According to A Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes : North America North of Mexico (Peterson Field Guides), 790 species of freshwater fish are found in North America.

Most live their entire lives in freshwater although several species are diadromous; they can survive in both freshwater and saltwater.

Diadromous fishes are either anadromous or catadromous. Anadromous fish live as adults in the saltwater, returning to freshwater to span. Catadromous fishes are the opposite; adults live in freshwater and migrate to the ocean to reproduce.

Freshwater fish that migrate from lakes into rivers or streams to spawn are known as potamodromous.

Bass and Sunfish

The bass and sunfish family (Centrarchidae) includes largemouth, smallmouth and rock bass, crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and many other sunfish. The 27 species of this family are native only to North America.

Although sunfish are often small, they are among the most colorful fish of North America. In his book In Praise of Little Fishes, Professor Marcus Goldman wrote: “The crowd in its ignorance deems it manly and impressive to catch crappies and bluegill, but scorns anything called ‘sunfish.’ The result of this attitude is that only seasoned and thoughtful anglers know or care to know how to identify the different species of Centrarchids.”

Largemouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass

Spotted Bass

Guadalupe Bass

Bluegill Sunfish

Pumpkinseed Sunfish

Redear Sunfish – Shellcrackers

Redbreast Sunfish

Longear Sunfish

Green Sunfish

Black Crappie

White Crappie

Rock Bass


Hybrid Sunfish


Catfish are popular freshwater fish. These are bottom feeding fish, commonly caught with live or cut baits. The catfish family range in size from small bullheads to trophy sized blue cats.


Channel Catfish

Blue Catfish

Flathead Catfish

Musky, Pike, Pickerel

The pike family consists of several species, all of which share common traits, including camouflage body coloration and their ambush style of feeding.

Muskie – Muskellunge

Northern Pike

Chain Pickerel


The perches are one of the largest families of fishes in North America, outnumbered only by one of the minnow families. The perch family includes the yellow perch, walleye, sauger, and many darter species.

Yellow Perch



Temperate (True) Bass

Striped Bass

White Bass

Yellow Bass

White Perch

Trout, Salmon, and Char

The Salmonidae family includes freshwater and anadromous trout, salmon, char, whitefish, and grayling. Some members of this group of fish live their entire lives in freshwater.

Others are anadromous; they spend all or part of their adult life in salt water and return to freshwater streams and rivers to spawn.

Arctic Charr

Dolly Varden

Brook Trout

Lake Trout

Rainbow Trout

Golden Rainbow Trout

Cutthroat Trout

California Golden Trout

Apache Trout

Gila Trout

Bull Trout

Brown Trout

Atlantic Salmon

Chinook Salmon

Coho Salmon

Pink Salmon

Sockeye Salmon

Arctic Grayling

Lake Whitefish

Shad and Herring

Along the Atlantic Coast of North America, several species of shad and herring are anadromous; they spend part of their adult life in saltwater and return to freshwater streams and rivers to spawn.

American Shad

Hickory Shad

Threadfin Shad

River Herring


Sturgeon are among the largest and most ancient freshwater fish of North America.

White Sturgeon

Lake Sturgeon


Carp are non-native fish that are firmly established in North America.

Common Carp

Invasive Carp

Silver Carp

Grass Carp

Black Carp


White Sucker

Northern Hog Sucker

Bigmouth Buffalo


Golden Shiner

Other Species

Northern Snakehead




Longnose Gar


Rainbow Smelt

Related Information

Great Lakes Salmon

Fish Hybrids

Fish Identification

Best Species of Fish to Stock in Ponds

Freshwater Fishing Tips and Techniques