Angling Fish Species List

Carp family of fish list

First introduced into New York State waters in 1831, carp are now found across the State. They are distinct in appearance, usually with large heavy scales covering their bodies and two short whiskers (called barbels) surrounding their mouths. Their fins have a deep red tint and the dorsal (back) and anal (bottom rear) fins each have a single thick, saw-toothed spine that can produce a nasty wound if touched carelessly.

Carp can grow quite large in New York State's waters, more than 40 pounds! They eat a variety of plant and animal material and are often spotted by the cloud of mud they stir up as they feed. It is not uncommon to see and hear carp sucking in floating insects at the water's surface.

Carp display interesting spawning (reproduction) habits. During late spring and early summer, they thrash and splash their way into very shallow, weedy areas and broadcast their eggs. Their bodies are sometimes completely exposed out of the water and the splashing they make is quite a sight to see. A 20-pound female carp will lay nearly 10 million eggs.

Originally from Asia, carp were first brought to New York State to provide another food fish. Over time, however, they have become less popular as a food item and instead have picked up the reputation of a "polluted fish." Although carp can tolerate polluted waters, they prefer clean waters. Carp taken from clean waters are excellent to eat. Carp are commercially marketed live, smoked, or cleaned and iced.

Often considered a pet, goldfish also live in the wild and are found in many waters across New York State. They prefer warm, weedy, shallow sections of smaller ponds and lakes, as well as slow-moving rivers such as the Mohawk and Hudson.

While goldfish kept as pets may never get larger than six inches, "wild" goldfish often reach 12 to 14 inches long. They are very similar in appearance to carp, but can be told apart by the lack of barbels around their mouths. Goldfish can be quite colorful in appearance, but most are dull olive green (more effective when hiding from predators).

Goldfish are native to China and have been kept as pets for centuries. New York State's goldfish populations are the result of illegally released pets or escapees from bait buckets. They are hardy fish that easily adapt to different waters and are, therefore, prohibited for use as bait.

Quillback have a limited distribution in New York State. They are only found in large rivers and lakes, such as Erie, Ontario, and Champlain and the Susquehanna and Allegheny rivers. Although quillback closely resemble carp, they are easily distinguished by the lack of barbels around their mouths. In addition, quillback are generally smaller (ten to 15 inches long) and lack heavy spines at the beginning of their dorsal and anal fins. Quillback get their name from the long, soft (quill-like) ray on the front of their dorsal fin.

Only a few facts are known about the life history of the quillback. Adults feed on insects and invertebrates and have few natural enemies. Spawning takes place in spring.

Quillback have little interaction with anglers. At times, they are caught on doughballs, but few people actively try to catch these bony fish.

Grass carp are one of the largest members of the minnow family, commonly reaching weights in excess of 25 pounds. Native to the rivers of eastern China and the Soviet Union, grass carp have the unique ability to eat and, therefore, control a wide variety of submergent plants. This behavior has led to grass carp being introduced into waters all over the world for aquatic weed control purposes.

Although grass carp are related to both common carp and goldfish, they differ in appearance and feeding habits. Grass carp lack barbels and spinney dorsal and anal fin rays. In addition, grass carp feed strictly by grazing aquatic vegetation and do not share the bottom feeding habits typical of common carp and goldfish.

Grass carp can be used as a biological form of aquatic weed control. While fertile (able to reproduce) grass carp have been used in many countries, the majority of states in the U.S. (including New York State) prohibit its introduction due to concerns about the fish reproducing and possibly destroying valuable wetland communities. In 1983, creation of a sterile (called triploid) grass carp eliminated reproduction concerns. New York State now allows the use of triploid grass carp on a limited permit basis.

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