Freshwater Fishes of North Carolina


Our checklist of the freshwater fishes of North Carolina follows: Tracy, B. H., F.C. Rohde, and G. M. Hogue. (2020). An annotated atlas of the freshwater fishes of North Carolina. Our checklist includes some fishes traditionally considered marine, but that do spend a portion of their lives in freshwater environments. Because of this, you will see some duplication with the marine fishes checklist. Developing this page is taking quite a bit of time, and will be updated daily as we get all of the links built. In the near future, the species pages will be updated with range maps and identification information. If you are looking for an image of a fish that we haven’t posted yet, please contact us.

Phylogenetic order and family, scientific, and common names follow the California Academy of Sciences’ Catalog of Fishes Online Database (www.calacademy.org/scientists/projects/catalog-of-fishes; Fricke et al. 2020) and Page et al. (2013). All native minnows, shiners, and chubs, formerly assigned to family Cyprinidae, have been reassigned to family Leuciscidae, a former subfamily of cyprinid fishes (Tan and Armbruster 2018). In addition, the nonindigenous Grass Carp, Ctenopharyngodon idella, has been reclassified in family Xenocyprididae (Tan and Armbruster 2018). For undescribed species, vernacular names are used strictly for convenience and may or may not be the accepted common name once the species is scientifically described (Tracy et al. 2020.).

Photographic Library

If you prefer to browse through our photographic gallery of the freshwater fishes of North Carolina, please follow this link.

Pertinent Identification References and Literature Cited:

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN. 681p. (Available at: https://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_utpress/2/)

Fricke, R., W.N. Eschmeyer, and R. Van der Laan. (eds). 2020. Eschmeyer’s catalog of fishes: genera, species, references. (http://researcharchive.calacademy.org/research/ichthyology/catalog/fishcatmain.asp). Electronic version accessed 2019-2020.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society. Bethesda, MD. 1080p.

Menhinick, E.F. 1991. The freshwater fishes of North Carolina. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Raleigh, NC. 227p.

Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr. 2011. Peterson field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Second edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY. 663p.

Page, L.M., H. Espinosa-Pérez, L.T. Findley, C.R. Gilbert, R. N. Lea, N.E. Mandrak, R.L. Mayden, and J.S. Nelson. 2013. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 7th edition. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD. 384p. (Available at: https://fisheries.org/books-journals/writing-tools/names-of-fishes-searchable-version/)

Rohde, F.C., R.G. Arndt, J.W. Foltz, and J.M. Quattro. 2009. Freshwater fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC. 430p.

Rohde, F.C., R.G. Arndt, D.G. Lindquist, and J.F. Parnell. 1994. Freshwater fishes of the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill, NC. 222p.

Tan, M., and J.W. Armbruster. 2018. Phylogenetic classification of extant genera of fishes of the order Cypriniformes (Teleostei: Ostariophysi). Zootaxa 4476:6–39.

Tracy, B. H., F.C. Rohde, and G.M. Hogue. 2020. An annotated atlas of the freshwater fishes of North Carolina. Southeastern Fishes Council Proceedings No. 60. 200pp.
(Available at: https://trace.tennessee.edu/sfcproceedings/vol1/iss60/1)

Families:

Petromyzontidae – Lampreys
Body elongate and snakelike. Dorsal fin long. Jaws absent; mouth a disk-shaped funnel. Seven pairs of gill openings. No pectoral fins (Rohde et al. 2009).

Ichthyomyzon bdellium — Ohio Lamprey
Ichthyomyzon greeleyi — Mountain Brook Lamprey
Lampetra aepyptera — Least Brook Lamprey
Lethenteron appendix — American Brook Lamprey
Petromyzon marinus — Sea Lamprey

Polyodontidae – Paddlefishes
Long, canoe paddle-shaped snout that is about one-third the body length. Heterocercal caudal fin. Large, fleshy, pointed flap on rear edge of gill cover. Tiny eyes (Page and Burr 2011).

Polyodon spathula — Paddlefish

Acipenseridae – Sturgeons
Body not elongate or snakelike. Dorsal fin not elongate. Caudal fin strongly heterocercal (sharklike. Body with five rows of bony plates. Mouth ventral (Rohde et al. 2009).

