Fish identification can be easy for species caught frequently, but tricky for species new to New Jersey waters. An untrained eye can mistake species that look similar.
Bowfin are native species, actually dating back 250 million years and should be released unharmed. However, snakeheads are invasive and should be destroyed and submitted to the Division of Fish and Wildlife for verification. Snakeheads have recently been found in the lower Delaware River and some of its tributaries.
BOWFIN – NATIVE
Short anal fin
SNAKEHEAD – INVASIVE
Long anal fin.
AMERICAN EEL – NATIVE
American eels are a diadromous native species, using both fresh and marine waters during their lifecycle. These eels are found in nearly every waterbody in New Jersey. American brook lamprey are a harmless native species that serves as an indicator of clean substrate. The Asian swamp eel is an invasive species with documented presence in Silver Lake, a 10-acre waterbody located in Gibbsboro.
Pectoral fins present; no gill slits.
AMERICAN BROOK LAMPREY—NATIVE
No pectoral fins; gill slits present.
ASIAN SWAMP EEL—INVASIVE
No pectoral fins; no gill slits.
Although not a native species, channel catfish are stocked by Fish and Wildlife in select locations as a recreational and food species. The flathead catfish is considered an invasive species capable of causing ecological damage by out-competing other recreationally important species for food and habitat. Flatheads have been confirmed in the middle section of the Delaware River.
Upper jaw protrudes past lower jaw; tail deeply forked.
Lower jaw protrudes past upper jaw; tail not deeply forked.
strongly toothed leaves. Nut-like fruit with four sharp spines.
photo: Pat Hamilton/NJDFW
Invasive Mussels—Zebra Mussels
How to Identify Zebra Mussels
Keep on Reporting
The most effective way to succeed in containing aquatic invasive species is to report each encounter. Anglers are reminded that possession or release of flathead catfish, snakehead, Asian swamp eel, brook stickleback, oriental weatherfish, green sunfish and warmouth, bighead carp, silver carp and grass carp (diploid) is prohibited. Anglers must destroy these species if encountered and submit specimen(s) to the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries at (908) 236-2118 for north Jersey and at (856) 629-4950 for south Jersey. For photo I.D. confirmation, write us at email@example.com.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.