List of Fish Species in Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin 2023

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List of Common Fish Species in Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin [Updated]

Devil's Lake, Wisconsin
Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin has a surface area of more than 360 acres! Corey Coyle, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Devil’s Lake State Park is one of the most elegant parks in Wisconsin. Upon arriving at the park, visitors will notice the park’s centerpiece and namesake, Devil’s Lake, which takes up a surface area of over 360 acres. During working hours, visitors can access an educational nature center to learn about Devil’s Lake’s exciting history and abundant wildlife. They can also use the lake through various swimming, boating, and fishing activities and the land around the lake via hiking trails, rock climbing, and wildlife watching.

Hiking trails around the part will take visitors on a journey through pine forests that harbor diverse plant and animal species. Visitors might encounter species like the adorable ruddy duck, the stunning bald eagle, or even the reclusive timber rattlesnake. Hikers will also find spectacular waterfalls and dramatic bluffs overlooking Devil’s Lake.

Unfortunately, some wildlife at Devil’s Lake may be dangerous, and these animals should be given the utmost respect. Visitors should take steps to avoid dangerous animals by adhering to park rules, staying on the trails, and being vigilant of their surroundings. Contracting Lyme disease is also possible but can be easily prevented by examining oneself thoroughly for ticks after visiting the park.

Regarding recreational fishing, Devil’s Lake has an abundance of fish species, from the ubiquitous largemouth and smallmouth bass to more novel species like the beautiful blue and red Iowa darter. During the winter, anglers can go ice fishing on the frozen lake, where they may catch species like the northern pike or walleye.

List of Fish Species in Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin

1) Brown trout (Salmo trutta)

Brown trout
Brown trout have light halos around the dark spots that are on their bodies. aerin_j / CC BY 4.0

Native to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa

The brown trout is also known as the lake trout and can be distinguished from other trout species by the presence of light halos around dark spots. Rainbow trout, for example, lack these halos. This trout species is a popular sport fish introduced in the 1880s and is routinely stocked in American rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

This trout species prefers slower rivers than other trout and are nocturnal predators of crayfish and other large invertebrates. They spawn in the fall and winter with migratory tendencies similar to rainbow trout. Generally, up to 5 trout or salmon may be harvested per day per angler in Wisconsin, but trout fishing in Wisconsin is regulated differently from other fish species and varies from stream to stream. So, anglers should ensure that they are up to date on the latest Wisconsin trout regulations and be aware of the stream they are fishing in.

2) White sucker (Catostomus commersonii)

White sucker
White suckers can reach lengths of more than 15 inches, which is larger than most other sucker species. Rob Foster / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Canada

This sucker species can grow much larger than other suckers, commonly reaching lengths of more than 15 inches (38 cm). This silvery, streamlined fish is native to some parts of North America. However, it has been introduced to areas intentionally via bait buckets or unintentionally as a hitchhiker in trout stocking efforts. In the white sucker’s introduced range, it competes with and hybridizes with longnose and mountain suckers. They can survive in a broader range of habitat types than the other sucker species and are far more tolerant of disturbances.

They are safe for humans to eat and provide food for wildlife. Anyone looking to catch white suckers should try for them in rocky pools and large lakes, especially where the water moves quickly. White sucker fry are planktivorous, while older individuals consume invertebrates. It is vital to ensure that live fish are not transported between water bodies. This sucker species readily hybridizes with other suckers and could be problematic for native suckers.

3) Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

Smallmouth bass
Smallmouth bass have been intentionally stocked in many rivers & lakes, which has led to hybridization with native species. Patrick Jackson / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America

This giant sunfish is a common catch in lakes and rivers throughout most of the United States, thanks to intentional introductions as sportfish stock. Smallmouth bass are solidly greenish-gray and have striking red eyes. Their mouths do not extend past the farthest edge of their eyes, whereas the mouths of largemouth bass do.