Acipenser brevirostrum — Shortnose Sturgeon
Acipenser oxyrinchus — Atlantic Sturgeon
Acipenser fulvescens — Lake Sturgeon

Lepisosteidae – Gars
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length (except in flatfishes), located near caudal fin. Dorsal fin and anal fin higher than long. Caudal fin abbreviate heterocercal. Jaws elongate and slender. Scales large, lateral line scale series about 55; scales rhomboid (Rohde et al. 2009).

Lepisosteus osseus — Longnose Gar

Amiidae – Bowfins
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin long, more than half of total length. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Body round (Rohde et al. 2009).

Amia calva — Bowfin

Hiodontidae – Mooneyes
Lateral line present. Untoothed keel along the belly.  Strongly laterally compressed body. Scales absent from atop the head. A single dorsal fin; fins without spines. Large eyes with adipose eyelids (Page and Burr 2011).

Hiodon tergisus — Mooneye

Anguillidae – Freshwater Eels
Body elongate and snakelike. Dorsal fin long. Jaws present. One pair of gill openings. Pectoral fins present (Rohde et al. 2009).

Anguilla rostrata — American Eel

Engraulidae – Anchovies
Laterally compressed body with a long snout overhanging a large mouth. Upper jaw extends well-past the eye. Lateral line absent. Fins without spines(Page and Burr 2011).

Anchoa mitchilli — Bay Anchovy

Clupeidae – Herrings
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth position variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin forked. One dorsal fin, with 0 or 1 spines. Adipose fin absent. Lateral line variable. Scales absent on top of head. Belly with a sawlike keel. Adipose eyelid present (Rohde et al. 2009).

Alosa aestivalis — Blueback Herring
Alosa mediocris — Hickory Shad
Alosa pseudoharengus — Alewife
Alosa sapidissima — American Shad
Brevoortia tyrannus — Atlantic Menhaden
Dorosoma cepedianum — Gizzard Shad
Dorosoma petenense — Threadfin Shad

Xenocyprididae – East Asian Minnows
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike), forked. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Dorsal fin with 8 or 9 rays, lacking a spinelike ray. Adipose fin absent. Lateral line variable. Scales absent on top of head. Belly rounded. Adipose eyelid absent. Scales large. Lips thin and smooth. Distance from anal fin origin to tip of snout 3 or more times as long as the distance from the anal fin origin to the caudal fin base. Pharyngeal teeth comblike (Rohde et al. 2009).

Ctenopharyngodon idella — Grass Carp

Cyprinidae – Carps
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike), forked. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Dorsal fin with one large, serrate, anterior spinelike ray; dorsal fin rays 13 or more. Adipose fin absent. Lateral line variable. Scales absent on top of head. Belly rounded. Adipose eyelid absent. Scales large. Lips thin and smooth (Rohde et al. 2009).

Carassius auratus — Goldfish
Cyprinus carpio — Common Carp

Leuciscidae – Minnows
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike), forked. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Dorsal fin with 8 or 9 rays, lacking a spinelike ray. Adipose fin absent. Lateral line variable. Scales absent on top of head. Belly rounded. Adipose eyelid absent. Scales large. Lips usually thin and smooth. Distance from anal fin origin to tip of snout less than 3 times as long as the distance from the anal fin origin to the caudal fin base. Pharyngeal teeth not comblike (Rohde et al. 2009).

