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DC Fish Field Guide

Of the 67 species of fish so far reported in the District of Columbia waters, three anadromous and seven resident species are more important to anglers. Brief descriptions of these species can be found below. Based on the overall assessment of the population and recruitment of levels of these species, a moratorium has been instituted for several of these species.

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
Fishing Restrictions: Minimum Length: 12 inches, Creel Limit: Three per day.

General Features: Body somewhat compressed with a wide head. Eyes are large and situated above the midline of the head. Upper jaw is longer than the lower. Eight barbels. Adipose fin present but not adnate. Caudal fin deeply forked. Anal fin long, with 24 to 31 rays. This fish is a resident species.
Coloration: Sides of the body are light blue to brownish-black with scattered dark olive spots.



Hickory Shad (Alosa mediocris)
Fishing Restrictions: Prohibited

General Features: It has a long projecting lower jaw and a cutting edge on the belly that is inherent to the herring family. The dorsal profile is straight. The silvery patch on the cheek is longer than deep. Peritoneum is grey. This fish is anadromous.
Coloration: The Hickory Shad is bluish-silver on its sides, shading to a darker gray-green over the back. A row of five or six dark spots appear high on its sides extending backward from behind the gill cover.


Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Fishing Restrictions: Minimum Length: 12 inches (15 inches March 1 thru June 15) Creel Limit: Two per day (in combination with Smallmouth Bass)

General Features: The Largemouth Bass is identified by a jaw extending to the back of the eye. The two dorsal fins are separated by a deep notch. This fish is a member of the sunfish family. The maximum size attained by this fish is three feet, two inches. This fish is a resident species.
Coloration: Olive to dark green in color, with a dark horizontal band of blotches from head to tail.


Northern Pike (Esox luclus)
Fishing Restrictions: Prohibited

General Features: Many rows of canine-like teeth line the inside of long, flattened, powerful jaws. The lower jaw is longer with five rows of sensory pores on either side. It grows to 52 inches in length. This fish is a resident species.
Coloration: Its sides are yellow-green, shading to a dark green over the back with light spots. The belly is usually creamy or whitish.


Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)
Fishing Restrictions: Minimum Length: 8 inches, Creel Limit: Three per day

General Features: The body is moderately compressed. The mouth, with no canines, extends behind the middle of the eye. The preopercle is serrate. The dorsal fins are separate. The anal fin has two spines. The cheek and opercula are scaled. Lateral line is complete. This fish is a resident species.
Coloration: Body brassy green to golden yellow. There are five to eight wide dusky bars that run across the back to almost the middle of the belly.


Chain Pickerel (Esox niger)
Fishing Restrictions: Prohibited

General Features: The head is flat, and snout is long. The cheeks and gill covers are scaled. It grows up to 31 inches in length. This fish is a resident species.
Coloration: It has dark chain-like patterns on its sides. The background color ranges from dark yellow-green on the sides to bronze across the back. Its belly is usually an off-white.


American Shad (Alosa sapidissima)
Fishing Restrictions: Prohibited

General Features: The American Shad is the largest of the herring family, growing to 30 inches. Its underside is accented with a saw-toothed edge formed by belly scales. The snout is longer than the eye. The dorsal fin is short and set at about the midpoint on the body; the tail is deeply forked. The silvery patch on the cheek is deeper than long. This fish is anadromous.
Coloration: Usually silvery on the sides with light olive to bluish shades over the back. There is usually a horizontal row of four to six dark spots located behind the shoulder spot.


Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui)
Fishing Restrictions: Minimum Length: 12 inches (15 inches March 1st thru June 15th) Creel Limit: Two per day (in combination with Largemouth Bass)

General Features: The Smallmouth Bass is identified by two dorsal fins separated by a notch and an upper jaw that does not extend to the rear border of the eye. It grows up to a maximum length of 24 inches. This fish is a resident species.
Coloration: It is usually dull golden-green in color with bronze overcast. The vertical lateral bars on the sides are broken into spots.


Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)
Fishing Restrictions: Prohibited except during season

General Features: The Striped Bass has a slightly pointed snout, long head, projecting lower jaw, thick body, two triangular-shaped, separated dorsal fins. It can grow up to six feet in length. This fish is anadromous.
Coloration: Greenish-olive on back shading into greenish-silver on light silver sides, a white belly. It also has black spots, forming six to seven unbroken stripes behind the head.


Walleye (Sander vitreus formerly Stizostedion vitreum)
Fishing Restrictions: Minimum Length: 14 inches, Creel Limit: One per day

General Features: The body is sharp-pointed with fang-like canine teeth that line the lower jaw. It has two separate dorsal fins, one spinous, the other soft-rayed. This fish grows up to 41 inches in length. This fish is a resident species.
Coloration: The body is yellow-olive with irregular spots that usually join to form a series of dark blotches extending to the back. The membranes between the last two to three spines are black. The tip of the lower caudal lobe is white.