Anglers can expect to catch smallmouth bass along rocky beaches and gravel beds. They are voracious predators and will consume most types of bait. This species will construct nests during the springtime spawning season to protect their eggs. Male smallmouth bass will defend the eggs until they hatch and can often easily be seen during this period. Some sources recommend targeting these protective males or using them as a clue that there are other smallmouth bass in the area.

Where introduced, smallmouth bass are responsible for reducing populations of native fish species via competition or predation. As with many other non-native species, they also hybridize with native relatives.

4) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Largemouth bass
To reproduce successfully, largemouth bass require warmer waters (more than 50 ºF). Dominic / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America

Due to its large size, aggressive temperament, and table fare, the largemouth bass is one of the United State’s most famous and commercially important sportfish. While the smallmouth bass maxes out at around 27 inches (69 cm), the largemouth bass can reach sizes of up to 38 inches (97 cm). As a result, they are often stocked throughout the United States in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs for angling. Like the smallmouth bass, this species constructs large nests, and the males will protect the nest after spawning in the spring.

Largemouth bass will eat most types of prey and can tolerate various habitat types, from swamps to rivers. Their flexibility in habitat and diet make them excellent competitors in any body of water; however, they require warm water, more than 10 °C, to reproduce successfully.

Largemouth bass tend to occupy nearshore areas during the spawning season and when feeding. During most other seasons, anglers need a boat to find largemouth bass hiding in deeper waters. Anglers can use a variety of baits and lures to catch one. Largemouth and smallmouth bass between 14 inches (36 cm) and 18 inches (46 cm) must be returned to the water, and no more than one fish may be longer than 18 inches (46 cm). Additionally, anglers may harvest a maximum of 5 individuals per day per angler.

5) Pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus)

Pumpkinseed sunfish in hand
Pumpkinseed sunfish are easy to fish, making them particularly fun for kids to catch! Michael / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America

This round and beautiful sunfish sports an iridescent blue and orange coloration. Also known as just “pumpkinseed,” they are native to the northeastern United States. Like most non-native sunfish, they are introduced intentionally as sportfish and have also been introduced illegally. Pumpkinseeds are particularly fun for kids to catch because they are striking and easy to fish.

This sunfish is smaller than the smallmouth and largemouth bass, with a maximum length of 15 inches (38 cm) and an average length of 3 inches (7.6 cm). They almost exclusively consume invertebrates and snails. In areas where they are introduced, pumpkinseed sunfish adversely affect invertebrate populations and readily hybridize with other sunfish.

Pumpkinseed spawn in the spring and the summer. Like the largemouth and smallmouth bass, the males will construct and guard a nest. Then, over the next 3 – 5 days, the male will work tirelessly to protect and care for the eggs until they hatch.

6) Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

Bluegill underwater
Bluegills usually spawn from May to July, when the water is warmer. Emmett Collins-Sussman / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America

The bluegill is another stunning sunfish with a greyish-brown colored body and fins tipped with blue and orange. Unfortunately, they are no longer popular sportfish because they stay small and, as a result, are no longer routinely stocked. However, unlike other piscivorous sunfish, the bluegill does not accumulate as many toxic metals. It is, therefore, generally safer to eat.

Like the pumpkinseed, they are primarily insectivorous but will also consume snails, worms, and small fish. Because of this dietary overlap, pumpkinseed sunfish sometimes compete directly with bluegill.

Spawning occurs in warm water between May and July. As is characteristic of sunfish, the male will guard the nest until the eggs hatch. Male bluegills tend to be particularly aggressive during the breeding season. While they are not dangerous, they will try to attack swimmers if they come too close to the nest.

7) Rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris)

Caught rock bass
Rock bass have striking red eyes which help to tell them apart from other species. Steve DeGrace / CC BY 4.0

Native to the northeastern United States and Canada

Rock bass are not considered temperate bass (family Moronidae) nor black bass (sunfishes in the genus Micropterus). Instead, the rock bass is the type species for the genus Ambloplites, collectively called the rock basses. They are a type of sunfish and therefore share characteristics with black basses. Typically, rock bass are a dull green or brown color and usually have striking red eyes that help distinguish them from other species. If you count the spines on their anal fins, they should have six.