Campostoma anomalum — Central Stoneroller
Chrosomus oreas — Mountain Redbelly Dace
Clinostomus funduloides — Rosyside Dace
Clinostomus sp. Smoky Dace — “Smoky” Dace
Clinostomus sp. Hiwassee Dace — “Hiwassee” Dace
Cyprinella analostana — Satinfin Shiner
Cyprinella chloristia — Greenfin Shiner
Cyprinella galactura — Whitetail Shiner
Cyprinella labrosa — Thicklip Chub
Cyprinella lutrensis — Red Shiner
Cyprinella monacha — Spotfin Chub
Cyprinella nivea — Whitefin Shiner
Cyprinella pyrrhomelas — Fieryblack Shiner
Cyprinella spiloptera — Spotfin Shiner
Cyprinella zanema — Santee Chub
Cyprinella sp. Thinlip Chub — “Thinlip” Chub
Erimystax insignis — Blotched Chub
Exoglossum laurae — Tonguetied Minnow
Exoglossum maxillingua — Cutlip Minnow
Hybognathus regius — Eastern Silvery Minnow
Hybopsis amblops — Bigeye Chub
Hybopsis hypsinotus — Highback Chub
Hybopsis rubrifrons — Rosyface Chub
Luxilus albeolus — White Shiner
Luxilus cerasinus — Crescent Shiner
Luxilus chrysocephalus — Striped Shiner
Luxilus coccogenis — Warpaint Shiner
Lythrurus ardens — Rosefin Shiner
Lythrurus matutinus — Pinewoods Shiner
Nocomis leptocephalus — Bluehead Chub
Nocomis micropogon — River Chub
Nocomis platyrhynchus — Bigmouth Chub
Nocomis raneyi — Bull Chub
Notemigonus crysoleucas — Golden Shiner
Notropis alborus — Whitemouth Shiner
Notropis altipinnis — Highfin Shiner
Notropis amoenus — Comely Shiner
Notropis bifrenatus — Bridle Shiner
Notropis chalybaeus — Ironcolor Shiner
Notropis chiliticus — Redlip Shiner
Notropis chlorocephalus — Greenhead Shiner
Notropis cummingsae — Dusky Shiner
Notropis hudsonius — Spottail Shiner
Notropis leuciodus — Tennessee Shiner
Notropis lutipinnis — Yellowfin Shiner
Notropis maculatus — Taillight Shiner
Notropis mekistocholas — Cape Fear Shiner
Notropis micropteryx — Highland Shiner
Notropis petersoni — Coastal Shiner
Notropis photogenis — Silver Shiner
Notropis procne — Swallowtail Shiner
Notropis rubricroceus — Saffron Shiner
Notropis scabriceps — New River Shiner
Notropis scepticus — Sandbar Shiner
Notropis spectrunculus — Mirror Shiner
Notropis telescopus — Telescope Shiner
Notropis volucellus — Mimic Shiner
Notropis sp. Piedmont Shiner — “Piedmont” Shiner
Notropis sp. Kanawha Rosyface Shiner — “Kanawha” Rosyface Shiner
Phenacobius crassilabrum — Fatlips Minnow
Phenacobius teretulus — Kanawha Minnow
Pimephales notatus — Bluntnose Minnow
Pimephales promelas — Fathead Minnow
Rhinichthys atratulus — Eastern Blacknose Dace
Rhinichthys cataractae — Longnose Dace
Rhinichthys obtusus — Western Blacknose Dace
Semotilus atromaculatus — Creek Chub
Semotilus lumbee — Sandhills Chub

Catostomidae – Suckers
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth position variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin forked. One dorsal fin, with 0 or 1 spines. Adipose fin absent. Lateral line variable. Scales absent on top of head. Belly rounded. Adipose eyelid absent. Jaws not elongate. Scales large. Lips thick and fleshy. Dorsal fin with 10 or more rays (Rohde et al. 2009).

Carpiodes carpio — River Carpsucker
Carpiodes cyprinus — Quillback
Carpiodes sp. Carolina Quillback — “Carolina” Quillback
Carpiodes sp. Atlantic Highfin Carpsucker — “Atlantic” Highfin Carpsucker
Catostomus commersonii — White Sucker
Erimyzon oblongus — Eastern Creek Chubsucker
Erimyzon sucetta — Lake Chubsucker
Hypentelium nigricans — Northern Hog Sucker
Hypentelium roanokense — Roanoke Hog Sucker
Ictiobus bubalus — Smallmouth Buffalo
Ictiobus cyprinellus — Bigmouth Buffalo
Ictiobus niger — Black Buffalo
Minytrema melanops — Spotted Sucker
Moxostoma anisurum — Silver Redhorse
Moxostoma ariommum — Bigeye Jumprock
Moxostoma breviceps — Smallmouth Redhorse
Moxostoma carinatum — River Redhorse
Moxostoma cervinum — Blacktip Jumprock
Moxostoma collapsum — Notchlip Redhorse
Moxostoma duquesnei — Black Redhorse
Moxostoma erythrurum — Golden Redhorse
Moxostoma macrolepidotum — Shorthead Redhorse
Moxostoma pappillosum — V-lip Redhorse
Moxostoma robustum — Robust Redhorse
Moxostoma rupiscartes — Striped Jumprock
Moxostoma sp. Brassy Jumprock — “Brassy” Jumprock
Moxostoma sp. Carolina Redhorse — “Carolina” Redhorse
Moxostoma sp. Sicklefin Redhorse — “Sicklefin” Redhorse
Thoburnia hamiltoni — Rustyside Sucker

