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Similarities And Differences Among New York's Prey Fish

Similiarities and differences among New York's prey fish species
Species Description Habitat Reproduction Feeding Comments/ Fishing Information
Alewife 5-6" long

Silvery iridescent sides and gray-green back

Deep, laterally compressed body
Open water of large lakes or nearshore ocean waters

Found as deep as 300 feed below surface
Spawns in summer (May-July)

Eggs scattered in shallow water near beaches or in ponds over sandy or gravelly bottom
Eats primarily zooplankton and insect larvae Forms large schools in midwater

Critical link in Great Lakes food webs

Prey for salmon, trout, bass, northern pike and walleye
Rainbow Smelt 7-8" long

Greenish back, silvery sides and white belly. Bright silver striped and brown or black spots on sides

Slender cylindrical body

Small adipose fin

Large teeth (including curved canines) on the tongue
Large cool lakes or ocean. Found from surface down to 200 feet Spawns in spring (March-May)

Scatters stalked, adhesive eggs in streams and over gravelly shoals
Young eat zooplankton

Adults eat crustaceans, insects and small fish
Rainbow smelt provide good fishing opportunities for anglers; dip netting in spring & ice fishing in late winter. Also an important commercial fish species in Canada.

Important prey fish for landlocked Atlantic salmon and lake trout. Also eaten by other trout and salmon.
Slimy Sculpin 3-5" long

Body is dark brown with marbled color pattern on sides; breeding males are reddish

Enlarged, somewhat flattened head

Eyes high on head & close together

No scales on body

Small prickles or spines behind pectoral fins
Cold, rocky streams and lakes. Prefer areas with some shelter Spawns in spring (April-June)

Builds nest in rock crevice in stony streams or lake shallows. Lays adhesive eggs in nest. May be more than one female per nest

Males guard eggs and young
Eats insect larvae and other large, bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Occasionally eats small fish Once thought to be an important egg predator of other fish species, but this idea is not supported by research

Important prey for lake trout, brook trout and northern pike
Gizzard Shad 10-14" long

Bluish back, silvery sides and white belly

Blunt, round snout that overhangs small mouth

Deep, laterally compressed body

Last ray of dorsal fin is extended as a long filament

Scaleless area in front of dorsal fin
Quiet water fish

Found near the surface in lakes, bays and sluggish rivers

Can tolerate high turbidity, but prefers clear water
Spawns spring to early summer (April-June)

Moves into shallow water to scatter adhesive eggs over bottom. Several males usually attend one female
Young eat minute zooplankton

Adults are filter feeders eating phytoplankton and algae

Is one of the few freshwater fish to eat mostly plant material
Only true freshwater herring in New York

Young shad (up to 1.5 years old) are eaten by many fish species. Adult shad, however, are not usually important forage fish
Trout-perch 3-4" long (up to 6" in Lake Ontario)

Pale, nearly transparent body with 5 rows of rounded spots

Conical mouth overhangs the mouth

Has adipose fin and spiny fin rays
Found in a variety of habitats from shallow streams to 200 feet down in large lakes

Usually occurs over sand or gravel and avoids areas of rooted aquatic vegetation
Spawns from spring through summer (May-August)

Scatters adhesive eggs in shallow, rocky streams

Several males attend one female
Eats insect larvae, amphipods and small fish Its name comes from the presence of an adipose fin (like trout) and spiny rays (like perch). Not actually closely related to either.

Important prey for walleye, northern pike, burbot and lake trout. Also eaten by brook trout, sauger, yellow perch and freshwater drum