two well separated dorsal fins, the first spiny-rayed and the second softrayed. Perhaps the easiest of all fish to catch, it is taken in all seasons of the year. It responds to any type of natural bait and will also attack artificial lures. Perch usually move in large, loose schools which, when encountered, provide the angler with fast and furious activity. An excellent pan fish, the flesh of the yellow perch is firm, white, and sweet-tasting.




    Northern Pike

    A Northern Pike

    The northern pike, sometimes called the jack, jackfish, snake, or water wolf, is a very popular sportfish in Saskatchewan. As a game fish, its reputation varies with locality. Being a strong, persistent fighter, it annually attracts many anglers in some areas. The northern pike is the wolf of the fresh waters. Lurking on the edge of a weed bed, it attacks creatures unwary enough to enter its domain. It has an huge appetite for fish, young waterfowl and frogs. This species has a long, slender, powerful body and a long, broad, flattened snout. Its dorsal and anal fins are placed far back on its body, near the tail. The roof and jaws of its large mouth exhibit broad bands of sharp, pointed teeth. This fish is found in the majority of fresh water in the province.




    Burbot

    A Burbot

    The burbot is perhaps one of Saskatchewan's most over looked species. It has thick, white, meaty flesh that makes excellent table fare. This makes sence, as the burbot is actually a fresh-water member of the cod family. While it may taste good, it's looks are certainably questionable. Some consider it down-right ugly. It has a wide, flat head with a long fins running down its body, making it look more like an eel than a fish. Burbot have a tan or brown colour to them, with dark blotches. This makes them have a camouflaged appearance. They have a single whisker-like barbel beneath the tip of their chin and have small, thin scales that many anglers mistake for skin. Burbot are found throughout Saskatchewan in large, cool rivers and more commonly in deep-water lakes. An interesting fact about the burbot is that it is the only Saskatchewan fish species that spawns in midwinter, beneath the ice.




    Rainbow Trout

    A Rainbow Trout

    This species of fish does not occur naturally in Saskatchewan. If you find Rainbow Trout in a lake or stream it was probably stocked there through the provincial stocking system of through a private fish farm. It is a highly sought after fish especially by fly fishermen. The rainbow has an elongated body, with an iridescent, reddish band running along each side from head to tail. Both the colour and size of this fish vary with the environment. The rainbow trout is well adapted to both streams and lakes. While it prefers cold, clear, swift-flowing water, it can tolerate warm water. Prairie farmers, especially in Manitoba, now make use of many small, glacier-formed pothole lakes as rainbow-trout-rearing ponds




    Lake Trout

    A Lake Trout

    Lake Trout are one of the largest of the freshwater fish found in Saskatchewan. It is endowed with a flesh of superb eating quality hence is eagerly sought by commercial, sport, and subsistence fishermen. This species of fish is normally found in the northern waters which are much colder and deeper than southern Saskatchewan waters. The lake trout has the same moderately elongated shape shared by other trout and salmon. The head and fins of the Lake Trout are covered with light coloured spots on a darker background. Anglers catch them in surface waters very early in the spring by fly or spin fishing. As the surface waters warm up, these fish retire to deep water making necessary the use of special, deep-water tackle. The flesh of the lake trout varies in colour from pale ivory to deep pink and has an especially delicate, delicious flavour.



    Brown Trout

    A Brown Trout

    The brown trout is another fish that is not native to the province. Brown trout are similar in shape and appearance to other trout, except for their pronounced black spots on their back and red or orange spots with pale borders on their flanks. To positively identify a brown trout, you can also look for their non-spotted, square caudal fin. When they are young, brown trout eat a diet mainly of insects and other small aquatic invertebrates. As they grow, the adult brown trout’s diet expands to include larger prey items such as crayfish and fish, in addition to consuming large amounts of both larval and mature insects. Managed in Saskatchewan primarily through stocking, brown trout can successfully survive in both streams and lakes.




    Brook Trout

    A Brook Trout

    Brook trout are managed in Saskatchewan through stocking programs, as they are an introduced species in the province. The english interpretation of the brook trout's scientific name translates to "little salmon living in a spring". These fish require clean, cool, well-oxygenated ponds, streams, rivers, or lakes. An interesting fact about the brook trout is that it is not a trout at all. It actually belongs to the char family. They can be identified by their white leading edge on lower fins and red body spots surrounded by blue halos. They are olive-green to dark brown on their back, lighter on sides and silvery white on the underside . Their colour can be especially bright during the fall spawn, when the underside of the males becomes orange or red.




    Largemouth Bass

    A Largemouth Bass

    One of the most sought after fish in certain parts of the United States, the largemouth bass is only found in one Saskatchewan water, Boundary Reservoir, which is located in the far south-east corner of the province. The largemouth bass is a relatively large fish. They possess two, joined dorsal fins the first being spiny-rayed and the second, soft-rayed. These joined fins tells us that the largemouth bass is a member of the sunfish family. The head and back of this species is typically bright green to olive in colour, with a white underside. A dark lateral band is present extending from behind the gill cover to the caudal fin but often becomes broken or not as visible in adults. Largemouth will often feed in schools in well-vegetated areas. They feed on other fish, insects, crayfish and frogs.




