List of Common Peshtigo River Fish Species [Updated]
Located in northeastern Wisconsin, the Peshtigo River originates in Forest County, where multiple streams and creeks combine, and runs 136 miles southeast into Green Bay in Marinette County. The river shares its name with the town of Peshtigo in Marinette County, and this river has a great significance for the people of Peshtigo.
On October 8, 1871, a wildfire swept across 400 square miles of forest that destroyed the town of Peshtigo. Named “The Great Peshtigo Fire,” this tragic incident claimed the lives of 300 to 500 individuals in the town of Peshtigo and around 1,500 lives altogether. Fortunately, the Peshtigo River was accessible to some of the towns that were impacted, and many survived the fire by taking refuge in the marshy lands near the river. Relatively soon after the fire, new settlers began to make their way into the area, and the land was quickly used for the timber industry.
Today, much of the land that was impacted by the Peshtigo Fire has grown lush forests that the Peshtigo River runs through. Most notably, the Peshtigo River State Forest surrounds the river and provides 3,200 acres of water and 9,200 acres of forest that support a variety of recreational activities. One of the most popular activities in the Peshtigo River is actually white water rafting. The Peshtigo River is famous for its Roaring Rapids section, which offers some pretty fast-flowing and exciting waters, especially in the spring when the snow begins to melt into the river.
In addition to the whitewater, the Peshtigo River offers some excellent fishing opportunities to anglers. Below are the most common species of fish that can be caught in the Peshtigo River.
List of Fish Species in the Peshtigo River
1) Walleye (Sander vitreus)
Walleye are a commonly stocked species throughout Wisconsin, and they can be found in deep areas of the Peshtigo River near the bottom of the river or near ledges under the water. This species has a brownish-green body that fades to a cream belly complete with dark horizontal lines. These fish are the largest of the perch family, and they average about 11 pounds.
Walleye get their name from their big, glassy pupils; they look like this due to a reflective layer on the inner eye called the tapetum lucidum, which helps walleye see prey in times of low visibility. This layer makes walleye sensitive to bright light, however, so they often hunt for their prey, like fishes and mudpuppies, at dusk or night. In the Peshtigo River, walleye use the lower river as spawning grounds in the springtime, so fishers from all over are attracted to the area in hopes of catching their personal best fish.
2) Northern pike (Esox lucius)
Northern pike are another popular sport fish in Wisconsin, and they can be found near dams in the Peshtigo River where the water is deep, cool, and rocky. This species is characterized by torpedo-shaped bodies that are dark green or brown in color and covered in light spots.
Northern pike grow to about 15 – 25 inches long and weigh around 2 – 5 pounds. They also have pointed mouths that contain many sharp teeth that are pointed backward to ensure a tight grip on prey. Due to the structure of their body, northern pike prove to be vicious predators and will wait motionless until the right moment comes to lunge and eat other fish, frogs, crayfish, small mammals, and birds.
3) Spotted muskellunge (Esox masquinongy masquinongy)
Spotted muskellunge, more commonly known as spotted muskies, are a population of muskies that are found in the Great Lakes region. These types of muskies can be found in the lower Peshtigo River in areas where the water is very clear and slow-moving. These fish have darker green or brownish backs that fade to light green sides and a whitish belly. Spotted muskies are known for their darker spotted pattern across their body as well as having pointed tips on the caudal fin.
Muskies are the largest of the pike family, and they can reach about 30 – 40 inches long and 10 – 20 pounds on average, although they can reach up to 70 pounds in certain waters. These fish have jaws lined with long, sharp teeth, and the roof of their mouths are covered in smaller curved teeth. They also have excellent vision both during the day and at night. With these factors combined, muskies make for top predators that eat a number of larger fish species.
4) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Largemouth bass can be seen throughout the Peshtigo River in areas with slower-moving water and coverings. Largemouth bass get their name from their mouth, which extends past the eye, unlike smallmouths. Largemouth bass have olive-green bodies with dark mottling along the back and speckles along the sides.
This species has an average length of 13 inches and will generally weigh less than 5 pounds, although the largest largemouth ever recorded was 22 pounds and 4 ounces. Largemouths are carnivores that primarily feed on crayfish but will also eat other fishes and insects.
5) Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
Smallmouth bass are a popular and abundant sport fish in the Peshtigo River, and they are often found around structures like logs or debris in the water where the water currents break. Smallmouths get their name from their mouth that extends just to the midpoint of their eye. These fish are an olive-green color with vertical bands on the side of the body, and these bands will fade with age.
