List of Lake Champlain Fish Species 2021 [Updated]

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List of Champlain Fish Fish Species 2021 (Fishable & Not) [Updated]

view of Lake Champlain from Vermont
Lake Champlain is a large lake that borders Vermont, New York, and Canada. Photo by James St. John / CC BY-SA 2.0

Named after Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer from the 17th century, Lake Champlain is a beautiful and picturesque lake. It is located on the border between Vermont and New York, as well as across the US/Canadian border in Quebec.

While Lake Champlain is a popular destination for weekend recreators, not many people know just how it was formed. It is the eighth largest natural body of freshwater in the continental United States, and has an interesting natural history! This beautiful lake was formed by the melting of Pleistocene era glaciers around 200 million years ago when the Earth began to heat up.

Getting to Lake Champlain is pretty simple – the accessibility and recreation opportunities make it a popular destination for Canadians and New Englanders alike. It is only about an hour’s drive south from Quebec, Canada. If you are coming in from New York City, the lake is about a five hour long drive. Boston is only a three and a half hour drive away! Lake access is off of US Route 2 where it crosses between Vermont and New York. Escaping the city life to visit this serene lake is definitely worth the trip if you are in the area.

How Big & Deep is Lake Champlain?

how big is lake champlain
Lake Champlain is a large, 490 square mile lake located in a valley of the Adirondack Mountains. Photo by Annacecchini, CC BY-SA 4.0

This gorgeous lake is crystal clear, and provides stunning views of the Adirondack Mountains. With 490 square miles of water surface, 587 miles of shoreline, and water that gets as deep as 400 feet, there are endless opportunities for fun and recreation at Lake Champlain! Paddle boarding, kayaking, diving, sailing, and sport fishing are among the most popular activities at this incredible lake!

When it comes to fishing, Lake Champlain is a great place to cast your line! It is renowned for its trout and landlocked Arctic salmon, but also has an incredibly diverse community of fish species.

While there are over 90 species of fish found here, Lake Champlain is a wonderful place to catch yellow perch, white perch, bluegill sunfish, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rock bass, brown bullhead catfish, and northern pike!

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List of Fish Species in Lake Champlain [Updated]

1) Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)

catch and release yellow perch Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)
Photo by Heath Alseike / CC BY-SA 2.0

Yellow perch are identifiable by their elongated, golden-yellow bodies and the dark vertical bands that run down the sides of the fish. They are popular sport fish that can grow up to a foot in length (30 cm). While they are commonly found in many freshwater rivers and lakes, they tend to spend their time under the protection provided by shoreline vegetation.

P. flavescens are food items for many other species of fish and birds; they are a favorite meal for gulls and ducks! While yellow perch feed on a variety of items, they prefer to dine on the larvae of insects, crustaceans, and small fish.

Yellow perch spawning season occurs from late in February through March. They are a semi-anadromous species, meaning that they will reside in freshwater or brackish rivers and then travel to smaller freshwater streams when it is time for spawning. Female yellow perch lay their eggs in gelatinous strands, which stick to aquatic vegetation near the shoreline. These fish do not build nests during spawning, but instead rely on the habitat features available. Yellow perch also do not guard or protect their eggs or young.

A member of the bass family and not the perch family, the name “white perch” can be deceiving. These fish are silvery white in color, and can grow to be around 19 inches (49 centimeters) in length. White perch prefer to live in brackish waters, but they are also common in freshwater habitats and coastal areas on the east coast of the United States.

The majority of the diet of white perch consists of the eggs of other fish. They will prey on the eggs of walleye and other perch species. They are also known to eat minnows and crustaceans.

White perch have very high reproduction rates. A single female can release 150,000 eggs in a single spawning season! Multiple males will fertilize the eggs of a single female, and the fertilized eggs will hatch within a week.

3) Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus)

bluegill fish of saguaro lake
Photo by Scott Harden, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bluegill sunfish are very popular sportfish across North America. They are sometimes also called “bream,” “brim,” or “sunnies.” Bluegill are native to freshwater systems across North America. These gorgeous fish are notable and identifiable by their beautiful iridescent coloration. 

Typically, bluegill grow to be around 6 inches in length (15 centimeters), but they can grow to be up to 12 inches long (30 centimeters). Different populations of bluegill might display variety in color morph, but they tend to be a very distinguishable deep green or blue color. Bluegill sunfish have a deep and highly compressed body shape; when you see one, you will notice that it is ovaline and relatively flat.

Bluegill sunfish are opportunistic feeders, so they tend to eat whatever is available in the environment. They typically feed on insects, worms, larvae and crustaceans.

Bluegill have high reproduction rates, and a single female can spawn three times in a season. Between the months of May and August, she will release anywhere from 2,300-81,000 eggs per spawning event. Females will lay their eggs in the substrate in nests built by a male bluegill. After she lays her eggs, the male will fertilize and defend them.

4) Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

smallmouth bass in shallow water
Smallmouth bass are most easily distinguished from largemouth by the dark vertical bands on the body.

While the maximum recorded length for a smallmouth bass is 27.2 inches (69 centimeters), these fish are usually caught when they are somewhere between 12 and 16 inches (30-40 centimeters) in length. In lakes where smallmouth are found, they tend to live in shallow, rocky areas along shorelines. Largemouth bass have a single horizontal dark stripe, but the smallmouth can be distinguished by the multiple vertically-oriented stripes along its body.

