the fish 101


Walleyes have a long, roundish body, a forked tail and sharp canine teeth in their jaws. The large eye is glassy and reflects light at night. The dorsal fin is separated into two parts, the front portion with 12 to 16 spines, the rear portion with one or two short spines and the rest, soft rays. The anal fin has one or two spines.

Walleyes vary in color, ranging from a bluish gray to olive-brown to golden-yellow, with dark-on-light mottling. Side scales may be flecked with gold. Irregular spots on the sides can join to make a vague barred pattern. The belly is light-colored or white.


Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth bass is generally brown, appearing sometimes as black or green (seldom yellow) with red eyes, and dark brown vertical bands, rather than a horizontal band along the side. There are 13–15 soft rays in the dorsal fin. The upper jaw of smallmouth bass extends to the middle of the eye. The smallmouth’s coloration and hue may vary according to environmental variables such as water clarity or diet.



The Musky is streamlined with a dorsal and anal fin that are set so far back toward the tail that the fish is almost missile-shaped. Its flat, ducklike snout has many strong, sharp teeth. The Musky has no scales on the lower half of its cheek and the lower half of its gill cover, which helps to distinguish it from the Northern Pike. Also, the Musky has six to nine pores, tiny sensory openings, beneath each side of its jaw; the Northern Pike has five or fewer pores. Muskies vary in the color and the intensity of their markings. The base color on the back and sides is light greenish gray or yellow-green to olive-brown, the sides shading lighter. The flanks have more or less vertical rows of darker spotting, or indistinct bars. The striping is more pronounced in younger fish. In older fish it may fade, giving the fish a uniform color. The Musky’s belly is white. Its fins are greenish cream to brownish orange, with dark blotches. There is no dark teardrop mark below the eye. Instead, a black horizontal streak runs through the eye. A Musky of 20 to 35 pounds is not unusual, and they may grow over four feet long.



Female Shad, carrying their eggs during the spawning run, average four to five pounds, with a six- or seven-pounder fairly common. The males are smaller for their age. Shad can grow to 30 inches, with a maximum weight of about 12 pounds. Shad are brilliantly silver on the sides, with a greenish or bluish-metallic sheen on the back. The scales are large and readily detach when the fish is handled. Shad have one to two, rarely three, rows of dark spots extending along the side from the back edge of the gill cover. The first spot is the largest. The body is deep from the side and narrow seen head-on. Shad have sharp-edged modified scales along the belly line, as do other Herrings. The dorsal fin is at the center of the back, and the tail is deeply notched. The dorsal and caudal fins are dusky. The caudal fin has a black edge, and the other fins are clear to light-green. The upper and lower jaws are about equal in length, neither jutting past the other. The rear corner of the upper jaw extends to the rear edge of the large eye. The head has a short, triangular look. The Shad is notorious for its thin, easily torn mouth tissue.


Striped Bass

The Striped Bass has a smoothly arched profile, slimmer and more streamlined than a striped bass hybrid, until it reaches a weight of five to 10 pounds, when its body becomes heavy-looking. The back is olive-green to steely blue-gray, sometimes almost black. The sides are silvery to pale silvery-green, shading to white on the belly. There are seven or eight distinct dark stripes that run laterally on the side of the body. Striped Bass have two dorsal fins, the front spiny-rayed, the second mostly soft-rayed, separated by a notch. The back of the tongue has two tooth 127 patches, unlike the White Bass, which has one tooth patch at the base of its tongue. There are three spines and 11 soft rays on the anal fin, with the longest of these spines less than half the height of the anal fin. Young Striped Bass do not have dark lateral stripes, but instead have dusky bars.

Striped Bass catches in the 15- to 20-pound range are not uncommon in Pennsylvania. For sea-living Striped Bass, sizes in excess of 100 pounds have been reported. The Pennsylvania state records both for marine and landlocked Striped Bass are over 50 pounds.



Catfish are scaleless, with a tough, smooth skin. All species have eight appendages on the head called “barbels,” four on the upper jaw and four on the chin. The barbels are sometimes called “whiskers.” They are fleshy, supple projections that narrow to a tip. The barbels don’t inflict the notorious sting of the Catfish. That’s done by the strongly developed pectoral fin spines, one on each side of the fish, and the dorsal fin. Catfish spawn in spring to early summer. Both males and females may contribute to nest construction and care of eggs and young, but usually that duty is just the male’s. Nests can be in holes in river or lake banks, in the open, or under rocks and other submerged objects. The female is clasped by the male and is stimulated to deposit a mass of sticky eggs. The male or both parents guard the nest and protect the young for a time. Young Catfish form tight schools and separate individually only to hide when they have been frightened. Adult Catfishes are most active at night. When they are active in daytime, it is generally in muddy, clouded water. They have poor vision and use the sense of smell and the taste buds on the skin, lips and barbels to find food.



Pennsylvania is home to some of the best trout fishing in the world! Wild and stocked Brook (native, state fish), Brown and Rainbow (including steelhead and golden rainbow) Trout are found in PA waters. In addition, Lake Trout are found in Lake Erie, Raystown Lake and the East Branch Clarion River Dam. You can pursue trout in tiny mountain brooks, famous limestone streams, large rivers like the Upper and West Branch of the Delaware and the Youghiogheny River and the tributaries and ocean-like waters of Lake Erie. With nearly 16,000 miles (and counting) of wild trout streams, nearly 5,000 miles of stocked trout streams and over 125 stocked trout lakes, PA has something to offer every trout angler.


Now lets go catch some!