Cobitidae – Loaches
Elongate body; subterminal mouth surrounded by 10-12 barbels. Caudal fin rounded. Stout spine on pectoral fin. Dorsal fin origin above pelvic fin origin. Tiny scales (Page and Burr 2011).

Misgurnus anguillicaudatus — Oriental Weatherfish

Ictaluridae – North American Catfishes
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth position variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin shape variable. One dorsal fin, with 0 or 1 spines. Adipose fin present. No scales on body. Eight large barbels present on head near mouth. Spines in dorsal and pectoral fins (Rohde et al. 2009).

Ameiurus brunneus — Snail Bullhead
Ameiurus catus — White Catfish
Ameiurus melas — Black Bullhead
Ameiurus natalis — Yellow Bullhead
Ameiurus nebulosus — Brown Bullhead
Ameiurus platycephalus — Flat Bullhead
Ictalurus furcatus — Blue Catfish
Ictalurus punctatus — Channel Catfish
Noturus eleutherus — Mountain Madtom
Noturus flavus — Stonecat
Noturus furiosus — Carolina Madtom
Noturus gilberti — Orangefin Madtom
Noturus gyrinus — Tadpole Madtom
Noturus insignis — Margined Madtom
Noturus sp. Lake Waccamaw — “Lake Waccamaw Broadtail” Madtom
Noturus sp. Pee Dee River — “Pee Dee Broadtail” Madtom
Noturus sp. Cape Fear River — “Cape Fear Broadtail” Madtom
Pylodictis olivaris — Flathead Catfish

Loricariidae – Suckermouth Armored Catfishes
Body covered with bony plates. One pair of barbels on a large, subterminal mouth; lips papillose. Spine anterior to adipose fin. Dorsal fin with one spine and 10-14 rays (Page and Burr 2011).

Pterygoplichthys pardalis — Amazon Sailfin Catfish

Esocidae – Pikes
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth position variable. Jaws elongate and wide, forming a ducklike snout. Eyes position “normal. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin forked. One dorsal fin, with 0 or 1 spines. Adipose fin absent. Lateral line variable. Scales absent on top of head. Belly rounded. Adipose eyelid absent. Scales small (Rohde et al. 2009).

Esox americanus — Redfin Pickerel
Esox masquinongy — Muskellunge
Esox niger — Chain Pickerel

Umbridae – Mudminnows
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth position variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin shape variable. One dorsal fin, with 0 or 1 spines. Adipose fin absent. Caudal fin rounded. Lateral line absent. Scales present on top of head. Mouth terminal, not protractile. Upper jaw broadly bound to snout by a wide bridge of tissue (Rohde et al. 2009).

Umbra pygmaea — Eastern Mudminnow

Salmonidae – Trouts and Salmons
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth position variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin shape variable. One dorsal fin, with 0 or 1 spines. Adipose fin present. Scales present on body. Barbels absent. Spines in fins absent (Rohde et al. 2009).

Oncorhynchus mykiss — Rainbow Trout
Oncorhynchus nerka — Sockeye Salmon
Salmo trutta — Brown Trout
Salvelinus fontinalis — Brook Trout

Aphredoderidae – Pirate Perches
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin; both fins with spines. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike); rounded. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”, clear. Anus in throat region between the gills. Pelvic fins  present. Body thick, not elongate, with brownish coloration. Scales visible (Rohde et al. 2009).

