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Similarities & Differences Among NY's Endangered & Threatened Fishes

Similiarities and differences among New York's threatened and endangered species
Species Description Habitat Reproduction Feeding Comments
Round Whitefish 8-12" long

Long, tubular body, nearly round mid-section

Olive brown on top to silver below. Young have parr marks (rows of black dots)

Head-short; mouth-small with snout longer than lower jaw

Nostrils have single flap
Prefers shallow areas of lakes and clear streams Spawns in fall (Nov-Dec)

Eggs are broadcast over shoals of lakes or at river mouths
Bottom feeder

Eats a variety of invertebrates; mayfly larva, chironomid larvae, small mollusks, crustaceans, fish and fish eggs
New York status: Endangered

Once found in over 35 Adirondack lakes and ponds, now limited to only six Adirondack water bodies

Population declines due to predation by yellow perch on eggs and fry; tapeworm infection; overfishing; loss of spawning sites; siltation; and lake acidification
Shortnose Sturgeon 24-42" long

Olive-yellow to gray-blue on top; milky white to dark yellow on bottom

Five rows of scutes (bony plates)

Short, conical snout with four barbels in front of large, underslung mouth

Black peritoreim (body cavity lining)
Found in river mouths and estuaries Spawns April - May

Anadromous: adults migrate from saltwater to spawn in freshwater

Spawning is not a yearly event for most shortnose sturgeon; males spawn every two years, females every three years
Bottom feeder: uses barbels to locate food

Eats sludge worms, aquatic insect larvae, snails, shrimp, crayfish and plants
New York status: Endangered

Long-lived: females up to 62 years old; males up to 32 years old

Found only in the lower portion of the Hudson River from Southern tip of Manhattan to Federal Dam at Troy

Population declines due to: pollution, overexploitation for eggs (caviar) and meat, and construction of dams blocking spawning ponds
Pugnose Shinner 1.5-2" long

Light, straw-colored back; silvery sides; white belly

Mouth small, sharply upturned

Back stripe along sides from tip of lower jaw to tail fin; scales on back are darkly outlined
Prefers clear, slowwater areas of large streams and lakes with plenty of vegetation Spawns in spring

Little else known
Not known New York status: Endangered

One of North America's rarest minnows. In New York, has been found in Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, Little Sodus Bay, French Creek (Jefferson County) and the St. Lawrence River

Primary cause of population decline is thought to be increased turbidity
Eastern Sand Darter 2-3" long

Long, slender body, no scales on belly

Upper body is fluorescent violet, flesh is transparent

Row of 10-17 dark spots on sides and top
Occurs in clear streams with a sand bottom Little known

Thought to spawn May-late August
Primarily eats aquatic insect larvae New York status: Endangered

Found in NE Washington County; NE St. Lawrence County; NW Franklin County; and Lake Erie

Major cause of population decline is loss of clean, sandy substrate due to siltation

Will bury itself in sandy bottom, leaving only the eyes exposed
Bluebreast Darter 2-3" long

Blunt, rounded snout

Olive green body with a broad, light band next to the dark edge of second dorsal fin, anal and caudal fins

Gill covers not connected across the breast
Prefers fast-flowing stream sections with a bottom of sandy gravel and large stones Spawns in spring (May-June)

Adults migrate from deep water stream areas to riffles. Eggs are deposited behind large rocks
Primarily eats aquatic insect larvae New York status: Endangered

Found in the upper reaches of the Allegheny drainage basin

Breeding males very colorful with orange tinted dorsal fins, small crimson spots on sides, and bright blue breast
Gilt Darter 2-3" long

Olive to blue-green body with 5-8 dark blotches along back and square blotches on sides

Row of specialized scales along midline of belly

Gill covers connected across breast
Prefers clear, fast-flowing gravel or rubble riffles where algae and other aquatic vegetation beds occur Little known

Bright colored males (indicating spawning) have been found in stream riffle areas in the spring
No studies, but assumed to feed on aquatic insects New York status: Endangered

Location in the State restricted to the Allegheny River

Decline in population attributed to increased siltation

Breeding males are colorful, with 5-8 blue-green vertical bands, bright red blotches on sides, orange breast and dorsal fin, and dark blue pelive and anal fins
Spoonhead Sculpin 1.5 - 2.5" long (up to 5")

Slender, tubular body; flat, triangle-shaped head; gill covers attached to breast

