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[C] Freshwater | Freshwater Fish Of NJ

FRESHWATER

FISH OF
NEW JERSEY

There are 90 species of freshwater fish found in New Jersey waters. Of these 90 species, 60 are native to the state. Five species are truly migratory and are present only seasonally in fresh waters of the state. These species, Alewife, American Shad, Blueback Herring, Hickory Shad, and Striped Bass are anadromous, living predominantly in marine/brackish waters but migrate into fresh water in the spring to spawn. One other species, the Sea Lamprey, may reside for years as juveniles in freshwater before migrating to marine waters, only to return to freshwater in the future to spawn. American Eel, on the other hand, are catadromous reside throughout fresh waters of the state but migrate to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

There are 17 introduced species, 11 of which are popular game species, a number of which have become naturalized and are commonly found in both lakes and rivers throughout the state. Several species, such as Channel Catfish, Hybrid Striped Bass, Muskellunge, Northern Pike, and Walleye, which do not reproduce as readily in New Jersey, are maintained through active stocking programs for recreational opportunities.

There are ten species of fish whose presence is considered to pose a serious threat to the state’s freshwater resources and are identified and regulated as potentially dangerous. These species must be destroyed when encountered.

The table below identifies freshwater fish species which can be found in the state, along with their historical presence, conservation status, and additional information as defined below. Fact sheets can be opened for some species by clicking on the family or common names.

Family Name   Common NameScientific NameHistorical PresenceFreshwater / MarineConservation Status (state rankings are pending formal rulemaking process)Comments
Achiridae
HogchokerTrinectes maculatusNativeFresh, brackish, and marine watersG5 SNR**Rarely growing more than 6 inches, this flatfish is tolerant to a wide range of salinities and is found in the oceans, estuaries, and coastal streams.
Acipenseridae
Atlantic SturgeonAcipenser oxyrinchusNativeAnadromousG3 S1 Endangered SWAP FocalThis Federally endangered species was once found in great abundance but has declined due to habitat loss and overfishing. It can reach up to 14 ft. They are long lived and reach up to 60 years of age.
Shortnose SturgeonAcipenser brevirostrumNativeAnadromousG3 S1 Endangered SWAP Focal Sp.This Federally endangered species can reach over 3 ft. in length and has declined due to pollution, damming, and overfishing. Average age is up to 30 years but may live to over 60.
Amiidae
BowfinAmia calvaNon-NativeFreshG5This ancient species seems to be concentrated in the lower Delaware River and its tributaries and is occasionally captured elsewhere in NJ.  It is often confused with the invasive Northern Snakehead.
Anguillidae
American EelAnguilla rostrataNativeCatadromousG4 S4**Born in the Sargasso Sea, larval eels are carried by ocean currents and eventually make their way into freshwater rivers and streams, where they mature and migrate back to their natal waters.  This eel can be readily caught by anglers and can be legally used as bait if greater than 9 inches.
Aphredoderidae
Pirate PerchAphredoderus sayanusNativeFreshG5 S4This common Pinelands species has a unique anatomical arrangement, in which its vent migrates from the typical location as a juvenile to a location under its throat as it matures. 
Catostomidae
Creek ChubsuckerErimyzon oblongusNativeFreshG5 S4This widely distributed species is an important forage fish and is particularly sensitive to siltation.
Northern Hog SuckerHypentelium nigricansNativeFreshG5 S3 Special ConcernCommon in neighboring states of PA and NY, it is rarely encountered in NJ and seems limited to the Delaware River and a few of its northern coldwater streams.
QuillbackCarpiodes cyprinusNativeFreshG5 S4Limited primarily to the Delaware and Raritan Rivers, this sucker species is easily identified by its tall dorsal fin.
White SuckerCatostomus commersoniiNativeFreshG5 S5Very abundant in most rivers and streams outside of the Pinelands, and frequently account for the much of the biomass in the aquatic ecosystem.
Centrarchidae
Banded SunfishEnneacanthus obesusNativeFreshG5 S4 SWAP Focal Sp.This small centrarchid has been restricted to the heavily vegetated and acidic waters of the Pinelands, where it is relatively common.  It tends to disappear from degraded habitats, particularly in the presence of non-native species.
Black CrappiePomoxis nigromaculatusNon-Native*FreshG5Also known as “Calico Bass,” they are popular among anglers.  Found in loosely formed schools within the larger waterbodies of the state, preferring clear water with abundant structure.
Blackbanded SunfishEnneacanthus chaetodonNativeFreshG3G4 S3 Special Concern SWAP Focal Sp.This ornate sunfish is in severe decline throughout its native range, with the NJ Pinelands considered a range-wide stronghold.  The least common of its genus, its NJ range has been restricted to minimally-disturbed acidic lakes and slow-moving streams in the Pinelands.
