Truly Superior Fish
Currently, 34 species of fish swimming in Lake Superior are native to the lake proper. Over 25 percent of them are members of the Salmonidae family
and all of them are inspiring artwork. Minnesota Sea Grant has been developing new online Native Fish Profiles that blend colorful imagery and catchy
information modeled after Charley Harper's Birds with Words (1974).
Minnesota Sea Grant communications assistant Russell Habermann designed the imagery and crafted the spunky text that will continue to debut on Minnesota Sea Grant's Native Fish Profile pages throughout the summer. Minnesota Sea Grant's interns Emily Kolodge and Garrett Kunz have been compiling additional information to accompany each profile. Find more truly Superior fish at: www.seagrant.umn.edu/fisheries/superiorfish.
Here's a taste of Minnesota Sea Grant's freshest fish profiles.
In Lake Superior, the modest brook trout becomes the legendary and very large "coaster," a colorful and rare work of art that also happens to be a fish. Once considered a separate strain, coasters are actually genetically indistinguishable from their stream-hugging kin. Only wanderlust and sheer bulk seem to set the coaster strain apart. Prior to 1880 there were plenty of these big beauties, but settlers and sports enthusiasts found them irresistible. The synergistic blows of fishing and 19th century logging practices reduced coasters to more of an oddity in Lake Superior than a fish of any importance. But they are still here, a century later, and management agencies intend to keep it that way. More...
Largest of the freshwater char, these Superior predators sit atop the food chain, but the bulk of them live deep within the lake ... most of the time. Overfishing combined with the arrival of the vampirish sea lamprey sent Superior's lake trout populations reeling, starting in the '40s. Now, there are leans and siscowet to spare, thanks to sea lamprey control and careful fisheries management. Members of the char clan, lake trout can be found in Minnesota's northeastern lakes and Lake Superior. Fishermen and fisheries professionals talk mostly about two strains that make up the bulk of the lake trout in Lake Superior: leans and fats (a.k.a. siscowets). However, there are at least two other strains recognized: half-breeds and humpers (a.k.a. paperbellies). More...
Cisco? Lake herring, tullibee, bluefin? Aliases aside, this iridescent cutie pie is again haute cuisine, prized for delicate flavors and golden caviar. Stuck in the middle of a Superior food web, silvery cisco dodge predator fish while digesting shrimpy invertebrates. The scrappy survivors occasionally produce super-strong year classes of fry, but it is unclear why. The species has bounced back from overfishing, a smelt issue and other "so-last-century" problems. One of the smaller Lake Superior natives, cisco can get lost in an extended subfamily of coregonids, but, make no mistake, this is NOT ocean herring. More...
Culinary expert Fannie Farmer once wrote that whitefish were "the finest fish found in the Great Lakes." Perhaps she was right, but by how whitefish act, you wouldn't know it. Staying out of the limelight and feeding at the bottom, they're a bit shy. Maybe it's how they look. Often referred to as "humpback," these fish have a small head in relation to their bodies. Maybe they skulk around to avoid a sea lamprey attack. One thing's for sure: you'll know whitefish are a good thing when you've got them ... on your plate. More...
It's an eel! It's a catfish! No, it's a burbot or, as some Minnesotan's call it, an eelpout! Putting the "ish" in fish, this rascal is smooth and slimy. What a skin to be in! Despite its rather dirty looks, the burbot is a neat freak. If the water's not clean, it won't be seen. That's why many call Lake Superior "home." For the love of frigid temperatures, burbots have bragging rights; they spawn under ice in January. Near the surface in winter and rolling in the deep during summer, they draw a crowd to Walker, Minnesota, each February where burbots go by another alias at the International Eelpout Festival. More...
Up and down the water column they go! The smallest member of Superior's deepwater cisco complex, a bloater's slender body flashes silver with an arresting pink and purple iridescence. The guy who discovered the bloater, Dr. Hoy, proclaimed it "the most beautiful of the white fish." The shimmering beauty chases its favorite food, opossum shrimps (Mysis relicta) on a daily path up and down the water column. Bloaters maximize their growth with nutrients that the on-the-move crustacean provides, and also with an uncanny talent for growing in cold temperatures. More...
Don't be fooled by those big, animated eyes; kiyi are feisty. Moving about in the shadowy regions of Superior's deep waters, they hunt their freshwater quarry (Mysis) with efficiency and speed. They rise as the Mysis rise by night and sink with them by day, all the while using those big eyes to watch for incoming lake trout. These coregonids run by these aliases: bigeye cisco, deepwater cisco and deepwater chub. The other Great Lakes lost all of their kiyi, but in Lake Superior they're thriving, outnumbering the combined populations of ciscos and bloaters. More...
By Sea Grant Staff