This species is not as common as other large sunfish species. It prefers clear water with loose gravel substrates and patchy, but not dense, vegetation. As is typical with sunfish, males construct a nest in the substrate, and females leave their adhesive eggs for them to care for and protect. Their diet includes insects, fish, and aquatic invertebrates like crayfish. They can change their color within a limited color range from silver to dark gray to camouflage themselves.

8) Temperate basses (Morone spp.)

Yellow bass in hand
Yellow bass (pictured) is one of two temperate bass species that can be found in Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin. Dominic / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America

Fish in the family Moronidae are considered true basses, unlike black bass, which is a type of sunfish. Despite this distinction, both groups of fish are delicious. They can be distinguished from sunfish by the presence of two separated dorsal fins, although this characteristic is sometimes inconsistent. Two species can be found in Wisconsin’s Devil’s Lake: white bass (M. chrysops) and yellow bass (M. mississippiensis). They are similar in appearance, with the white bass being silver in color with horizontal stripes. In contrast, the yellow bass is, as the name suggests, more yellow, particularly on its belly.

Temperate basses eat zooplankton and invertebrates as juveniles and primarily consume fish as adults. Unlike sunfish, which invest some energy into parental care, temperate basses migrate annually to spawning areas, spawn, and then leave their offspring to fend for themselves. This mating system distinguishes them from the nest-spawning sunfish. One source recommends using minnows or crappie as live bait to catch temperate bass.

9) Walleye (Sander vitreus)

Caught walleye
Walleye can be caught with different fishing techniques, but live bait is recommended. Adam Wilson / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States and Canada

The walleye, not to be confused with the walleye pollock, is an extremely important commercial and sportfish. Thanks to their large eyes, they are well adapted to their nocturnal lifestyle and visual hunting strategy. They also possess an arsenal of sharp teeth, facilitating their carnivorous diet. Walleyes are primarily piscivorous but are also known to eat invertebrates, amphibians, and even small mammals.

Walleyes thrive in the deep, slow-moving water where smaller prey species are abundant. This delicious fish is highly sought after by sport fishers. Fishing for walleyes is like fishing for bass species; anglers can catch them with various fishing tactics. Sources suggest using live bait such as minnows, earthworms, and leeches.

10) Yellow perch (Perca flavescens)

Yellow perch
In Wisconsin’s Devil’s Lake, 25 panfish, which includes yellow perch, can be caught per day. Patrick Jackson / CC BY 4.0

Native to the northern United States and Canada

Yellow perch are a great-tasting fish. Luckily for anglers, they occur in large schools, so anglers can catch them in great numbers despite their small size, which maxes out at 4 pounds (1.8 kgs). Additionally, their abundance and small size make them an important food source for predators, including large trout species and birds like the bald eagle.

The yellow perch consumes invertebrates and small fish. They occur in freshwater and brackish water and can tolerate a variety of habitats. They typically spawn from April to May when the waters are warm. A maximum of 25 panfish, including bluegill, pumpkinseed, sunfish, crappie, and perch, may be harvested per day.

11) Sauger (Sander canadensis)

Person holding sauger
Saugers have a preference for cold, turbid water and can be caught with a variety of jigs. Owen Strickland / No copyright

Native to the Mississippi River, northern United States, and Canada

The sauger is a highly predatory fish that looks like that of another perch species, the walleye. Saugers have a distinctive blotchy pattern and consistent patterning on their caudal fin. On the other hand, walleyes have a clear patch on the bottom edge of their caudal fin and typically do not have blotches on their bodies. Identifying saugers versus walleyes is complicated by the presence of hybrids known as saugeyes. These hybrids are often intentionally produced by wildlife agencies and stocked into lakes. They are popular sportfish and are introduced to reduce populations of smaller fish and invasives, like the pumpkinseed, which improves a water body’s sportfishing possibilities.