    Smallmouth Bass

    A Smallmouth Bass

    Smallmouth bass are another member of the sunfish family that can befound in Saskatchewan. Smallmouth bass are currently managed in a limited number of small, landlocked lakes across the south and east-central areas of the province. The smallmouth bass is a moderately large, golden-brown to olive-green coloured fish, with a white belly. It differs from the largemouth in that it has 8 to 15 vertical bars along the flank. One of the easiest ways to tell a largemouth bass from a smallmouth bass is by the size of their mouths. The mouth of a small mouth bass is considerably smaller. This can be easily seen in the field by looking at the fishes maxillary (corner of the mouth). In smallmouth bass, their mouth ends at the center of their eye, while in largemouth bass, their mouth extends right past their eye, hence the name largemouth and smallmouth.




    Rock Bass

    A Rock Bass

    The third member of the sunfish family in Saskatchewan is the rock bass. The rock bass is the only species of sunfish native to Saskatchewan. Rock bass are presently found only in the Assiniboine and Qu’Appelle Rivers in the province. Rock bass are small, slim, deep-bodied fish that weigh up to half a pound. While rock bass have similar colouration, olive green to deep gold, and the same attached dorsal fins like the two bass species above, rock bass have a very distinct feature, other than their small size. Their large eyes are orange to bright red in colour and are sometimes even referred to as "red-eye", "redeye bass" or "goggle-eye", instead of a rock bass. Rock bass can be found in rocky areas schooling around in warmer reaches of the two river systems they are found in. They feed in shallow water on aquatic insects, minnows, yellow perch and crayfish.




    Lake Sturgeon

    A Lake Sturgeon

    The lake sturgeon is the grand-daddy of all fish in Saskatchewan. Lake sturgeon have been around for some 200 million years, making it the oldest living creature on earth. In Saskatchewan, sturgeon range in size from 10 to 80 pounds, but have attained sizes of 270 pounds! Undoubtedly the largest fish in the province, fossil evidence shows sturgeon look much like they did 100-million years ago, during the age of the dinosaurs. Sturgeon are covered with 5 rows of bony plates, which likely evolved as protection against predators. To feed, sturgeon suck food off the bottom of the lake or river. They feed on crayfish, insect larvae, leeches, aquatic invertebrates and the occasional small fish. One of their preferred foods is the freshwater clam. Although sturgeon usually live to be 40 to 60 years old there are reports of some living as long as a century. In the province, they are found only in the South and North Saskatchewan and Churchill River systems. While sturgeon seem like a very interesting fish to try and catch, one of the provinces’ most rare fish and as such, they are protected in Saskatchewan. The limit on lake Sturgeon is zero.




    Carp

    A Carp

    The common carp are not native to Saskatchewan, Canada, or even the United States. Common carp were also never stocked in Saskatchewan. How did they get here? Carp were originally introduced to the eastern United States from Europe in the early 1800s. Since then, the common carp has invaded and have extended their range to include areas of southern and eastern Saskatchewan. Records indicate an invasion prior to 1955. Carp consume both plant and animal matter including aquatic insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs and aquatic plants. When they feed, a carp will inhale and expel mouthfuls of dirt and sand, and pick out only food items. Large numbers of carp feeding stirs up the water, and makes it difficult for some other fish species to see and feed. Carp are tremendously reproductive with a single female laying up to two million eggs. Carp can grow to a considerably large size and are a good fighting fish. If you want to try carp fishing, some baits to try are dough, bread crust, meat, corn, cheese, or flavoured imitation baits.




    Bigmouth Buffalo

    A Bigmouth Buffalo

    A fish that looks similar to a carp is the bigmouth buffalo. While both species have large scales, soft-rayed fins and are typically olive green, dark brown or even bronze in colour, the easiest way to tell them apart are the barbels on their mouths. Carp have a whisker-like barbel at each corner of their mouth, while bigmouth buffalo do not. Bigmouth are found in the Qu’Appelle River system. Saskatchewan is the furthest northwest limit of their native North American range. They are actually a member of the sucker family, Saskatchewan's largest, and feed with the long gill rakers within their mouth. They efficiently filter aquatic invertebrates from the mud and debris by repeatedly inhaling and exhaling while feeding.




    Special Note:

    All fish photos were taken and graciously provided by Eric Engbretson of Engbretson Underwater Photography. For these and many other spectacular underwater photos, view their webpage at www.underwaterfishphotos.com


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  • DID YOU KNOW?

    You can tell how old a fish is by two methods: Growth "rings" on scales, and ringlike structures found on the otolith of a fish. Otoliths are small bones of the inner ear, these rings are examined and counted. The rings correspond to seasonal changes in the environment and can be compared to the annual rings of tree trunks.

    Most fish are colourblind, despite the opinion of many sportfishermen. Fish can see colour shadings, reflected light, shape, and movement, which probably accounts for the acceptance or rejection of artificial lures used by fishermen. Some fish, like the walleye, can only see certain colours. In clear water, walleye can see the colour orange the best, but when conditions are darker, the fish see colours at the red end of the spectrum better. They also see the colour green, but not as well as orange or red.

     

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