Aphredoderus sayanus — Pirate Perch

Amblyopsidae – Cavefishes
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin; both fins without spines. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike); rounded. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”; eyes covered with translucent skin. Anus in throat region between the gills. Pelvic fins absent. Body dark brown above, whitish below. Scales embedded, not visible (Rohde et al. 2009).

Chologaster cornuta — Swampfish

Mugilidae – Mullets
Body not unusually elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike); forked. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”; adipose eyelids usually present. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. One dorsal fin with four stiff spines; dorsal fin widely separated into two parts. Body with scales. Pelvic fins abdominal. Two or three anal fin spines (Rohde et al. 2009).

Dajaus monticola — Mountain Mullet
Mugil cephalus — Striped Mullet

Atherinopsidae – New World Silversides
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike); forked. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”, adipose eyelids absent. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. One dorsal fin with 5 or 6 weak spines; dorsal fin widely separated into two parts. Body with scales. Pelvic fins abdominal. Body thin, delicate. One anal fin spine, weak (Rohde et al. 2009).

Labidesthes sicculus — Brook Silverside
Labidesthes vanhyningi — Southern Brook Silverside
Menidia beryllina — Inland Silverside
Menidia extensa — Waccamaw Silverside

Belonidae – Needlefishes
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length (except in flatfishes), located near caudal fin. Dorsal fin and anal fin longer than high, falcate. Caudal fin homocercal. Jaws elongate and slender. Scales very small, lateral line scale series about 300; scales cycloid (smooth-edged) (Rohde et al. 2009).

Strongylura marina — Atlantic Needlefish

Fundulidae – Topminnows
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth position variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin shape variable. One dorsal fin, with 0 or 1 spines. Adipose fin absent. Caudal fin rounded. Lateral line absent. Scales present on top of head. Mouth superior and protractile. Upper jaw not bound to snout. Third anal fin ray branched. Anal fin of males rounded. Body slender. Teeth in jaws small and conical (Rohde et al. 2009).

Fundulus chrysotus — Golden Topminnow
Fundulus confluentus — Marsh Killifish
Fundulus diaphanus — Banded Killifish
Fundulus heteroclitus — Mummichog
Fundulus lineolatus — Lined Topminnow
Fundulus rathbuni — Speckled Killifish
Fundulus waccamensis — Waccamaw Killifish
Fundulus sp. Lake Phelps Killifish — “Lake Phelps” Killifish
Lucania goodei — Bluefin Killifish
Lucania parva — Rainwater Killifish

Poeciliidae – Livebearers
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth position variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin shape variable. One dorsal fin, with 0 or 1 spines. Adipose fin absent. Caudal fin rounded. Lateral line absent. Scales present on top of head. Mouth superior and protractile. Upper jaw not bound to snout. Third anal fin ray unbranched. Anal fin of male slender and rodlike (Rohde et al. 2009).

Gambusia affinis — Western Mosquitofish
Gambusia holbrooki — Eastern Mosquitofish
Heterandria formosa — Least Killifish
Poecilia latipinna — Sailfin Molly

Cyprinodontidae – Pupfishes
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth position variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin shape variable. One dorsal fin, with 0 or 1 spines. Adipose fin absent. Caudal fin rounded. Lateral line absent. Scales present on top of head. Mouth superior and protractile. Upper jaw not bound to snout. Third anal fin ray branched. Anal fin of males rounded. Body deep. Teeth in jaws incisorlike (Rohde et al. 2009).

Cyprinodon variegatus — Sheepshead Minnow

Gasterosteidae – Sticklebacks
Scales absent. Four isolate dorsal spines, angled alternately right and left,  followed by a normal dorsal fin with 14-16 rays and an extremely long and slender caudal peduncle (Page and Burr 2011).

Apeltes quadracus — Fourspine Stickelback

Cottidae – Sculpins
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike); rounded. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. One dorsal fin with 3 or more spines. Body without scales (Rohde et al. 2009).