Juvenile smallmouth bass typically feed on plankton and small aquatic insects. The diet of adult smallmouth bass consists of crayfish, insects, and other fish. Some smallmouth bass are cannibalistic, and have been recorded eating other smallmouth bass.

Male smallmouth bass will build spawning nests in the gravel substrate of shallow waters. Above the nest, a mating pair will perform a spawning ritual. Eggs are fertilized, and hatch within a week or so. Male bass will guard the nest until the fry are hardy enough to live on their own.

5) Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)

a young largemouth bass swimming amongst rocks
Photo courtesy of Ken Hammond via the United States Department of Agriculture.

The largemouth bass, or “green bass,” is a carnivorous freshwater fish species that can be found in freshwater habitats all across the United States, Mexico, South America, and Africa. They are a popular species for sport fishing. Females tend to grow larger in size than males, and mature largemouth bass can be around 30” in length (76 cm). Largemouth bass have high longevity and can live to be up to 25 years old. These fish thrive in habitats that have calm and clear waters.

A largemouth bass can be identified by its elongated body, and dark greenish/yellow coloration. They have a dark horizontal stripe running down the side of the body, and can often be distinguished from other species of bass by its larger sized mouth.

Largemouth bass are carnivorous throughout their lives, but their dietary preferences change throughout their life stages. As juveniles, M. salmoides eat a diet consisting of insects, zooplankton, and smaller fish. As they mature, their diet shifts and they begin to feed on larger insects, crayfish, and other fish.

Spawning season for largemouth bass is in the springtime. Males will build nests in gravel substrate under shallow water. Females deposit eggs in these nests, and the males will come along later and fertilize them. The fertilized eggs will develop and hatch in approximately four to six days! Interestingly, males will protect their school of larvae for the first month of their lives.

6) Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris)

a rock bass in lake champlain
Rock bass are distinguished from other bass by their rows of dark spots and red-hued eyes. Photo by Cephas, CC BY-SA 3.0

Rock bass are often also called “rock perch” or “red eye,” and they are a native species to freshwater systems in eastern North America. While they are similar in appearance to the smallmouth bass, they are unique in that they have six anal spines (these make up the anal fin, which helps the fish stabilize while swimming), many rows of dark spots on their sides, and red colored eyes. They are also typically smaller in size than smallmouth bass.

This species of bass prefers to reside in clear, vegetated, and rocky areas of stream pools and lake shorelines. This type of habitat provides cover and protection from their predators – large bass, northern pike, muskie, and walleye. Rock bass like to feed on smaller fish like yellow perch, minnows, insects, and crustaceans. Adults are most active in feeding in the early mornings and evenings, so this is the best time of day to catch them!

At 2 or 3 years of age, rock bass are mature enough to begin reproducing. They are a polygynandrous species, which means that males and females have multiple mates in the span of a single breeding season. Between the months of April and June, female rock bass will lay anywhere from 2,000 to 11,000 eggs in nests built by males. She lays her eggs simultaneously as the male releases sperm. The males practice highly aggressive nest guarding, and raise the young for a short period of time after hatching. 

7) Brown Bullhead Catfish (Ameiurus nebulosus)

An adult brown bullhead catfish
Brown bullhead catfish can typically be found at the bottom of Lake Champlain. Photo by Stas & Lana (CC BY-NC),

Brown bullhead catfish are a species of bullhead that are very similar to black bullhead catfish. They are widely distributed in freshwater habitats across North America, and sometimes referred to as “mud cats,” or “mud pouts.” These catfish are large, and typically grow to be around 21 inches (53 centimeters) in length. They have dark brown/ green colored backsides, and lighter green/ yellow bellies. Like other catfish, brown bullheads do not have scales.

Brown bullhead catfish are bottom feeders, and have slightly subterminal mouths to enable this feeding style. They are an omnivorous species, feeding on algae, leeches, worms, insects, and other small fish species.

This species of catfish can live for 6-8 years, and they spawn in the months between April and June. During each breeding season, the females are monogamous and stick to a single mate. Females build nests and lay their eggs in dark, protected locations under shallow water. Both males and females practice protective behaviors of the eggs, and they continue to guard the young for a few days after they hatch.

8) Northern Pike (Esox lucius)

fish species lake superior
Photo by Jik jik CC BY SA

Northern pike are found in freshwater systems all across the Northern Hemisphere. They are easily distinguishable by their long, slender bodies and olive-green coloration. Northern pike have light colored spots on their sides, and a long, flattened snout. These fish have a mouth full of sharp teeth, helping them to prey on anything that moves! They grow to be very large, and can range in length from 18-20 inches (46 to 51 centimeters)!

E. lucius can be found in streams, lakes, and large rivers. They prefer areas that have shallow waters and dense vegetation. While fishing for northern pike, it’s a good idea to cast near the shoreline around rocky or densely vegetated spots.

Pike are known for their aggressively carnivorous tendencies, and they eat a lot of food every day. They mainly prey on other fish species, but have been known to eat frogs, mammals, and even waterfowl! These large predatory fish hide out under cover until prey comes along, and then they strike fast to catch a meal.

Northern pike are broadcast spawners. Females will release eggs over vegetation, and one or more males will come along and fertilize them. They spawn in shallow waters during the springtime months.E]

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