These fish have a colorful and very large dorsal fin, much larger than that of any other cold-water fish. Grayling have large scales with brown or black spots on the body behind the head. They have a black line in the fold under the mouth.
The Arctic grayling is native to North America, and is found primarily in the Athabasca, Hay and Peace river drainage systems of Alberta. There is also a small population in the Belly River in southwestern Alberta. The Arctic grayling is typically found in streams and rivers.
The lake trout is the least colorful of the trouts. It is a grey fish with irregular white spots. During the fall spawning season, the fins near the tail become a pale orange.
Lake trout are native to many of Alberta's deep cold lakes. They grow very slowly, and often don't mature until they are 8-10 years of age. Because of this late age of spawning, heavy fishing pressure can seriously deplete lake trout populations. Lake trout are long-lived with the larger ones reaching 20-25 years of age and exceeding 10 kg in weight. Young lake trout feed on freshwater shrimp and other aquatic invertebrates. Larger lake trout eat other species of fish, mostly whitefish and tullibee.
This trout is an olive-green color with heavy black spotting over the length of the body. The adult fish has a red-colored stripe along the lateral line, from the gills to the tail. Rainbow trout in lakes are usually lighter colored or a more silvery color than those in streams.
In Alberta, this trout was originally found only in parts of the upper Athabasca River Basin and upper Peace River Basin. The Fish and Wildlife Division stocks rainbow trout in a variety of lakes across the province. Rainbow trout are easy to raise in hatcheries, and are a very hardy and active sport fish.
This trout has an olive-green back and bright red-to-gold sides and belly. In the spring spawning season, the colors are extremely intense. It is the most colorful of the trouts. Golden trout are native only to a few small lakes and streams at high elevations in the Sierra Nevada of California.
In 1959, they were introduced into a few lakes in the mountains of southwestern Alberta. Golden trout are very specialized for their particular environment, and do not do well in lower-elevation streams and lakes.
The goldeye is dark-blue to blue-green on its back, with silvery or white sides. Its prominent eyes have bright yellow pupils and are specially adapted for dim, dark waters. The goldeye has a blunt head, sharp teeth and a deep, compressed body.
This species is found in all major rivers in Alberta and in Lake Athabasca and other lakes in the Athabasca Delta area. It prefers the quiet, slow-moving waters of large rivers and the muddy shallows of large lakes.
Sometimes called jackfish, the northern pike is a long, slender fish with sharp, backward-slanting teeth, duck-like jaws and a long, flat head. Its back and sides are predominantly dark green to olive-green, with yellow to white spots. Because of a tiny gold spot found on the tip of most scales, the pike appears flecked with gold. In Alberta, northern pike have been known to weigh up to 22 kg (50 lbs). A popular sport fish, the pike is found throughout Alberta, except in the foothills and mountains. It prefers shallow, weedy clear waters in lakes and marshes, but also inhabits slow streams.
Brown trout are golden brown in color with large black spots on the back, and red spots, some with pale halos, on the sides. They are the only trout with both red and black spotting.
This fish is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. Brown trout were introduced into Alberta waters in 1924. They are now fairly common in slow streams along foothills. The Bow River and some tributaries of the Red Deer River have become important sportfishing areas for this species.
Lake whitefish are olive-green to blue on the back, with silvery sides. They have a small mouth below a rounded snout, and a deeply forked tail. They are mostly found in larger lakes in Alberta, where they prefer deep, cool water.
Lake whitefish spawn from September through January in water two to four metres in depth. A large spawning migration enters the Athabasca Delta in late summer, moving upstream in the Athabasca River. The longest single movement of a tagged whitefish ever recorded was 388 km (240 miles), from Fort McMurray to the north shore of Lake Athabasca.
Also known by some as the Dolly Varden, the bull trout is a long, slim fish with a large head in proportion to its body. The fish has an olive-green to grey back and silvery sides which are marked with pale yellow to red spots. There are no black spots on the dorsal fin of this trout.
Bull trout are found in all the river systems with headwaters in the mountains. They are a native trout with the largest natural distribution in Alberta. This species is the official provincial fish of Alberta.