BluegillLepomis macrochirusNon-Native*FreshG5This panfish is an important recreational and forage species.  They are very common and found throughout NJ in a variety of habitat conditions, with a preference for pond and lake environments.
Bluespotted SunfishEnneacanthus gloriosusNativeFreshG5 S4More common and widely distributed than the Banded and Blackbanded Sunfish, this small sunfish also associates with heavily vegetated slow-moving streams, ponds, and lakes of the Pinelands, but differs in that it also lives within other vegetated waters throughout the state.
Green SunfishLepomis cyanellusInvasiveFreshG5Rarely encountered in NJ 20 years ago, this invasive species has quickly established throughout NJ and replaces native species because of its aggressive nature, wide habitat and water quality tolerance, and large gape to consume larger prey than its native competitors.
Largemouth BassMicropterus salmoidesNon-Native*FreshG5The most popular freshwater game fish in NJ, Largemouth Bass are found throughout New Jersey.  Although lakes and slow-moving rivers are preferred, Largemouth Bass are highly adaptable and are found in a wide variety of habitats.
Mud SunfishAcantharchus pomotisNativeFreshG4G5 S3 Special Concern SWAP Focal Sp.The Mud Sunfish is primarily found in undisturbed lakes and sluggish streams in the Pinelands and other southern NJ waters, with rare occurrences north of the geologic fall line.  It is drab in appearance with browns and greens and rarely found in high abundance.
PumpkinseedLepomis gibbosusNative*FreshG5 S5The most widely distributed fish in NJ, Pumpkinseeds are very colorful and provide recreation for anglers and are an important forage species for a number of large predators.
Redbreast SunfishLepomis auritusNativeFreshG5 S5One of the most common sunfish found throughout NJ, primarily in large streams and rivers and it is quite sporting.  It is differentiated from the Bluegill and Pumpkinseed by its long opercular flap and bright orange breast.
Rock BassAmbloplites rupestrisNon-NativeFreshG5Associated with cool and clean large streams, rivers, and lakes, Rock Bass are a feisty sport fish even though they rarely attain lengths of 8 to 10 inches.
Smallmouth BassMicropterus dolomieuNon-Native*FreshG5Smallmouth Bass fishing is excellent in the Delaware and Raritan Rivers and are found in numerous rivers and lakes in the northern and central portions of the state, in addition to Manasquan Reservoir and Union Lake in the southern half of New Jersey.  Their distribution is much more restricted than Largemouth Bass, as they have more stringent habitat and water quality requirements.
WarmouthLepomis gulosusInvasiveFreshG5This invasive species is locally common in select waters but has not been found widely in NJ.  They are a large-mouthed sunfish capable of feeding on a wide variety of prey items.
White CrappiePomoxis annularisNon-NativeFreshG5Less common than Black Crappie, the White Crappie is similar in many ways, except they tend to be more tolerant of turbid water and less dependent upon structure.
Channidae
Northern SnakeheadChanna ArgusInvasiveFreshG5This invasive species is an opportunistic predator that is often mistaken for a Bowfin. Unfortunately, in recent years its population has expanded in the lower Delaware River and its tributaries.
Clupeidae
AlewifeAlosa pseudoharengusNativeAnadromous / LandlockedG5 S4** SWAP Focal Sp.Sustainable landlocked populations exist in several inland waters in a few northern counties in which they can be harvested and used as bait.  Anadromous stocks are in decline along the east coast of the US due to damming and pollution.  
American ShadAlosa sapidissimaNativeAnadromousG5 S4**This species is a popular sportfish in the Delaware River, but populations along dammed rivers are in decline along east coast.  A number of dams have been removed in recent years throughout NJ, allowing them to return to historical locations.
Blueback HerringAlosa aestivalisNativeAnadromousG3G4 S5** SWAP Focal Sp.This species is in decline along east coast due to damming and pollution, however recent dam removals are intended to benefit this anadromous species.
Gizzard ShadDorosoma cepedianumNativeAnadromous / LandlockedG5 S4**Sustainable landlocked populations exist in many waters, with abundant migratory stocks throughout east coast of the US.  Abundant populations often result in exceptional Largemouth Bass fisheries.  Gizzard Shad may be collected and used as bait.
Hickory ShadAlosa mediocrisNativeAnadromousG4 SNR**Often confused with the American Shad, the Hickory Shad differs by means of its projecting lower jaw.
