A Guide to Catchable Freshwater Fish in Connecticut
Not sure about your catch? Subtle differences between fish include the shape of the body-long vs. round, whiskers, shape of the mouth, and if there is a small fleshy lobe-like fin on the back near the tail. Determine which of these traits match your fish, then look to the photos and specific details to make a positive identification. If you would like a professional opinion, email a clear photo of the entire fish to email@example.com.
Brook Trout have a dark body with light spots and a worm-like pattern on back, head, and sides. The lower fins are typically red-orange with a white leading edge. Stocked Brook Trout are typically less colorful than wild Brook Trout.
Tiger Trout (hybrid) have worm-like markings covering the entire body. They usually do not have spots. Tiger Trout are a sterile cross between a male Brook Trout and a female Brown Trout.
Brown Trout have a light body with dark spots. The lower fins are typically brown, tan, or nearly colorless and may have a white leading edge. Wild Brown Trout may have bright red and orange spots and an orange adipose fin. The tail is more rounded than forked. Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon look very similar.
Rainbow Trout have a light body with dark spots on the head and the tail. There is usually a pink band along each side.
Kokanee Salmon are silver without spots until spawning season when they undergo significant changes in shape and color, turning red. Males often develop a large hooked jaw (kype). Kokanee Salmon die after they spawn.
Atlantic Salmon have a light body with dark spots. The adipose fin is brown or dark brown. The lower fins are brown with no color on the leading edge. There may be spots on the head and tail. Wild Atlantic Salmon recently entering freshwater typically are silver, turning brown after being in freshwater for a while. Small Atlantic Salmon will have a deeply-forked tail. Atlantic Salmon are stocked as fry into many tributaries of the Connecticut River. All Atlantic Salmon must be immediately released, unless it is from one of the areas the Inland Fisheries Division stocks with surplus adult Atlantic Salmon (see Broodstock Atlantic Salmon & River Herring).
Bass, Perch & Walleye
Largemouth Bass have a dark stripe along the side of the body. The end of the jaw typically reaches past the eye.
Smallmouth Bass may have vertical stripes on the side of the body. The end of the jaw typically reaches to the center of the eye.
Striped Bass have a light body, somewhat silver in color with a series of horizontal black bands along the side.
White Perch have a silver body and lack any spots or bands.
Yellow Perch have a yellow body with dark vertical bands and orange lower fins.
Walleye generally have a greenish or brownish back fading to a white belly. They may have irregular dark green blotches on the body. They have very large and sharp teeth.
The number indicated near each fish represents the length of the individual fish shown in the photo. It is not a minimum size regulation or average fish length.
Sunfish & Bass
Pumpkinseeds have turquoise markings on the face and have a red dot on the gill cover.
Bluegills do not have turquoise markings on the face and do not have a red spot on the gill cover.
Redbreast sunfish have some turquoise markings on the face. The gill cover has a long oval dark “ear”. The belly is usually a bright orange-red.
Rock Bass have a very large red-colored eye. The pattern on the side of the body resembles camouflage print.
Calico Bass (crappie) have a distinct curved profile from the head to the dorsal fin. The body is silvery or brass colored with dark spots, and very thin when viewed looking from head on.
Bullhead & Catfish
Yellow Bullhead have a rounded tail and the chin whiskers are light colored. Both the belly and chin are usually yellow.
Channel Catfish have a forked tail (pointed tips), very long whiskers on the side of the mouth, and dark chin whiskers. Compared to the white catfish, the channel catfish has a narrow head.
Brown Bullhead have a rounded tail and the chin whiskers are dark colored. Both the belly and chin are light colored and usually white.
White Catfish have a forked tail (rounded tips), very long whiskers on the side of the mouth, and light chin whiskers. Compared to the channel catfish the white catfish has a broad head. The eyes may have a light blue band around the iris.
Pike & Pickerel
Northern Pike have a dark colored body with light spots. The entire cheek and only ½ of the gill cover is covered in scales. The mouth has large and sharp teeth.
Chain Pickerel have a yellow colored body with a dark “chain-like” pattern. Both the cheek and gill cover are completely covered with scales. Typically there is a dark vertical band below the eye. The mouth has large and sharp teeth.
Carp & Sucker
White Sucker has a streamlined body with a round mouth. The body is usually dark brown on top and bronze color on the side.
Common Carp can be a very large fish (up to 40 pounds) and have large scales. Carp have a small whisker on each side of the mouth.
This guide intended to provide some general descriptive information and a photo typical of each species featured. These represent fish that are most often caught in freshwaters of CT. The approximate size of the pictured fish is listed. For more detailed information please refer to the “A Pictorial Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut” by Robert P. Jacobs and Eileen B. O’Donnell. Available at the DEEP store www.ct.gov/DEEP/Store.
For questions about fish or fishing in Connecticut, please contact the Inland Fisheries Division at 860-424-Fish or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our web page at www.ct.gov/deep/fishing.
All photographs by Robert P. Jacobs, CT DEEP IFD