This fish has a yellow-olive back, brassy, silvery sides with yellow spots, a white underside and a white edge on the lower part of the tail. The largest member of the perch family, the walleye has two distinct fins on its back, the first featuring large spines. Dusky vertical bars are often found on its body.
Sometimes incorrectly referred to as 'pickerel', the walleye is found in lakes and rivers throughout Alberta, except in the foothills and mountains. (The true pickerel is a member of the pike family and lives in eastern Canada.) Named for its big, g eyes, the walleye prefers deeper waters, although it also inhabits shallows.
A living "dinosaur" of the fish world, this unusual species is torpedoshaped and armor-plated. Instead of scales, the sturgeon's large brown or grey body is covered with tough, leather-like tissue and five rows of bony plates. It has a shark-like, upturned tail and a pointed snout with four barbels, or tissue filaments.
These leathery giants can live up to 100 years, the longest life span of Alberta's cool-water fishes. The biggest sturgeon reported in Alberta weighed 48 kg (105 lbs) and was 155 cm (61 inches) in length. Despite its name, the lake sturgeon is strictly a river fish in Alberta. It occurs in the North and South Saskatchewan river systems.
This unusual-looking fish has a slim, brownish black body with smooth skin and a flattened head. Distinctive 'barbels', or filaments of tissue, hang from its lower jaw and nostrils, and provide a sense of touch and smell. A fin stretches along the back half of its body.
Also known as freshwater cod or ling, burbot are found in lakes and streams throughout most of Alberta. They prefer cooler water and are found near lake bottoms. Burbot spawn under the ice in the winter and early spring, and are extremely productive. Large females lay up to one million eggs. Predominantly predators, they eat small fish, aquatic insects and even small rodents.
Cutthroat trout are named for the bright red-orange streak in the fold under the mouth. These trout are native to the mountain and foothill streams of southern Alberta. They have been introduced into the Ram River west of Red Deer, and a few other small, cold streams tributary to the North Saskatchewan River. Cutthroat prefer colder water than do the closely related rainbow trout.
Cutthroat trout spawn in the spring, which may be as late as early July in high mountain streams. Cutthroat trout are usually caught on artificial flies, small spoons and small spinners.
The brook trout is one of the most colorful trouts. The back is dark green with pale wavy lines. The sides have a purple sheen with blue-haloed red spots. The lower fins have a black stripe behind a pale leading edge.
Originally native to eastern Canada, the brook trout was introduced into Alberta's waters around 1903. They are now found in many of our foothill streams and are stocked in some 'pothole'lakes where the low concentration of oxygen does not favor other species of trout.
Mountain whitefish have large scales, no spots and small mouths with no teeth. The general body color is a bronze-white or greenish white. In Alberta, this fish is often called Rocky Mountain whitefish or (incorrectly) grayling. The latter name is often used in regions where Arctic grayling are not found.
Mountain whitefish are native to most of the waters of western Alberta. They move in large groups or schools from pool to pool. Adult mountain whitefish undertake spawning migrations in the fall and feeding migrations in the spring.
Yellow perch are the most common sport fish in Alberta, giving hours of enjoyment to beginning, young anglers. They are a very popular winter sport fish. Their general body color is golden yellow or green, with broad, dark vertical bands on the side. They have needle-like spines on the dorsal fin. Adults generally weigh about half a kilogram (1 lb) and are rarely longer than 25 cm (10 inches).
Yellow perch are well-distributed throughout Alberta, except in the foothills and the mountains. They usually travel in schools, and are often found in shallows, bays, and patches of weeds.
The sauger is closely related to the walleye, but does not grow as large. As a member of the perch family, it also has a large spiny dorsal fin. It is most easily distinguished from the walleye by the absence of the white area on its tail fin. The sauger is golden olive on the back, with silver-yellow sides and a white underside. It has distinct rows of spots on its dorsal fins, and usually three or four dusky vertical bars on its body.
This species is only found in the North and South Saskatchewan, Red Deer, Bow, St. Mary and Milk rivers, and not found in any Alberta lakes. It tolerates silty water.