Cold, flowing, turbid water is perfect for a sauger. During the spawning season, adult saugers will migrate to spawning locations where they scatter their eggs over a rock bed, leaving them to fend for themselves. Young saugers are almost exclusively invertivores, but adults are prolific piscivores. Saugers are skillful predators, possessing a mouth full of teeth, eyes well adapted to low-light levels, and a sensitive lateral line that allows them to sense the movement of prey in the water.

Fishing for sauger is relatively simple. Anglers should target murky yet deep waters of lakes or rivers. Various jigs can be used to catch them, and some sources recommend using live bait to encourage these predators to bite. For the 2022 – 2023 fishing season, sauger, walleye, and their hybrids are managed together. An individual angler may take up to 5 fish with a minimum size of 15 inches (38 cm).

12) Northern pike (Esox lucius)

Northern pike in net
You are allowed to catch one northern pike per day, but it must be at least 32 inches long. Patrick Jackson / CC BY 4.0

Native to northern regions of North America, Europe, and Asia

The northern pike is an extremely popular sportfish and an aggressive piscivorous ambush predator that hides amongst dense vegetation waiting to ambush prey. It is such a voracious predator that it is known to extirpate smaller fish species from isolated lakes and rivers, causing severe problems for conservation. Additionally, the northern pike hybridizes with a native Esox species known as the muskellunge. Female hybrids are fertile and can interbreed with muskellunge populations, gradually diluting native populations with hybrids.

This species is common in lakes and reservoirs and migrates to streams to spawn. Eggs are broadcast over weed beds between March and May. During the breeding season, it is best to target northern pike in streams and shorelines. Otherwise, they are commonly found near areas with dense submerged vegetation. They are incredibly aggressive, so care should be taken when handling them.

The northern pike hosts a suite of parasites, some of which can infect humans, so individuals must thoroughly cook them before eating. Limiting the consumption of northern pike is also recommended because they are highly predatory and therefore bioaccumulate toxins. Anglers are limited to 1 northern pike per day. Additionally, that individual must be at least 32 inches (81 cm).

13) Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Caught channel catfish
It’s recommended to use live fish or nightcrawlers to catch channel catfish, but other meat-based baits can work too. Dan Johnson / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America, Canada, and Mexico

The channel catfish has a forked tail like a blue catfish but has a round anal fin instead of a straight one. The average length for this species is 10 to 20 inches (25 to 51 cm). Like the blue catfish, the channel catfish thrives in clear streams but can tolerate turbid water. They also can survive in brackish water. Young channel catfish have the typical invertebrate diet seen in other catfish species. The adults consume various prey items.

Channel catfish reproduction is temperature dependent and is initiated when the water temperature reaches at least 75 °F (23.9 °C). When temperatures are favorable, male channel catfish construct a nesting area for females to lay their eggs. Males protect and care for the eggs until they hatch.

The National Parks Service suggests using live fish and nightcrawlers to catch a tasty channel catfish. However, they will accept a variety of meat-based bait, from squid and shrimp to hotdogs and processed baits. Up to 10 catfish may be harvested per day per person.

14) Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)

Lake sturgeon
The lake sturgeon is North America’s largest freshwater fish, being able to reach lengths of up to 8 feet!Josh / No copyright

Native to the United States and Canada

At a whopping 8 feet (2.4 m) long and with a maximum weight of 208 pounds (94 kg), the lake sturgeon takes the number one spot as North America’s largest freshwater fish. In addition, they can be incredibly long-lived. One source provides a report of a lake sturgeon over 150 years old! Paddlefish and sturgeon belong to an ancient group of fish whose fossils date back to the Jurassic period. Lake sturgeon have boney scutes and a heterocercal tail that are typical characteristics of ancient fish lineages.

