Fish Species Found in Lake Heron


Channel Catfish:   Ictalurus punctatus

Information Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Southwest Region  

A channel catfish lives fifteen to twenty years.  By the time the channel catfish is twenty years old it has grown to a maximum length of twenty inches.  The catfish can reach up to sixty pounds, but the average weight of a channel catfish is five to twenty pounds.  Catfishes are characterized by scaleless skin and barbels, better known as whiskers, about their mouth. Channel catfish have a deeply forked tail and dark spots. The spotting, however, diminishes with age. Consequently, older channel cats are frequently mistaken as blue catfish. 

           Because they are sensitive to light, they seek out shaded, deep pools around submerged logs, rocks, and other debris. Their peak activity occurs from dusk to about midnight. Most of their feeding is done at night when they "feel" for food with their barbels.

The channel catfish is an opportunistic omnivore, gorging itself on nearly any form of living or dead material. Being primarily a nocturnal animal, channel catfish must rely on its sensory organs, including the well-developed barbels, to find food. Their diet consists of aquatic insects, worms, clams, crayfish, snails, and fish, all of which could be dead or alive.

Because of their penchant for the putrid, catfish will take nearly any kind of bait, and on occasion a spinner or crankbait. Anglers frequently put out trot lines or setlines over night, baited with chicken liver, shrimp, or night crawlers.            

 The channel catfish mate in the early spring.  They nest under banks or logs.  They spawn from May to July.  The female can lay from two thousand to twenty-one thousand eggs.  The female prefers to lay her eggs in water that is 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  The eggs are a dirty yellow color, and they blend in with the muddy bottom.  When the eggs are laid the male swims over and fertilizes them.  When the eggs are fertilized the male drives the female away from the nest and guards the fry himself.  (Fry are catfish babies.)  The eggs hatch in six to ten days.  When they are one year old the babies are four inches long.  


Interesting Facts:

1.     The biggest channel catfish was caught in South Carolina.

2.     The world record weight was 58 pounds.

3.     Contrary to popular belief, it is the spines on the dorsal (the one on top) and pectoral fins  (on the sides just behind the gills) that sting. The whiskers are harmless. But if you do get poked with a spine there is an effective folk remedy. Simply rub the fish’s belly on the wound.

4.     A channel catfish doesn’t have scales, but instead it has tough skin.




(Micropterus salmoides)

Portions of article by Maureen Mecozzi 

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Bureau of Fisheries Management

In an aquatic I.Q. test of eight fish species conducted by Chicago's Shedd Aquarium several years ago, the largemouth bass went straight to the head of the class. Tops in visual perception and the ability to discern and make judgments, the largemouth bass was the most wary of the species examined, needing to strike an artificial lure only once to learn it wasn't edible. Largemouth bass also hear and smell well, and they are capable of distinguishing shades of color in shallow water. (Smallmouth bass, a distinct but related species, came in second.

Largemouth bass are usually dark forest green on the back with lighter green sides, pale green bellies, and a mottling of black blotches that form an irregular horizontal line running from the eye to the caudal fin. A largemouth bass's color, however, will change with age and will be affected by the clarity of its home waters. Young largemouth bass are brighter in color, with greater contrast in markings; with age, the colors become duller and the black markings less conspicuous. Old fish become very dark. In murky waters, largemouth bass are often dark brown or nearly black, while fish from clear waters are lighter and brighter.

Warm, shallow, weedy lakes and ponds, calm river backwaters - these are the waters where largemouth bass live. They are seldom found in water more than 20 feet deep and prefer temperatures of 80-85'F. During the daytime, largemouth bass can be found under lily pads or in the shade of overhanging trees, piers or brush. After an evening feeding, the fish head for deeper water, where they rest on the bottom under logs or trees, with their throats touching the bottom and their caudal fins slightly elevated. They are seldom found at depths greater than the deepest water in which rooted vegetation grows.

 Largemouth bass feed by sight and hunt for their food, ambushing unwary prey from behind logs and rip-rap, below boat docks, and at weed lines that drop into deeper water. Small schools of five to 10 fish can be seen cruising the shallows in search of prey, most often in the early morning hours or later in the day; they'll be on the lookout for crayfish, frogs, large insects, fish - including golden shiners, bluegills and other largemouth bass - basically, anything that's not too wide to slide into their cavernous mouths. These clever aquatic hunters will follow feeding ducks and other animals to snatch the prey flushed from hiding. Although they are primarily sight feeders, largemouth bass can hear and smell prey as well.  Sounds 20 feet or less away are detected by the fish's lateral line - a line of sensitive nerve endings running along each side of the body, from gill flaps to the caudal fin.  Sounds over 20 feet away are detected by the inner ear.  Adult largemouth bass have refined olfactory (smell) organs and use them to pick up the scent of nearby predators or prey.

Feeding slows when temperatures begin to drop in late fall.  During winter, the fish are relatively inactive and will remain in deep water until the shallow bays, channels and streams warm up in the spring. Largemouth bass are often victims of winterkill (low oxygen and/or low temperature conditions) - a frequent occurrence in the shallow, weedy waters they prefer.

Largemouth bass spawn from late April until early July;  fish in the northern part of the state spawn about two weeks later than those in the south. Generally, the fish select nest sites when water temperatures reach 60'F, and egg laying occurs at temperatures of 62-65'F.

Largemouth bass grow most rapidly in length for the first two years of life, then fill out their lanky frames as they age.  The fish reach maturity in three to four years at an average length of 10-12 inches.  Females live about 9 years;  males, about 6 years.



Bluegill  Lepomis macrochirus

The bluegill is what many people think of as a “sunfish.” It is what they usually catch when they go fishing for “sunnies.” The common name refers to the bluish color that curves from the lower jaw around the bottom of the gill cover. The scientific species name “macrochirus” means “large hand,” probably describing the fish’s body shape. 

Bluegills prefer to live in habitats similar to those of largemouth bass.  Bluegills are found in lakes, small farm ponds, and the slower parts of warm water streams and rivers. Typical bluegill habitat has aquatic weeds, where the fish can hide and feed. They can also be found near submerged stumps, logs and rocks. In the daytime, schools of small bluegills can be found close to shore. Larger bluegills prefer nearby deep water. In the evening and early morning, the bigger bluegills move into the shallows to feed.

Dry flies and small poppers on a fly rod work well when bluegills are on the feed.  Small jigs, wet flies, nymphs and a variety of small baits, fished on small hooks to accommodate the bluegill’s small mouth, are also effective.

Bluegills spawn during a longer period than most sunfish, from May, when the water temperature reaches 67 degrees, until August.  The males fan small, saucer-like depressions in sand and gravel as nests, and vigorously guard the eggs and hatched young.  Large numbers of nests are often in the same area and form colonies.  One female may deposit as many as 38,000 eggs in a nest. Bluegill eggs hatch in two to five days.  Because several females have contributed, there may be more than 60,000 young fish produced from a single nest.  Bluegills may overpopulate their habitat, resulting in smaller and slower-growing fish.  As generalized feeders, bluegills eat aquatic insects, crustaceans and minnows, and they have been known to eat aquatic plants.  The bluegill feeds only in the daytime and throughout the water column.  It may grow to a foot long and up to two pounds, although nine inches is an average.

All Species of Sunfish Found in PA