Cobitidae
Oriental WeatherfishMisgurnus anguillicaudatusInvasiveFreshG5First documented in NJ in the early 2000’s in the Saddle River watershed, this invasive was also found in 2015 in the headwaters of Neshanic River, down to the Raritan and Millstone Rivers.  It can tolerate degraded environmental conditions and competes with native species for food and space.
Cottidae
Slimy SculpinCottus cognatusNativeFreshG5 S2 ThreatenedThe Slimy Sculpin serves as an indicator species of clean, cold water and pristine habitat.  Tied by fly fishermen, the muddler minnow imitates this well-camouflaged swift-moving fish.  Fluke fishermen may see the sculpin’s resemblance to a Sea Robin.  
Cyprinidae
Bighead CarpHypophthalmichthys nobilisInvasiveFreshG5This invasive has infrequently been documented in NJ, but not much is understood about its current status.
Blacknose DaceRhinichthys atratulusNativeFreshG5 S5Possibly the most common fish found in northern NJ’s moving waters, it has a dark black stripe from its snout to its tail.
Bridle ShinerNotropis bifrenatusNativeFreshG3 S1 Endangered SWAP Focal Sp.This tiny minnow is globally vulnerable and is listed as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern in 7 neighboring states.  It is similar in appearance to the Ironcolor and Swallowtail Shiners with a dark stripe down its side.
Comely ShinerNotropis amoenusNativeFreshG5 S3 Special Concern SWAP Focal Sp.This slender minnow species is not widely represented across the state and is most often associated with larger rivers.
Common CarpCyprinus carpioExoticFreshG5This species has established reproducing populations across NJ and although it provides excellent sport, it causes environmental degradation by uprooting vegetation, increasing turbidity, and consuming fish eggs. 
Common ShinerLuxilus cornutusNativeFreshG5 S5Primarily found in the northern half of NJ, this robust shiner is most easily recognized by its tall and narrow scales on its side.
Creek ChubSemotilus atromaculatusNativeFreshG5 S5This minnow is very common in the northern NJ and has a distinct black spot at the anterior base of its dorsal fin.  It inhabits both cold and warmwater streams and can be collected and used as bait.
Cutlip MinnowExoglossum maxillinguaNativeFreshG5 S4Named for its uniquely shaped bottom jaw, this minnow primarily found in larger streams and rivers in northwestern NJ and is moderately tolerant to habitat degradation.
Eastern Silvery MinnowHybognathus regiusNativeFreshG5 S4Very common in the Delaware River and a few of its tributaries, however this minnow seems to have declined within more inland waters in NJ and neighboring states.
FallfishSemotilus corporalisNativeFreshG5 S5Known for its uniform silvery scalation, this riverine species often strikes a lure and can attain sizes in excess of 16 inches.  It can also be collected and used as bait.
Fathead MinnowPimephales promelasNon-Native*FreshG5This species is commonly purchased/collected and used as bait, thus contributing to its scattered distribution well beyond its native range.
Golden ShinerNotemigonus crysoleucasNative*FreshG5 S5This commonly used native baitfish is often abundant in shallow weedy lakes and can attain sizes of 12 inches.  It can also be caught via rod and reel.
GoldfishCarassius auratusExoticFreshG5Frequently abandoned from home aquariums (illegal to release), this colorful fish is not desirable in the wild, as it degrades habitat and water quality and is therefore considered invasive.
Grass CarpCtenopharyngodon idellaInvasiveFreshG5Triploid (3 sets of chromosomes) individuals are permitted for stocking for biological control of submerged aquatic vegetation provided they are contained.  This invasive species is not desirable open water as it can degrade habitat and water quality.
Ironcolor ShinerNotropis chalybaeusNativeFreshG4 S1 Endangered SWAP Focal Sp.This tiny minnow is considered globally uncommon but not rare; however it is disappearing in much of its range and Endangered in three neighboring states.  Currently only known in two distant watersheds in NJ.  It closely resembles the Bridle and Swallowtail Shiners with a black stripe down its side.
Longnose DaceRhinichthys cataractaeNativeFreshG5 S5Closely related to the Blacknose Dace, this species resembles its smaller cousin except for having a diffuse “salt and pepper” coloration instead of a dark lateral stripe, and a longer snout.  It inhabits shallow riffle habitat.
Satinfin ShinerCyprinella analostanaNativeFreshG5 S4Similar in appearance to the Spotfin Shiner, this minnow is moderately abundant in the Delaware River drainage throughout NJ.  Its white-bordered fins give it a very fancy look.
Spotfin ShinerCyprinella spilopteraNativeFreshG5 S4Commonly mistaken for the closely related Satinfin Shiner, this minnow is moderately abundant in streams and clear lakes in the northern portion of NJ. 
