Fish

Fish of the Forest Preserves

Fish are some of the forest preserves' most well-known aquatic animals. Many, such as the "game fish" featured on this page, are especially popular with local anglers. For fishing regulations, depth maps, stocking reports and more, visit our fishing page.

Black Bullhead Ameiurus melas 

Average Length

7 – 9"

Average Lifespan

3 – 4 years

What It Looks Like

Olive to black with white to bright yellow belly; light band at base of slightly notched tail fin

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Insects, crayfish, worms and small fish at night; tolerates muddy waters, soft bottoms and pollution more than other catfish

 

Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus 

Average Length

6 – 10"

Average Lifespan

5 – 6 years

What It Looks Like

Mottled head, back and sides with dusky or black blotches; seven or eight dorsal spines

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Insects, larvae and small fish in clear water; less tolerant of silt and turbidity than white crappie

 

Bluegill Lepomis macrochirus 

Average Length

5 – 7" 

Average Lifespan

5 – 6 years

What It Looks Like

Short black gill cover; black spot at posterior end of dorsal fin; bluish lower cover of dorsal fin

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Seeds, fruits, insects, crayfish, snails and worms in lakes, ponds and streams

 

Channel Catfish  Ictalurus punctatus

Average Length

14 – 15" 

Average Lifespan

7 – 8 years 

What It Looks Like

No scales; eight barbels; deeply forked tail; rounded anal fin; single hard spine in pectoral and dorsal fins

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Seeds, fruits, insects, crayfish, snails and worms in lakes, ponds and rivers

 

Flathead Catfish  Pylodictis olivaris 

Average Length

20" 

Average Lifespan

15 – 20 years

What It Looks Like

Flattened head; tiny eyes; squarish tail; protruding lower jaw 

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Bass, bream, shad, crayfish and other catfish in deep pools, lakes, and large, slow-moving rivers

 

Green Sunfish  Lepomis cyanellus

Average Length

2 – 6"

Average Lifespan

4 – 5 years

What It Looks Like

Dark green-blue fading to light green on sides; yellow to white along belly; faint vertical bars on sides; some turquoise spots 

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Insects and fish in slow-moving pools, moderate-grade streams or rivers

 

Largemouth Bass  Micropterus salmoides

Average Length

12 – 18"

Average Lifespan

6 – 8 years

What It Looks Like

Upper jaw extends beyond eye when mouth closed (versus smallmouth); dorsal fins separated by deep notch; dark lateral stripe length of body

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Fish and crayfish in lakes, ponds and streams

 

Muskellunge  Esox masquinongy

Average Length

2 – 5'

Average Lifespan

8 – 14 years

What It Looks Like

Silver, brown or green with dark vertical spots (versus northern pike); dark on light background (versus northern pike); no scales on the lower half of gill cover

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Mostly fish; also crayfish, frogs, ducklings, snakes, muskrats and small mammals in clear waters along weed edges, rock outcrops or other structures

 

Northern Pike  Esox lucius

Average Length

20 – 60"

Average Lifespan

8 – 14 years

What It Looks Like

Olive back; yellowish or whitish belly; short, horizontal spots (versus muskie); scaleless lower half gill cover (versus muskie); light markings on dark background (versus muskie)

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Mainly fish but also water voles and ducklings; other northern pike in sluggish streams and shallow, weedy places in lakes; cold, clear, rocky waters

 

Redear Sunfish Lepomis microlophus

Average Length

8 – 9"

Average Lifespan

3 – 5 years

What It Looks Like

Dark along back; yellow-green along belly; red edge on male’s gill cover, orange on female’s

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Snails and other shelled creatures along lake beds in deep-water, mollusk-feeding niches

 

Rock Bass  Ambloplites rupestris

Average Length

6 – 10"

Average Lifespan

3 – 4 years

What It Looks Like

Similar to smallmouth bass but usually a bit smaller

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Smaller fish, insects and crustaceans in clear, rocky and vegetated stream pools and lake margins

 

Smallmouth Bass  Micropterus dolomieui

Average Length

10 – 20"

Average Lifespan

8 – 10 years

What It Looks Like

Upper jaw extends mid eye when mouth closed (versus largemouth); dorsal fins nearly continuous; lines radiate from nose and eye; vertical stripes on sides

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Insects, crayfish and fish in lakes, streams and rivers

 

Walleye Sander vitreus

Average Length

14 – 15"

Average Lifespan

10 – 12 years

What It Looks Like

Large glassy eyes; olive-brown body with greenish yellow reflections; dark spot at back of first dorsal fin; lower tail fin often with white tip

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Fish and insects in rivers, streams and lakes

 

White Crappie Pomoxis annularis

Average Length

6 – 10"

Average Lifespan

5 – 6 years

What It Looks Like

5 – 10 vertical bars (versus spots on black crappie); dorsal fin starts further back than on black crappie

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Insects, larvae and small fish in clear water with aquatic vegetation; rivers

 

Yellow Bullhead Ameiurus natalis

Average Length

6 – 10"

Average Lifespan

7 years

What It Looks Like

Dark olive-brown back; yellowish belly; nonmottled sides; dusky to olive fins 

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Tiny crustaceans, insects, larvae and fish in warm pools and backwaters in ponds, lakes, reservoirs and rivers

 

Yellow Perch Perca flavescens

Average Length

7 – 9"

Average Lifespan

7 – 8 years

What It Looks Like

Yellow body with six to nine dark bars or rings running top to bottom; hump just behind head

What It Eats & Where It Lives

Fish and insects in rivers and  lakes