Cottus bairdii — Mottled Sculpin
Cottus caeruleomentum — Blue Ridge Sculpin
Cottus carolinae — Banded Sculpin

Moronidae – Temperate Basses
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike), shape variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. One dorsal fin with 3 or more spines, dorsal fins separate or connected slightly. Body with scales. Pelvic fins thoracic. Anal fin with 3 or more spines. Sharp spine on rear of opercle (Rohde et al. 2009).

Morone americana — White Perch
Morone chrysops — White Bass
Morone saxatilis — Striped Bass

Centrarchidae – Sunfishes
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike), shape variable. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. One dorsal fin with 6-12 spines, dorsal fins well connected, a notch may be present. Body with scales. Pelvic fins thoracic. Anal fin with 3 or more spines. No spine on rear of opercle. Lateral line present (Rohde et al. 2009).

Acantharchus pomotis — Mud Sunfish
Ambloplites cavifrons — Roanoke Bass
Ambloplites rupestris — Rock Bass
Centrarchus macropterus — Flier
Enneacanthus chaetodon — Blackbanded Sunfish
Enneacanthus gloriosus — Bluespotted Sunfish
Enneacanthus obesus — Banded Sunfish
Lepomis auritus — Redbreast Sunfish
Lepomis cyanellus — Green Sunfish
Lepomis gibbosus — Pumpkinseed
Lepomis gulosus — Warmouth
Lepomis macrochirus — Bluegill
Lepomis marginatus — Dollar Sunfish
Lepomis microlophus — Redear Sunfish
Lepomis punctatus — Spotted Sunfish
Micropterus coosae — Redeye Bass
Micropterus dolomieu — Smallmouth Bass
Micropterus henshalli — Alabama Bass
Micropterus punctulatus — Spotted Bass
Micropterus salmoides — Largemouth Bass
Micropterus sp. Bartram’s Bass — “Bartram’s” Bass
Pomoxis annularis — White Crappie
Pomoxis nigromaculatus — Black Crappie

Percidae – Perches
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike), usually emarginate or truncate. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. One dorsal fin with 3 or more stiff spines; dorsal fins joined or slightly separated. Body with scales. Pelvic fins thoracic. Anal fin with 1 or 2 spines; spines stiff, prominent. Lateral line present, sometimes incomplete (Rohde et al. 2009).

Etheostoma acuticeps — Sharphead Darter
Etheostoma blennioides — Greenside Darter
Etheostoma brevispinum — Carolina Fantail Darter
Etheostoma chlorobranchium — Greenfin Darter
Etheostoma collis — Carolina Darter
Etheostoma flabellare — Fantail Darter
Etheostoma fusiforme — Swamp Dater
Etheostoma gutselli — Tuckasegee Darter
Etheostoma inscriptum — Turquoise Darter
Etheostoma jessiae — Blueside Darter
Etheostoma kanawhae — Kanawha Darter
Etheostoma mariae — Pinewoods Darter
Etheostoma nigrum — Johnny Darter
Etheostoma olmstedi — Tessellated Darter
Etheostoma perlongum — Waccamaw Darter
Etheostoma podostemone — Riverweed Darter
Etheostoma rufilineatum — Redline Darter
Etheostoma serrifer — Sawcheek Darter
Etheostoma simoterum — Snubnose Darter
Etheostoma swannanoa — Swannanoa Darter
Etheostoma thalassinum — Seagreen Darter
Etheostoma vitreum — Glassy Darter
Etheostoma vulneratum — Wounded Darter
Etheostoma zonale — Banded Darter
Perca flavescens — Yellow Perch
Percina aurantiaca — Tangerine Darter
Percina burtoni — Blotchside Logperch
Percina caprodes — Logperch
Percina crassa — Piedmont Darter
Percina evides — Gilt Darter
Percina gymnocephala — Appalachia Darter
Percina nevisense — Chainback Darter
Percina oxyrhynchus — Sharpnose Darter
Percina rex — Roanoke Logperch
Percina roanoka — Roanoke Darter
Percina squamata– Olive Darter
Percina westfalli — Westfall’s Darter
Percina williamsi — Sickle Darter
Sander canadensis — Sauger
Sander vitreus — Walleye

Sciaenidae – Drums and Croakers
Two dorsal fins, the first relatively short with spines, the second longer with rays. 1 or 2 anal spines. Lateral line extending to the end of the caudal fin. Thoracic pelvic fins. Ctenoid scales. Lateralis system on the head consisting of large cavernous canals and pores.  Deep bodied and highly arched at the origin of the dorsal fin (Page and Burr 2011).