No scales, body covered with prickles

Olive brown on top; light yellow on sides; white belly; head, body and fins are speckled
Found in turbid rivers or deep areas of lakes Spawn in fall

Little else known
No studies; but assumed to eat plankton and bottom-dwelling aquatic insects New York status: endangered

Once found in lakes Erie and Ontario, now believed to extirpated from these lakes

Cause of decline is unknown
Deepwater Sculpin 2 - 4.5" long (up to 9")

Long, tapered body; blunt head; large mouth; well separated dorsal fins; 2nd dorsal fin large

No scales-prickles on top of body; 4 spines on cheek; gill covers free from breast

Grey-brown with light underside; speckled back & sides; dark marks on back
Found in deep, cool (40F or less) waters of lakes

Spawns summer to early fall

Little else known
Eats small crustaceans and bottom-dwelling aquatic insects New York status: endangered

Found in Lake Ontario

Decline in population thought to be due in part to competition by alewives and rainbow smelt
Lake Sturgeon 3 - 5 feet long (up to 7 ft)

Torpedo-shaped body covered with 5 rows of bony plates

Sharp. cone-shaped snout with 4 barbels; large mouth

Dull gray body color
Found in freshwater lakes and large rivers

Also can occur in brackish water
Spawns in spring (May-June)

Prior to spawning, adults form groups in deep holes off spawning site

Eggs scattered in areas of clear, large rubble. Eggs are scattered by current & stick to rocks and logs
Bottom feeders; use barbels to locate food & suck into mouth

Eats leeches, snails, clams, other invertebrates, small fish and even algae
New York status: threatened

New York's largest freshwater fish. Very long-lived- up to 150 years.

Found in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, Niagara River, St. Lawrence River, Grasse River, Oswegatchie River & Black Lake.

Population declines attributed to: dam construction that cut off spawning grounds; overexploitation for caviar & smoked flesh; and pollution
Mooneye 11 - 15" long

Flattened, silvery, slab-body with large eyes, short snout, smooth scales on belly

Teeth on tongue & middle of roof of mouth
Prefers clear water of large streams, rivers and lakes Spawns in spring (Mar-May)

Migrates into swift-water areas of rivers to deposit eggs over rocks. Eggs covered in gelatinous material similar to frog's eggs
Eats insects, crustaceans, small fish and mollusks New York status: threatened

Modest-sized population in Lake Champlain. Thought to be extirpated from Lake Ontario

Population decrease due in part to increased siltation in mooneye waters
Lake Chubsucker 8 - 10" long

Stubby body; large scales; suctorial mouth; short, blunt snout; small eyes

Dark olive-green on top; silver-gold on sides; green-yellow on belly; young have dark striped along side (becomes bars in adult)
Found in clear, vegetated areas of lakes & slow-water sections of large streams with sandy or gravel bottoms.

Intolerant of turbid & silty waters
Spawns in spring

Eggs are scattered over vegetation or gravel (cleaned by the males)
Eats copepods, cladocerans and aquatic insect larvae found on the bottom New York status: threatened

Found in embayments along the southern shore of Lake Ontario and in the Lake Erie drainage basin prior to 1939
Mud Sunfish 5 - 6.5" long

Smooth scales; round tail; brown eyes

Five distinct lines along sides

Reddish brown on top; pale brown on belly
Found in lowland streams and bogs. Prefers areas with heavy plant growth and a silty or muddy bottom Spawn in spring

Males prepare nests

Little else known
No food studies, but assumed to feed primarily on other fishes New York status: threatened

Similar in appearance to rockbass but color brownish

Found only in the Hackensack River prior to 1935
Longear Sunfish 2 - 4.5" long

Thin, deep-bodied; short, round pectoral fins that do not extend above lateral lime

Long, flexible ear flap; gill covers with flexible, frilled margins

Olive to rusty-brown back; orange belly; and blue-green bars on sides of head
Prefers densely weeded areas with a gravel or sand bottom

Avoids strong currents and silt
Spawns in summer (June-Aug)

Males construct saucer-shaped nests in colonies in shallow water areas that have a gravel or sand bottom

Males protect eggs and young
Eats snails, leeches and aquatic insects New York status: threatened

Similar in appearance to pumpkinseed

Found only in the Niagara and western Lake Ontario drainage basins

Decline in numbers attributed to: siltation; water quality deterioration; and hybridization with pumpkinseed & green sunfish