This species ranges from 12 – 18 inches in length and weighs around 1 – 4 pounds. Smallmouth bass are ferocious hunters and will eat crayfish, insects, and other fishes. Due to their eagerness to bite and the strong fight these fish exhibit, anglers love to catch this species in the Peshtigo River.
6) Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
Bluegills can be found all around the Peshtigo River where waters are very slow and there is lots of vegetation. Bluegills have disk-shaped bodies with an olive green back, orangish-yellow belly, and a black dot at the base of the dorsal fin. These fish get their name from the bluish hue surrounding the gill covers. Bluegill average around 7.5 inches in length, and weigh around half a pound as adults.
These fish have very little mouths, so they will only eat smaller prey such as zooplankton, insects, worms, and snails. Bluegills are a main source of food for many larger fish such as largemouth bass, so they have adapted to be maneuverable. For instance, this species can make very quick stops by spreading out their pectoral fins.
7) Yellow perch (Perca flavescens)
Yellow perch are found throughout the Peshtigo River where there are clear, temperate waters. Perch can live in areas with low oxygen content; however, they will not be able to survive in waters with higher turbidity. This species is known for its golden yellow to greenish body covered in 6 – 8 dark vertical bars. These fish have yellow or green eyes and orange-red tinted fins.
Yellow perch generally grow to about 7 – 10 inches long and weigh around a pound, although this species is prone to having stunted growth in areas where food is limited. When food is abundant, adults will feed on the bottom of the river with their subterminal mouth, and they will search for items such as benthic macroinvertebrates as well as smaller fish.
8) White sucker (Catostomus commersonii)
White suckers are found in colder, clear waters of the Peshtigo River. These fish have long, round bodies with dark brown or green backs, cream bellies, and clear fins. When males are breeding, they will gain a gold coloration on their backs as well as reddish stripes on their sides.
This species has a large size range, but adults typically grow to about 10 inches long and weigh about 1 – 5 pounds. White suckers have a unique mouth that is subterminal, toothless, and contains thick lips. With this mouth, they will feed on the bottom of the water and suck up anything like fish, fish eggs, plants, mollusks, insects, and algae.
9) Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)
Black crappies often inhabit impoundments created by the dams located more towards the southern parts of the Peshtigo River where the water is slow, deeper, and clear. Black crappies have compressed bodies that are darker green on the back with dark mottling on the silvery sides. They also have 7 – 8 spines on their dorsal fins, which distinguishes them from white crappies, which have 5 – 6 spines.
This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, so the males tend to be larger and darker than the females. Black crappies typically grow to about 8 – 12 inches long and weigh 0.25 – 1 pounds. These fish are able to see relatively well in the dark, so they will generally hunt during the night or early morning for small fish, crustaceans, and insects.
10) White crappie (Pomoxis annularis)
White crappies can also be found in the Peshtigo River, and they do well in areas with very slow-moving and turbid waters. White crappies have compressed bodies that are silvery olive on the back and silvery white on the belly. These fish have dark vertical bands along the sides of their bodies, and their gill covers have spines.
Males look slightly different than females during breeding season because males will develop a dark throat. White crappies average about 9 – 10 inches long and are around 2 pounds as adults. These fish generally eat smaller fishes like minnows or shad, but they will also eat insects such as mayflies.
11) Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
Brook trout can be found more in the lower Peshtigo River where the water is clear and cold. Brook trout have a dark green or brown back that fades into silver-colored sides. They have cream-colored wavy lines along their heads and back that turn into spots on their sides, and they also have red and blue spots speckled across their body. Brook trout are around 12 – 20 inches long and weigh 2 – 13 pounds on average.
These fish are opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything that finds its way into the water including insects, worms, fish, salamanders, and even small rodents! Because brook trout are extremely sensitive to their environment and need perfect conditions to thrive, there are many threats to their populations. In the Peshtigo River, the Trout and Salmon Foundation funded the Trout Unlimited Project which aims to reconnect spawning habitats of brook trout by removing road culverts in order to help boost the population.
12) Brown trout (Salmo trutta)
Brown trout prefer to live in slow-moving deep areas of the Peshtigo River. These fish have a brown or olive-green body with dark-colored spots, and their undersides are tannish. Adult brown trout range from about 7 – 22 inches in length and weigh anywhere from 1 – 52 pounds. Female brown trout tend to have a larger abdomen and a smaller head compared to males. Brown trout primarily feed on invertebrates and crustaceans, but larger individuals will prey on other fish.
Brown trout have been introduced to waters all over the world, and they are considered invasive in many areas. While they are a popular sport fish, brown trout seem to be having many negative impacts on ecosystems including the decline of other fish species, as well as the alteration of algal biomass in certain waters.