About the Book
About the Authors
  • About the Book

    There are nearly 1,000 species of freshwater fishes in North America alone, and identifying them can sometimes be a daunting task. In fact, in just the twenty years since publication of the first edition of the Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes, the number of species has risen by almost 150, including 19 marine invaders and 16 newly established nonnative species. This second edition incorporates all of these new species, plus all-new maps and a collection of new and revised plates. Some of the species can be told apart only by minute differences in coloration or shape, and these beautifully illustrated plates reveal exactly how to distinguish each species. 

    The guide includes detailed maps and information showing where to locate each species of fish—whether that species can be found in miles-long stretches of river or small pools that cover only dozens of square feet. The ichthyologic world of the twenty-first century is not the same as it was in the twentieth, and this brand-new edition of the definitive field guide to freshwater fishes reflects these many changes.

    Related Subjects

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts


    The first edition of this guide was completed in 1990 and published
    in 1991. Since then it has been a primary source of information
    on identification of North American freshwater fishes. This
    second edition increases the number of species in the guide from
    768 to 909, incorporates new maps and several new and revised
    plates, and corrects errors. The increase in number of species is
    the result of adding 114 newly recognized species native to the
    U.S. and Canada, 19 marine invaders commonly found in freshwater,
    and 16 newly established non-native (exotic) species. Eight
    species recognized in the first edition were deleted as names were
    synonymized or as exotic species thought to be established disappeared.
    The ichthyofauna of the twenty-first century is not that
    of the twentieth century, and a revision of this guide was badly
    needed. We hope we have succeeded in making it current as well
    as more user-friendly. Suggestions for improvements and notifications
    of errors are welcome.—LMP and BMB

    How To Use This Guide

    Naturalists, anglers, and aquarists derive pleasure and knowledge
    from observing and catching fishes. Ichthyologists and other scientists
    study fishes to learn more about the evolution of life, the
    history of our continent, and how natural resources can be better
    managed. For these interests and related endeavors, accurate
    identification of fishes is essential. This guide includes all fishes
    in fresh waters of North America north of Mexico.
     Fishes are aquatic vertebrates with fins and gills throughout
    life. Currently recognized as valid are about 31,000 species, of
    which 831 species (3 percent of the total) are native to fresh waters
    of the United States and Canada. Another 58 species from
    elsewhere in the world have been established in our area, and 20
    marine species are encountered often enough in fresh water to
    be included in this guide, bringing the total number of species to
     Of the 537 families of fishes, 34 (6 percent) are represented by
    1 or more species native to freshwater lakes and streams of the
    United States and Canada, and another 11 families have marine
    species that occasionally enter our rivers. Eight other families
    are represented by introduced (exotic) species. Although our fish
    fauna represents a fraction of the world’s total, it is Earth’s most
    diverse temperate freshwater fish fauna.
     All freshwater fishes known from North America north of
    Mexico are included in this guide. The Peterson Field Guide to
    Atlantic Coast Fishes and the Peterson Field Guide to Pacific Coast
    Fishes provide additional information on marine and brackishwater
    fishes likely to be encountered in fresh water.

    Most names of fishes used in this guide are those in Common
    and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States, Canada,
    and Mexico, published in 2004 by a joint committee of the American
    Fisheries Society and the American Society of Ichthyologists
    and Herpetologists. In a few instances in which the committee
    changed a common name, we chose to keep the name used in the
    first edition of this field guide.
     Scientific names of species consist of two Latinized and italicized
    words, e.g., Lepomis punctatus. The first is the genus, which
    begins with a capital letter. The second is the “specific epithet”
    and is not capitalized. A subspecies has a third descriptor, e.g., Lepomis
    punctatus miniatus. Genera are grouped into families (with
    names that end in idae), families into orders (ending in iformes),
    and orders into classes.

    Color plates were painted from live fishes or, more often, from
    color photographs of live or freshly preserved fishes. Black-andwhite
    plates depict fishes that lack bright colors or show little
    variation in color among closely related species. Fishes are not
    drawn to scale, but much larger species usually are shown larger
    than smaller species. The 57 plates (42 in color, 15 in black and
    white) show 824 individuals representing 677 species. Additional
    species are illustrated in text figures.

    Although ichthyologists use the metric system, guide users remain
    familiar with inches, feet, and pounds. Measurements are given
    in both systems. A short rule comparing metric and U.S. units
    appears below and on the back cover. The maximum total length
    known (tip of snout, lip, or chin—whichever is farthest forward—
    to end of longer caudal fin lobe) is given for each species. For
    small fishes, this number is given in quarter-inches and tenths
    of centimeters, for intermediate fishes in inches and centimeters,
    and for large fishes in feet and meters.
     If the maximum length recorded was given originally in centimeters,
    it was converted to inches; if in inches, it was converted
    to centimeters. Rounding from centimeters to quarter-inches can
    give various results; for example, 7.4 through 7.9 cm are all given
    as equivalent to 3 in.

    Family accounts provide information on distinguishing characters
    (often anatomical) and distribution. Numbers in parentheses following
    family names are numbers of native species in the United
    States and Canada; if introduced species are in our area, number
    of natives is followed by number of exotics.
     Generic accounts are given for large genera and for small genera
    in which all species share characters useful in identification.
    If a character is described in a family or generic account, it usually
    is not repeated in a species account.
    Species accounts begin with common and scientific names. In
    the upper right-hand corner of each account is the number of the
    plate or figure where the species is illustrated, or “Not shown” if
    not illustrated. A species is not illustrated if it is similar to another
     Most species accounts contain the following four sections. A
    similar Species section is omitted if a species is easily identified,
    and a Remarks section is added if the species has subspecies or
    other noteworthy characters.
    Identification: This section describes the most useful characters
    for identification. Usually these are color descriptions such
    as “black stripe along body,” shape descriptions such as “dorsal
    fin origin behind pelvic fin origin,” and unusual features such as
    “barbel at corner of mouth.” The most prominent field characters
    are italicized and usually appear early in the account. Accurate
    field identifications sometimes require consideration of locality
    and habitat. Large specimens, especially colorful males, are easiest
    to identify. Positive identification of small or single individuals
    may require close examination; for that reason, we give some
    characters useful in identification of preserved fishes (numbers of
    scales, fin rays, and pharyngeal teeth, etc.).
     A color description is included unless a species is noted to be
    similar or nearly identical to another species. Unless stated otherwise,
    the description is of an adult fish, and the fish is white
    below (breast and belly) and has clear fins, conditions that pertain
    in most species. In many fishes, females retain colors similar
    to those of young, but males become notably brighter or darker
    with age. During the spawning season, males often become
    much brighter in color than at any other time. When known to
    differ, both “average” and “breeding male” descriptions are given.
    In some fishes (e.g., darters), large males retain bright colors
    through much of the year; in others (e.g., most minnows), bright
    colors are p...

  • Reviews