The 15 Largest Fish in the Great Lakes

To the best of our knowledge, fish comprise over half of all vertebrates on the planet. There are currently over 50,000 varieties that are known to exist, and new fish species are found each. Freshwater is home to more than 41% of the world’s fish population.

It’s possible that many of us are unaware that we only have access to 1% of the freshwater rivers and lakes in the globe. Twenty-one percent of the freshwater on Earth is found in the Great Lakes of North America! People fish in the Great Lakes throughout the year.

There are over 160 species of fish available for fisherman to pick from. We’ve reduced the best catches to the top 15 largest fish in these waters to assist you on your next Great Lake fishing excursion!

Great Lakes: Where are they?

Five lakes make up the Great Lakes chain, which is situated in northern North America. Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario are the five lakes. Approximately 20% of the fresh surface water supply on Earth is found in these five sizable freshwater lakes, which make up the biggest group of freshwater lakes on the planet.

They cover two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec) as well as eight US states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York).

Numerous rivers, like the St. Clair River, which links Lake Huron and Lake Saint Clair, bind them all together. and the Detroit River, which joins Lake Saint Clair with Lake Erie. These rivers promote the interchange of species across these enormous bodies of water by assisting in level regulation.

With a population of more than 35 million, the Great Lakes watershed is among the most densely populated areas in North America. It is significant economically as well because it serves as a major transportation route for products coming from all over the world and supplies clean drinking water to numerous communities.

The Great Lakes’ Top 15 Largest Fish

15. 4.8 lbs. of pink salmon

At 4.8 pounds on average, the pink salmon is the smallest species of salmon found in the Great Lakes. It is one of the largest fish species among the other marine life in the Great Lakes of North America, even though it is the smallest of its kind.

After being brought to the largest freshwater system on the continent, pink salmon can now support themselves in the Great Lakes. Nonetheless, pink salmon prefer to dwell in cold water and are native to coastal rivers in the Pacific and the Arctic. Fifteen pounds was the heaviest pink salmon ever recorded.

14. Brook Trout: 6 to 7 pounds; up to 15 pounds in size

The brook trout, often called the speckled trout, is an interesting fish with amazing olive-green back color and yellow dots. The olive tint of the freshwater fish turns to orange or red along its sides, where it has scattered red patches surrounded by light blue. The average brook trout is 9.8 inches long and weighs 6 pounds. Since brook trout are indigenous to the lakes in Michigan, they are known as the state fish.

13. Eight to twelve-pound Atlantic salmon

The Salmonidae family of fish includes the ray-finned Atlantic salmon. At 28 to 30 inches in length and up to 12 pounds (5.4 kg) in weight, it is the third largest species of Salmonidae, behind Pacific Chinook Salmon and Siberian Taimen. Atlantic salmon naturally spawn in rivers found on the northeastern coast of North America and Europe. Changes in the temperature and freshwater settings have a major effect on the range of this species.

12. A 12-pound largemouth bass

For good reason, largemouth bass are among the most popular species to capture in the United States. Particularly in North America’s Great Lakes, this green fish has the potential to grow to fairly big sizes.

In their first year, largemouth bass normally grow 4 to 8 inches and weigh 12.12 pounds (5.5 kg), but in their second year, they can develop up to 14 inches, and in their third year, they can grow up to 18 inches or more. 22 pounds was the biggest largemouth that was ever captured.

11. 18.5 lbs. of Coho salmon

The coho salmon, weighing approximately 18.52 lbs or 8.4 kg, is another enormous type of fish that is valued highly when caught in any lake, including the Great Lakes. Although not native to the Great Lakes, the coho salmon has rapidly spread since successful distribution operations in Lake Michigan in the middle of the 1960s.

The states bordering the Great Lakes and the Canadian province of Ontario have continued to offer this species as a lucrative sport fish, even though it was originally introduced to exploit and regulate alewife levels. They consume small fish, such as anchovies, herring, and sardines, while they are in the ocean.

10. 22-pound lake whitefish

Another large fish caught in the Great Lakes is the lake whitefish, which can weigh up to 22 pounds (10 kg). Known as the principal commercial fish in Lakes Ontario and Huron, the combined annual catch from these two bodies of water has exceeded $5 million. A popular sport fish in all of the Great Lakes, whitefish is also a vital component of Lake Michigan’s commercial fisheries.

9. A 24-pound walleye

The walleye, at 24.25 pounds or 11 kg, is the biggest member of the perch family. As they feed hard all winter long, these struggling fish are enjoyable to catch, delicious to eat, and offer an excellent year-round sport fishery. Walleyes congregate in low bay waters in the spring, searching for underwater bars and rocky outcroppings.