Lake sturgeons are demersal, meaning they occupy space in the water column closest to the substrate. They use their barbels to root around in the substrate for food. As a result, their diet is composed of benthic organisms like crayfish and snails.

The IUCN Red List considers sturgeon to be among the most endangered groups on Earth. Loss of habitat, particularly spawning grounds, has resulted in a severe reduction in lake sturgeon populations. They were also historically harvested by humans for their caviar. However, in the modern day, the fish is protected and harvest is illegal in most places. For example, it is unlawful to hunt lake sturgeon in Wisconsin.

15) Iowa darter (Etheostoma exile)

Iowa darter
The Iowa darter is a small fish that has been introduced as a non-native species in Colorado and Utah. Rob Foster / CC BY 4.0

Native to the Great Lakes region of North America and some water bodies in the Midwest United States

This tiny fish has a silver body with beautiful blue and red patterns along its sides and on its fins. Darters are small members of the Percidae family. Adult Iowa darters usually reach an average length of around 2 inches (5.1 cm). Given their small size, one could reasonably assume that, unlike larger members of the perch family, darters are not sportfish. Instead, they are ecologically important prey species. They are sometimes used as bait fish and can be found in the aquarium trade. As a result, some Iowa darters have been introduced in areas where they do not naturally occur. Non-native populations have been established in Colorado and Utah.

The Iowa darter hides in vegetated areas of cool water bodies. It tolerates some turbidity, although some populations have become significantly reduced due to human developments and habitat destruction or disturbance. It is rare in large waterbodies and prefers shallow streams or slow-moving rivers. During the spawning season, which lasts from April to June, the females select the most colorful males as mates. Males claim territory in a manner like the johnny darter and will protect and care for their eggs.

16) Johnny darter (Etheostoma nigrum)

Johnny darter
Johnny darters are common throughout Wisconsin and are usually 1.5 inches in length. Mathew Zappa / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States and Canada

The johnny darter is a slightly smaller and far less colorful relative of the Iowa darter. On average, they grow to be about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). It is common throughout Wisconsin. Like the Iowa darter, they are an ecologically important prey species and are occasionally kept in the aquarium trade.

The spawning season for this species lasts from mid-spring to the summer when water conditions are just right. Typically, johnny darters will migrate to spawning grounds. The males arrive first to claim territory containing large debris upon which female darters can deposit eggs. Males are territorial during the day and rest or feed at night. When females reach the nest, both sexes will spawn upside-down underneath the large debris the male selects.

17) Eastern blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus)

Eastern blacknose dace in water
Eastern blacknose dace can often be found in clear, fast-flowing streams with rocky substrate. Navin Sasikumar / CC BY 4.0

Native to the northeastern United States and Canada

Dace belong to the family Cyprinidae which includes small minnows and giant carps. A typical adult blacknose dace is 2.2 inches (5.6 cm) in length and can be found in clear, small, fast-flowing streams with rocky substrates. This species possesses a bold, dark line that runs down the sides of its body that can help distinguish it from the longnose dace. However, this line becomes patchy as the blacknose dace ages, making the two species challenging to determine.

 A typical spawning season for this species lasts from late spring to the beginning of summer and spawning itself usually occurs in the morning. Blacknose dace are essential prey items for predatory fish. Their own diet includes small aquatic insects and algae.

18) Spottail shiner (Notropis hudsonius)

Spottail shiner in hand
Shiner species (including spottail shiners) are useful baitfish, especially when catching walleye. Sammie Alexander / CC BY 4.0

Native to the northeastern United States and throughout most of Canada

Briefly, the three shiners on this list can be distinguished as follows. The spottail shiner has a spot at the base of its caudal fin, and the dorsal fin is absent of markings. The spotfin shiner does not possess a caudal spot but does have some black markings along the spines of its dorsal fin. Finally, the mimic shiner is grey throughout its body and has no distinct spots. As juveniles, these fish are difficult to distinguish from one another. Shiners also hybridize with each other, making identification even more difficult.