Spottail ShinerNotropis hudsoniusNativeFreshG5 S5Primarily found in rivers and streams, this medium-sized minnow is relatively common in the northern NJ and tributaries to the lower Delaware River.
Swallowtail ShinerNotropis procneNativeFreshG5 S4This minnow is occasionally found in streams, primarily in the central portion of NJ.  It may be in decline and resembles the Bridle and Ironcolor Shiners.
Esocidae
Chain PickerelEsox nigerNativeFreshG5 S4NJ’s largest native fish in the Pike family, it is common in weedy ponds and lakes throughout NJ.  Chain Pickerel offer excellent sport and is a primary target in the Pinelands.
Eastern MudminnowUmbra pygmaeaNativeFreshG5 S5Common in sluggish, shallow waters of the Pinelands, and often associated with swamps throughout NJ.
MuskellungeEsox masquinongyNon-Native*FreshG5The largest of the Pike family, stocking of this species has produced excellent fisheries in Furnace Lake, Greenwood Lake, Lake Hopatcong, and Mountain Lake, with fish over 50 inches caught in recent years.
Northern PikeEsox luciusNon-Native*FreshG5Anglers used to have to travel to NY and Canada to catch this top predator, but now it is stocked in several NJ waters, most noteworthy Budd Lake, Spruce Run Reservoir, and Passaic River.
Redfin PickerelEsox americanusNativeFreshG5 S4The smaller of NJ’s two pickerel species, it is found throughout the state, associated with sluggish vegetated waters and within the Pinelands.
Tiger MuskyEsox masquinongy x E. luciusNon-Native*FreshNAThis sterile hybrid of Muskellunge and Northern Pike provides anglers with an often remarkably patterned and colored individual.
Fundulidae
Banded KillifishFundulus diaphanusNativeFresh, brackish, and marine watersG5 S5Closely related to the Mummichog, this species feeds on the surface and is commonly distributed in many different warmwater habitats.  It can be collected and used as bait.
MummichogFundulus heteroclitusNativeFresh, brackish, and marine watersG5 S5Commonly captured and/or purchased as a baitfish, this species is found in high densities in tidal areas and can tolerate low dissolved oxygen levels. 
Gasterosteidae
Brook SticklebackCulaea inconstansInvasiveFreshG5Although never captured in the wild in NJ waters, this invasive species was incidentally imported into the Hackettstown Fish Hatchery potential to negatively impact native stream fishes.
Ictaluridae
Brown BullheadAmeiurus nebulosusNative*FreshG5 S5This bullhead is commonly caught by anglers and found in most ponds, lakes, most streams and rivers that do not have a high gradient.
Channel CatfishIctalurus punctatusNon-Native*FreshG5The most popular catfish among anglers, this species is stocked throughout the state, from large lakes and rivers to small park ponds.
Flathead CatfishPylodictis olivarisInvasiveFreshG5This unwanted invasive species, surpassing 20 lb, has been captured from NJ waters. Biologists have concern for their negative impacts on both recreationally important species and fish assemblages in general.
Margined MadtomNoturus insignisNativeFreshG5 S4Armed with venom glands that can leave a bee-like sting when mishandled, this small catfish is most densely found in medium to large streams in the northern half of the state.  It can be collected and used as bait.
Tadpole MadtomNoturus gyrinusNativeFreshG5 S4Similar to the Margined Madtom, it has venom glands that can be quite painful.  This species is NJ’s smallest catfish and is primarily limited to the Pinelands.  It can be collected and used as bait.
White CatfishAmeiurus catusNativeFreshG5 S4NJ’s largest native catfish is found throughout the state, but may be declining.  It is commonly caught by anglers alongside of Channel Catfish, which by comparison, White Catfish have a broader head, longer anal fin, and a more deeply-forked tail.
Yellow BullheadAmeiurus natalisNativeFreshG5 S5Similar to the Brown Bullhead, this catfish is widely distributed in NJ, including the Pinelands.
Lepisosteidae
Longnose GarLepisosteus osseusExtirpatedFreshG5 SHThis prehistoric looking fish was historically present in NJ waters, but has not been found for many years.
Moronidae
Hybrid Striped BassMorone saxatilis x M. chrysopsNon-Native*FreshNAThis sterile hybrid provides excellent fishing opportunities in Spruce Run Reservoir, Lake Hopatcong, and Manasquan Reservoir.
Striped BassMorone saxatilisNativeAnadromousG5 S4This recreationally important species is sought after by freshwater anglers in the Delaware and Raritan Rivers.
