Our Story

Jesse and Scott Photographing Fishes
Jesse and Scott Photographing Fishes in 2013

NCFishes.com began its life in 2013, as Scott and Jesse discussed methods of disseminating photographs of properly identified fishes from North Carolina. At the time, there weren’t any good online sources of information on the identification of the state’s fishes. There are a handful of good books that have been written, such as E. F. Menhinick’s Freshwater Fishes of North Carolina, and F.C. Rohde et al. Freshwater Fishes of the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, but no guides with live photographs. Under the guidance of Jesse and his photography skill set, we quickly developed and honed a photography technique that can be used in the field and that captures an incredible amount of detail, while standardizing lighting conditions. Our goal was to manage a gallery of species photographs that we encountered while collecting, and through our other field work. We soon added blog posts detailing our efforts to collect and photograph these fishes, as well as occasional identification guides.

Scott Smith and Fritz Rohde
Scott Smith and Fritz Rohde

Shortly after starting the site, we met up with Fritz Rohde, and began collecting and photographing with him. Fritz has years of experience collecting and photographing the fishes of the state, and through this partnership we continued building our gallery for many years.

It was in 2017 that we began discussing the possibility of creating a new website that would eventually include species descriptions, range maps, as well as the photographs. It was also about this time that Bryn Tracy, Fritz, and Gabriela Hogue from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences began working on an updated atlas of the freshwater fishes of North Carolina. This seminal paper serves as the backbone of our work, as it provides an up-to-date accounting of all of the known freshwater fishes in the state.

Bryn Tracy
Bryn Tracy

In 2018, Fritz, Scott, and Christina began compiling a draft checklist of the marine fishes of North Carolina. Although a work in progress, it represents the most thorough list of marine fishes from the state that we are currently aware of. The list was compiled from museum collections, state management databases, submersible dives, personal collection notes, and other professional experiences. Not to mention Christina’s extensive work on the fishes of the continental shelf.

Christina Schobernd
Christina Schobernd

It was over beers at a NCAFS conference in 2018 that we began talking to Luke about pooling our talents and joining the team. Luke brings not only a vast knowledge of our state’s fishes, but also a strong interest and experience in scientific communication. Not to mention his myriad photographs and hours of underwater video.

In late 2019 we began a redevelopment of the site, and with the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak canceling much of our 2020 field work, we managed to grow the site to what you see today. NCFishes.com is a combination of all this independent work on checklists, photographs, keys, and collection trips, pulled together to help tell the story of the fishes of North Carolina.

Jesse Bissette
Jesse Bissette

We would also like to acknowledge the generous contributions from Dave Neely, Zach Alley, Tim Aldridge and the NANFA gallery to fill in gaps and add additional great photos. In addition to the photos, we have received much needed and appreciated collection help from Jason and Parker Yates, Dylan Owensby, Michael Perkins, Ben Ricks, Todd VanMiddlesworth, and many others.

We would also like to thank the North Carolina Chapter of the American Fisheries Society for recently awarding us a $950 travel grant. The grant, for lodging and fuel, was used in Spring 2021 to visit creeks and rivers in southwestern North Carolina where we photographed more

than 40 species, including large, mature redhorse suckers, imperiled species (e.g., Wounded Darter, Banded Sculpin, “Smoky” Dace, and “Hiwassee” Dace), and Walleye. Photographs of the species maybe be used for non-commercial, educational purposes. Please contact us, fishesofNC@gmail.com, if you are interested in obtaining any of our photographs.

Etheostoma vulneratum
Moxostoma carinatum
Sander vitreus
Moxostoma breviceps

Clockwise from top left: Wounded Darter, Walleye, Smallmouth Redhorse, and River Redhorse.


Meet the Team

Scott Smith

Scott Smith
Photographer & Biologist

Scott is a biologist with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. His interests include species identification, fish photography, and fisheries data analytics. He began photographing fishes in 2004, and has amassed a library of over 600 species to date. He has a growing interest in the use of his photography in scientific communication, specifically in raising awareness of our state’s fishes.

Fritz Rohde

Fritz Rohde
Photographer & Ichthyologist

Fritz is an ichthyologist and biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Beaufort, North Carolina. He has been photographing fishes for years, and has published numerous papers on freshwater and saltwater fishes of the Carolinas and co-authored two books on their freshwater fishes.

Jesse Bissette

Jesse Bissette
Photographer & Biologist

Jesse is a photographer, our resident photography expert, a man of few words, and a colleague at the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.

Christina Schobernd
Photographer & Biologist

Christina is a biologist with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration in Beaufort, North Carolina. She is currently working as the data manager and GIS lead for the Southeast Fishery Independent Survey (SEFIS) group, which collects data to support stock assessments and to inform reef fish survey design. Research interests include using underwater video technologies to gather information on reef fish assemblages, hard bottom habitats, and fish behavior.

Bryn Tracy

Bryn Tracy
Photographer & Ichthyologist

Bryn retired in Spring 2017 after working for 34 years as a water quality/fishery biologist in the private and public sectors assessing environmental impacts on stream fish communities and environmental impacts of power plant discharges, and in relicensing hydroelectric projects. Bryn is particularly concerned with invasive, non-native fish species polluting North Carolina’s lotic and lentic aquatic habitats.

Luke Etchison
Photographer & Biologist

Luke is an aquatic non-game biologist for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission in WNC who has over 10 years of experience with crayfishes, fishes, mussels, and aquatics snails in the Midwest and Southeast. Luke has research interests in anthropogenic impacts on aquatic communities and restoration of historical fish and mussel biodiversity. Luke spends much of his free time focusing on scientific communication, outreach and education about NC fishes by leading guided river snorkeling tours for Oxbow River Snorkeling, and photographing fishes.


NCFishes is a labor of love. We do not get paid for any of the work you see here. In fact, it costs us lots of money annually in gear/hosting/hotels/gas etc. However, sharing our knowledge of fishes is something we truly enjoy, and you can’t put a price tag on that. Outside of our own work, we receive a lot of help from family, colleagues, and from fishermen who contact us with weird fishes. We can’t thank those who have helped us over the years enough. If you would like to join us in the field one day, please get in touch!