• Family: Salmonidae (Trout, Salmon, Char, and Whitefish)
• Other Names: Whitefish
• Ohio Status: Species of concern
• Adult Size: Typically 17-22 inches, can reach over 30 inches. Usually weighs 2-5 pounds, can reach 15 pounds.
• Typical Foods: Feeds near the bottom primarliy on mollusks and insect larvae.
The lake whitefish is a large silver or gray colored fish. It is darker on the back with a lighter colored belly. They have a sub-terminal (ending below tip of snout) mouth and a forked tail. Like all species in the Salmonidae family they have an adipose fin (small fleshy fin just in front of their tail on their back). The closely related cisco differs by being more long and slender, having a larger terminal (ending at tip of snout) mouth, and never getting larger than 20 inches and 3 pounds. All species of whitefish differ from trout, salmon, and char in having rather large scales.
Habitat and Habits
Lake whitefish are native to much of the northern part of North America. Lake Erie is at the southern edge of their range. They prefer deep, cold, well oxygenated water of large lakes. In the late 1800's and early 1900's over a million pounds of whitefish were commercially harvested each year. Today the species is still found in Lake Erie and the population has made a decent recovery but is not nearly as abundant as they once were.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Lake whitefish spawn in the western basin of Lake Erie on reefs or in shallow bays during fall when water temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Females spread their eggs over the bottom where they remain until hatching the following spring.