The fallfish is a member of the Cyprinidae family, the largest family of freshwater fish, which also includes minnows and carp. Often confused with the creek chub, the fallfish is the largest in its minnow clan.
Identification. The body of the fallfish is slender, with a bluntly pointed head. There is a single, long dorsal fin. On an adult, the scales are arranged in a pattern of dark, triangular black bars. The mouth is terminal and has barbels— which are characteristic of cyprinids—that are sometimes hidden. Its coloring is olive on the back, silvery on the sides, and white on the belly. A breeding male has tubercles on the snout and a pinkish coloring. A juvenile has a dark black line along the sides. The fallfish can be distinguished from the creek chub by the absence of a black spot at the base of the dorsal fin.
Size/Age. Fallfish may grow to 16 inches or more in length. In smaller streams, they are more likely to be smaller, averaging 10 to 15 inches. A common weight is 1 to 2 pounds. Fallfish have been known to live as long as 10 years.
Spawning behavior. The spawning season is from spring through summer, beginning in early May when the water warms. The male builds a pit-ridge nest out of small stones and pebbles in shallow areas or quiet pools over a clean gravel bottom. The nest can reach 6 feet in length and 3 feet in height. It can weigh up to 200 pounds, due to the volume of pebbles, and is the largest stone mound nest built by any fish. The male repeatedly spawns over one nest with several different females.
Food. Adult fallfish consume aquatic and terrestrial insects (such as mayflies, beetles, wasps, and ants), small crustaceans, small fish, and algae. Juveniles feed on zooplankton and phytoplankton.
windfish, silver chub.
Distribution. These fish are commonly found from eastern Canada into the James Bay drainage, and south on the east side of the Appalachian Mountains to Virginia.
Habitat. Fallfish inhabit the gravel- and rocky-bottomed areas of cold, clear streams, as well as the edges of lakes and ponds. In rivers and streams, adults prefer deeper, quieter waters, whereas juveniles often frequent swifter, shallower water.
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