White PerchMorone americanaNativeFresh and brackishG5 S5Common in tidal waters, this species migrates into rivers to spawn.  It is also common in lakes.
Osmeridae
Rainbow SmeltOsmerus mordaxNativeFresh, brackish, and marine watersG5 SULittle is known about the status of this species, as it has not been found in NJ waters recently.  It is believed to have declined due to damming and siltation.
Percidae
Shield DarterPercina peltataNativeFreshG5 S3 Special Concern SWAP Focal Sp.Sensitive to habitat and water quality degradation, this species has a limited distribution in NJ, found primarily in medium to large rivers.  This fish resembles a miniature Walleye
Swamp DarterEtheostoma fusiformeNativeFreshG5 S4 SWAP FocalProtected in several neighboring states, the Swamp Darter has been limited to the Pinelands, where they are common and apparently stable.  Although they can tolerate low dissolved oxygen levels, they may be susceptible to degradation of water quality and habitat and non-native species.
Tessellated DarterEtheostoma olmstediNativeFreshG5 S5A very abundant species occupying most streams and rivers throughout NJ, only occasionally found in the Pinelands.  This small bottom dwelling species props itself up on its pelvic fins. 
WalleyeSander vitreusNon-Native*FreshG5Walleye are annually stocked to increase fishing diversity in places like the Delaware River, Greenwood Lake, Monksville Reservoir, Lake Hopatcong, Swartswood Lake, and Canistear Reservoir.
Yellow PerchPerca flavescensNativeFreshG5 S5This species is often associated with clear and vegetated lakes.  This species is often taken by anglers through the ice and is an important forage species for larger predators.
Petromyzontidae
American Brook LampreyLethenteron appendixNativeFreshG4 S3 Special Concern SWAP Focal Sp.This species requires clean streams with riffles for spawning, detritus for larval development, and is an indicator of biological condition of its habitat.  This lamprey differs from the Sea Lamprey, as it is non-parasitic.
Sea LampreyPetromyzon marinusNativeAnadromousG5 S5Although the parasitic adults are known for damaging fisheries in the Great Lakes, this species is native to NJ and is not considered harmful.  They can become relatively abundant in NJ’s big rivers when they migrate to spawn.
Poeciliidae
Eastern MosquitofishGambusia holbrookiNativeFresh, brackish, and marine watersG5 SUThis species is native to the southern-most waters of NJ.  Differentiation between the Eastern and Western Mosquitofish can be difficult.  Very little is known about its current status in NJ.
Western MosquitofishGambusia affinisNon-Native*Fresh, brackish, and marine watersG5Raised and stocked for mosquito control, this non-native species is detrimental to resident fish and amphibian populations and should not be stocked in places in which they can impact native species.
Salmonidae
Atlantic (Landlocked) SalmonSalmo salarNon-Native*FreshG5A close relative of the Brown Trout, recent introductions of larger individuals has resulted in increased popularity for this coldwater Salmonid.
Brook TroutSalvelinus fontinalisNative*FreshG5 S3 Special Concern SWAP Focal Sp.New Jersey’s only native salmonid, this beautiful sportfish now occupies less than half of its native range in NJ and is of conservation concern due to habitat degradation and competition with non-native salmonids.  Brook Trout are an excellent indicator of water quality and habitat.
Brown TroutSalmo truttaExotic*FreshG5Originally from Europe, this coldwater species is commonly targeted by anglers.  Brown Trout have been widely stocked and reproducing populations have become widely established in many of NJ’s coldwater streams, displacing native Brook Trout.  They are also an indicator of water quality and habitat.
Lake TroutSalvelinus namaycushNon-NativeFreshG5Stockings of this Char resulted in the establishment of reproducing populations in Round Valley Reservoir in the 1980’s and more recently in Merrill Creek Reservoir.  Lake Trout over 30 pounds have been caught in Round Valley Reservoir.
Rainbow TroutOncorhynchus mykissNon-Native*FreshG5Native to Pacific Ocean tributaries, this popular sportfish is commonly stocked throughout the world.  Reproducing populations can be found in a handful of NJ streams.
Tiger TroutSalmo trutta x Salvelinus fontinalisExoticFreshNAThis sterile hybrid of Brook and Brown Trout is occasionally found naturally in the wild and is commonly raised in hatcheries.  Its intricate pattern and vibrant color give each one their own unique appearance.
Synbranchidae
Asian Swamp EelMonopterus albusInvasiveFreshNAOne of ten potentially dangerous fish species in NJ, first discovered in 2008 in Silver Lake (Camden) and upstream wetlands.  Annual removals via electrofishing are conducted to control this localized population.

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Last Update: June 6th, 2022