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The baitfish primer

A guide to identifying and protecting Ontario's baitfishes

by Becky Cudmore and Nicolas E. Mandrak

The baitfish primer

The baitfish primer (PDF, 14.6 MB)

Table of Contents

Pictorial key of Ontario fish families

Fish families featured in the baitfish primer

Herring pictorial key

Herrings (Clupeidae)

  1. very thin, silvery body
  2. scaleless head
  3. belly with saw-toothed edge
Carps and minnows pictorial key

Carps and minnows (Cyprinidae)

  1. single dorsal fin
  2. abdominal pelvic fins
  3. thin lips
Suckers and redhorses pictorial key

Suckers and redhorses (Catostomidae)

  1. large, thick lips on short, broad head
Mudminnows pictorial key

Mudminnows (Umbridae)

  1. small mouth
  2. rounded caudal fin
  3. dorsal and anal fins far back on body
Smelts pictorial key

Smelts (Osmeridae)

  1. small, slender, silvery body
  2. teeth on jaws and tongue
  3. adipose fin
  4. no spines
Salmons, trouts, and whitefishes pictorial key

Salmons, trouts, and whitefishes (Salmonidae)

  1. adipose fin
  2. no spines
  3. small triangular flap at base of pelvic fin
New world silversides pictorial key

New world silversides (Atherinopsidae)

  1. small, upturned mouth on long snout
  2. two widely-separated dorsal fins (first very small with spines)
  3. long, sickle-shaped anal fin
Topminnows pictorial key

Topminnows (Fundulidae)

  1. flattened head and back
  2. upturned mouth
  3. single dorsal fin located far back on body
Trout-perches pictorial key

Trout-perches (Percopsidae)

  1. adipose fin
  2. spines on leading edge of dorsal and anal fins
Sticklebacks pictorial key

Sticklebacks (Gasterosteidae)

  1. three to nine isolated dorsal spines in front of dorsal fin
  2. extremely narrow caudal peduncle
Sculpins pictorial key

Sculpins (Cottidae)

  1. one to four spines at rear margin of cheek
  2. large fan-like pectoral fins
  3. large head
  4. body tapering to narrow caudal peduncle
Perches and darters pictorial key

Perches and darters (Percidae)

  1. two separate dorsal fins - first with spines, second with rays
  2. one to two spines on leading edge of small anal fin
  3. single, flat spine at rear margin of cheek
Gobies pictorial key

Gobies (Gobiidae)

  1. pelvic fins fused to form suction cup
Crayfishes pictorial key

Crayfishes (Cambaridae)

Fish families NOT featured in The Baitfish Primer as there are no members considered legal baitfish. Members of these fish families can be easily distinguished from legal baitfishes.

Lampreys pictorial key

Lampreys (Petromyzontidae)

  1. scaleless body
  2. round, disc-like mouth without jaws
  3. no pectoral or pelvic fins
  4. seven pairs of gill openings
Sturgeons pictorial key

Sturgeons (Acipenseridae)

  1. upper lobe of caudal fin longer than lower lobe
  2. two pairs of fleshy barbels before mouth under shovel-shaped snout
  3. large, bony plates on head, along back and side
Gars pictorial key

Gars (Lepisosteidae)

  1. long, slender, cylindrical body with diamond-shaped, armour-like scales
  2. long, slender snout with needle-like teeth
  3. dorsal and anal fins far back on body
Bowfins pictorial key

Bowfins (Amiidae)

  1. long, spineless dorsal fin
  2. rounded caudal fin
  3. large, bony plate underneath lower jaw
Mooneyes pictorial key

Mooneyes (Hiodontidae)

  1. large eyes far forward on scaleless head
  2. forked caudal fin
  3. mouth with teeth
Freshwater eels pictorial key

Freshwater eels (Anguillidae)

  1. long, thin body
  2. long dorsal fin joined to caudal and anal fins
  3. pectoral and pelvic fins present
  4. single pair of small gill openings
North American catfishes pictorial key

North American catfishes (Ictaluridae)

  1. four pairs of whisker-like barbels around mouth
  2. adipose fin
  3. scaleless body
  4. spines leading pectoral and dorsal fins
Pikes and pickerels pictorial key

Pikes and pickerels (Esocidae)

  1. duckbill-like snout
  2. dorsal and anal fins far back on long, cylindrical body
  3. large teeth
Cods pictorial key

Cods (Gadidae)

  1. short barbel at tip of chin
  2. long dorsal and anal fins
  3. tiny scales
Temperate basses pictorial key

Temperate basses (Moronidae)

  1. thin, deep body
  2. large spine on gill cover
  3. two distinct or slightly joined dorsal fins
  4. silvery body
Sunfishes and basses pictorial key

Sunfishes and basses (Centrarchidae)

  1. two broadly joined dorsal fins - first with spines, second with rays
  2. three to nine spines on leading edge of anal fin
Drums pictorial key

Drums (Sciaenidae)

  1. two dorsal fins - first with spines but shorter than second
  2. lateral line extends to posterior end of caudal fin
  3. deep body, highly-arched at first dorsal fin origin
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