Fisherman's Guide to Fish Species Identification

Believe it or not, it can be difficult for even the most seasoned angler to tell the difference between certain fish species, families, etc., and sometimes even the experts get it wrong!  Do you want proof? OK! Did you know there at least two other species that look almost exactly like a Largemouth bass? The Spotted Bass and the Guatalaupe Bass look almost identical to the Largemouth in shape and color.  The main differences are that neither grow nearly as large; nor do thier mouths extend past the eye.  At first glance however, most people cannot tell the difference.

My personal favorite fun fact however is that the Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass, and the Rock Bass are not part of the Bass family at all!  They are actually Sunfish and therefore much more closely related to the Bluegill.  In fact, there have been rare cases where they have interbred either by accident or with scientific help.  The Meanmouth Bass is a cross between a Smallmouth Bass and a Largemouth Bass and does happen in nature from time to time.

To assist you in the quest to understand exactly what you have caught, you can use this site to help identify the differences between the many different types of fish.  Not only will you find the information you need to tell the difference between the most commonly saught after breeds, but also others that you may enjoy catching or that you come across accidentally while fishing for something else.  I cannot tell you how many times I was fishing for Bass in the local river; felt a trophy nail my inline spinner and after a terrific fight, end up landing a 10 lb. Sheephead!

Note: The fish species listed below are general descriptions of the fish found in Ohio (where I live). The descriptions, average length and weight may be slightly to significantly different depending on the state you live in. For example, Largemouth bass are not likely to grow larger than 10 lbs. in Ohio (our state record is 13 lbs.) but in California and other states in the south and southwest, Largemouth Bass can easily grow to 18 - 22 lbs. or more.

Species List

Black Crappie
Black Crappie

Black Crappie

Pomoxis nigromaculatus

Other Names: Spec, paper mouth, strawberry bass

Family Name: Centrarchidae (Sunfishes)

Length: 5-12 inches, can reach 18 inches

Weight: 1 lb but can occasionally exceed 3 lbs.

Typical Foods: Planktonic crustaceans, aquatic insects, and small fish.

Description: Black crappie closely resemble white crappie, but have deeper bodies. Furthermore, their head, back, and sides are mottled with dusky or black blotches. These blotches do not form vertical bars as on white crappie. The most reliable characteristic, however, is that black crappie have seven or eight dorsal spines compared to the five or six of a white crappie. The dorsal fin is also set further forward on the body of a black crappie than it is on a white crappie.

Habitat: Black crappie are widely distributed throughout Ohio, but are generally not as wide spread as white crappie. Generally, black crappie prefer clearer water and more aquatic vegetation than white crappie. They are also less tolerant of silt and turbidity than are white crappie.

Reproduction: Black crappie spawn during May and June in Ohio. Males construct a nest by fanning out small depressions on the bottom in and around brush, rocks, or vegetation in water between one and five feet deep. Females then lay 5,000 to 30,000 eggs in the nest. After hatching, crappie feed on zooplankton and insect larvae. As they grow, crappie switch primarily to a diet of small fish.

Brook Trout
Brown Trout
Channel Catfish
Common Carp
Flathead Catfish
Freshwater Drum
Hybrid Striped Bass
Lake Trout
Largemouth Bass
Longear Sunfish
Northern Pike
Rainbow Trout
Rock Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
White Bass
White Crappie
White Perch
Yellow Bullhead
Yellow Perch

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