8. 26-pound brown trout

Maybe the first salmonid species brought to the Great Lakes, brown trout may now be found in every one of them. The light-ringed black dots on their brown body, which are common over much of the world, serve as a distinguishing feature. While the average weight of an adult brown trout is about 26.45 pounds (12 kilograms), some individuals can weigh up to 53 pounds (24 kilograms).

7. A 26.45-pound rainbow trout

The species known by the labels “steelhead salmon” and “rainbow trout” are the same. That being said, their habits differ according to their birthplace (or stocking). It is an additional species from the Pacific coast that has been effectively brought to every Great Lake.

Like the brown trout, the rainbow trout is one of the largest fish found in the Great Lakes, weighing up at 26.45 lbs (12 kg). Before moving to rivers and streams in the spring to spawn, it spends the majority of its life at sea or in lakes.

6. 30.86 lb Chinook Salmon

Chinook salmon were introduced to all of the Great Lakes from their native shores in the Pacific and the Arctic. This species of salmon is the largest in the Pacific, growing to a length of 35 inches (90 cm) and a weight of 30.86 pounds (14 kg).

Although the Great Lakes’ salmon stocks have experienced unstable periods in the past, approximately 20 million permanent coho and chinook numbers were established in the middle and late 1960s.

5. 39.68 lbs. of lake trout

After being nearly exterminated by commercial fishing in the middle of the 19th century and dying from parasitic sea lamprey, lake trout have made a comeback to the Great Lakes.

This huge fish, which may weigh up to 39.48 pounds (18 kg), prefers to swim in deeper, colder waters. In some regions, natural reproduction has benefited fisheries management efforts; stocking operations in all five lakes have helped to restore the once-popular native species. Commercial and recreational anglers have always found great pleasure in hunting this naturally occurring deepwater predator.

4. Burbot: 41.89 lbs.

Burbots are fish that move slowly and can weigh up to 41.89 pounds (19 kg). This species is more likely to hide in shadowy areas near shipwrecks, particularly in the deeper ones. A freshwater fish resembling a cod is called a burbot. Because most fisherman think they appear too “eel-like,” they are edible fish capture even though they are rarely eaten.

3. 39.68 to 50.71 lbs. of channel catfish

Though a bottom feeder, the channel catfish is a catfish that can be eaten. One of the most fascinating inhabitants of the Great Lakes is the channel catfish, which ranges in weight from 39.68 to 50.71 lbs (18 to 23 kg). North America has been home to this species of fish for around 3,000 years.

They are currently present in all of the Great Lakes, with the exception of Lake Superior. A channel catfish’s body is scale-free and has a cylindrical cross-section.

2. 70.10 lbs. Musky or Muskellunge

After sturgeons, muskies are the second-largest fish in the Great Lakes. The normal adult weighs 5-36 pounds (2-16 kg) and is 28-48 inches (0.7-1.2 m) long. Some muskies, though, have the potential to grow considerably larger and weigh up to 70.10 pounds.

The muskellunge is a deadly game fish that is well-known for having little barracuda teeth. The muskellunge, sometimes called the muskie, is an extremely potent “predator machine.” Along the coast, it lurks in the shade of undergrowth or sinking logs, only coming to the surface to attack a prey fish.

1. Lake Sturgeon weighing 198.42 pounds

The largest fish in the Great Lakes is without a doubt the lake sturgeon, weighing in at about 200 pounds (90 kg). The pricey caviar comes from the lake sturgeon, which is not just a desired capture due to its significant mass. Lake sturgeon are found in both rivers and lakes, despite their name.

The Mississippi River in North America to Hudson Bay is the fish’s range. The population of this fish was once prevalent in the ecosystems of the Great Lakes, but overfishing has caused a decline in it. The small invertebrates found at the lake’s bottom, such as crayfish, snails, clams, and leeches, are eaten by lake sturgeon.

 Biggest Fish In The Great Lakes

We choose to add a couple more Biggest Fish in the Great Lakes to our already amazing list of over fifteen.

Other bonus fish species found in the Great Lakes that weren’t on our list include the following:

  1. Beluga Whale
  2. Bluegill
  3. White Perch

A fascinating fact about the Great Lakes is that the St. Lawrence River is home to a tiny colony of beluga whales. The Great Lakes depend heavily on this river and waterway because it links them to the Atlantic Ocean and facilitates large ship traffic. The river spans approximately 800 kilometers.

Bluegills range in size from seven to fifteen inches on average. Still, the majority of bluegills are four to six inches long and weigh half a pound or less. Males typically have larger bodies than females do. The largest bluegill ever recorded in American history was taken in Alabama in 1950; it measured fifteen inches in length and weighed four pounds, twelve ounces.

While white perches remain comparatively small. White perch usually range in size from seven to ten inches and weigh eight ounces to one pound, while records show that they can grow up to 19 inches when completely grown.

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