On average, the spottail shiner grows to be 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length. They can be found in large rivers and lakes where the water is calm. Spawning occurs in late spring or early summer. This species spawns in large congregations over gravel or sandy substrates, and their spawning behaviors are poorly understood. Spottail shiners eat tiny insect larvae, algae, and plants. Shiners are useful baitfish, particularly for walleye, and can be easily found in most water bodies.

19) Spotfin shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera)

Spotfin shiner
Spotfin shiners are silvery-blue minnows that prefer shallower waters. Adam Petrucco / CC BY 4.0

Native to the eastern United States and Canada

If you find a small, silvery-blue minnow with slightly orange pectoral and anal fins, you may have found a spotfin shiner. They get their name from the presence of black markings on the spines of their dorsal fins. These shiners prefer shallow water and have a higher tolerance for turbidity than other shiners. Occasionally, spotfin shiners can be displaced by or hybridize with the red shiner (C. lutrensis).

Spotfin shiners are spring or summer spawners that lay their eggs underneath debris in the water, like submerged logs or bark. Males claim territory, usually including a sizeable log or other pieces of debris upon which females deposit their eggs. Males will also put on a display for potential mates. They aggressively defend their territory from other males and potential predators.

20) Mimic shiner (Notropis volucellus)

Mimic shiner in hand
Mimic shiners are most commonly found in medium & large rivers and lakes. Nick Loveland / No copyright

Native to the United States and Canada

Another shallow-water shiner, the mimic shiner, occurs in medium to large-sized rivers or lakes. This species is more uniformly grey than the spotfin shiner, lacking red fins, and does not possess a tail spot like the spottail shiner. The presence of vegetation enhances the habitat quality for mimic shiners as they use these areas of their aquatic environment for spawning.

Spawning is believed to occur between May and August in large schools. Females broadcast their eggs over submerged vegetation. They are ardent insectivores and sometimes feed on algae or plants. Mimic shiners are predated by larger fish, watersnakes, turtles, and birds. They can also be used as bait for larger predatory fish.

21) Bluntnose minnow (Pimephales notatus)

Bluntnose minnow
Bluntnose minnows have more rounded snouts compared to spottail shiners.  Mathew Zappa / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of the United States and Canada

Bluntnose minnows are similar in appearance to spottail shiners. However, their snout is rounder than those of spottail shiners. Additionally, the first spine on the dorsal fin is short, making the dorsal fin appear more rounded. In contrast, spottail shiners have a more triangular-shaped dorsal fin. Bluntnose minnows are very common throughout Wisconsin and do well in various aquatic habitat types, even in areas with heavy human development. Their success in human environments is possibly due to their ability to use human-made objects such as tiles or bottlecaps as spawning objects.

Males develop pronounced tubercules on their heads during the breeding season from May to August. They construct little nests or find suitable objects for females to adhere to their eggs. Males are aggressive and incredibly brave, capable of taking on fish much bigger than themselves.

22) Fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)

Fathead minnow
The fathead minnow is a highly adaptable fish and can live in areas with low oxygen levels. Cricket Raspet / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America

This tiny fish stays around 3 inches (7.6 cm) long. Fathead minnows are native to some areas of the central United States but they have been introduced to nearly every state. Sometimes they are intentionally introduced to new water bodies by people for use as bait fish or prey species for more desirable sportfish. In introduced ranges, they can compete with and prey upon native species.

They are highly adaptable and live in various aquatic conditions, including areas with low oxygen levels that are not ideal for other fishes like sunfish, shad, and basses. Male fathead minnows provide parental care. They build nests, oxygenate, clean eggs, and defend themselves from predators. They frequently reproduce throughout the breeding season from May to September. As a result, populations can explode. They consume algae and other tiny organisms while becoming food themselves for any piscivorous species larger than they are. When a predator threatens an individual, they can release pheromones that alert other fathead minnows to the threat.

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