Aplodinotus grunniens — Freshwater Drum
Leiostomus xanthurus — Spot

Elassomatidae – Pygmy Sunfishes
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike), rounded. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. One dorsal fin with 3-5 spines, dorsal fins well connected, a notch may be present. Body with scales. Pelvic fins thoracic. Anal fin with 3 or more spines. No spine on rear of opercle. Lateral line absent (Rohde et al. 2009).

Elassoma boehlkei — Carolina Pygmy Sunfish
Elassoma evergladei — Everglades Pygmy Sunfish
Elassoma zonatum — Banded Pygmy Sunfish

Cichlidae – Cichlids
Cichlidae – One nostril on each side of head. Two-part lateral line with the front portion higher on the body than the rear portion. Exceedingly protractile jaws (Page and Burr 2011).

Coptodon zillii — Redbelly Tilapia
Oreochromis aureus — Blue Tilapia

Eleotridae – Sleepers
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike), rounded. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. Caudal fin shape variable. One dorsal fin with 3 or more flexible spines, dorsal fin separated into two parts. Body with scales. Pelvic fins thoracic, separated, not united into a disk. Anal fin with 1 or 2 spines; spines flexible, not prominent. Lateral line absent (Rohde et al. 2009).

Dormitator maculatus — Fat Sleeper
Eleotris amblyopsis — Largescaled Spinycheek Sleeper

Gobiidae – Gobies
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal fin short, less than half of total length, usually located near center of body. Dorsal fin and anal fins not extending from head to caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike), rounded. Jaws not elongate or slender. Eyes position “normal”. Anus in “normal” position, anterior to anal fin. One dorsal fin with 3 or more flexible spines, joined or slightly separated. Body with scales. Pelvic fins thoracic, united, forming a sucking disk. Anal fin with 1 or 2 spines; spines flexible, not prominent. Lateral line absent (Rohde et al. 2009).

Awaous banana — River Goby
Ctenogobius shufeldti — Freshwater Goby
Evorthodus lyricus — Lyre Goby

Paralichthyidae – Sand Flounders
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal and anal fin long, extending from head to near caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth prominent; jaws not elongate or slender. Both eyes on left side of head; eyed side often spotted, without dark bars. Pectoral fins well developed (Rohde et al. 2009)

Paralichthys lethostigma — Southern Flounder

Archiridae – American Soles
Body not elongate, snakelike, or possessing bony plates. Dorsal and anal fin long, extending from head to near caudal fin. Caudal fin not strongly heterocercal (sharklike). Mouth small, inconspicuous; jaws not elongate or slender. Both eyes on right side of head; eyed side with most pigment, usually with eight narrow bars. Pectoral fins absent (Rohde et al. 2009).

Trinectes maculatus — Hogchoker

For more information on the freshwater fishes of North Carolina, please see the ichthyology collection at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences:

https://naturalsciences.org/research-collections/ichthyology-collection

Freshwater fishes of North Carolina

4 thoughts on “Freshwater Fishes of North Carolina”

  1. I own a copy of
    “Fred C. Rohde, Rudolf G. Arndt, Jeffrey W. Foltz, and Joseph M. Quattro Photographs by Fred C. Rohde With a History of Ichthyology in South Carolina by William D. Anderson, Jr.” A scientific milestone, this comprehensive illustrated guide to the characteristics, distribution, and ecology of freshwater fishes in South Carolina marks the first endeavor since 1860 to document this aspect of the Palmetto State’s diverse natural history.

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  2. I dabble in salt water fish ID and photography with the stri my guide. I am going to be mainly diving Fresh water for a while. And was bemoaning the lack of an equivalent and stumbled on ncfish.com. Perfect my prayers are answered. Very nice.

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