Names of Herring-Like Fish

Lake herring or cisco is a deep water fish indigenous to the Great Lakes.
Lake herring or cisco is a deep water fish indigenous to the Great Lakes. (Image: lake superior shoreline great lake image by Paul Retherford from

Herring-like fish, an important fish group, feed on and convert vast quantities of zooplankton and become prey for larger predatory fish from a higher trophic or feeding level on the food chain. This valuable food source can be processed as kibble for land animals, or as high-protein feed for chickens and livestock. Herring-like fish feature elongated, slim, torpedo-shaped bodies.


The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) belongs to the Esocidae or pike family. This light-colored fish with silver, light brown or light green skin sports dark bars running vertically on its body. Both dorsal and anal fins lie close to the tail fin. Also known as musky or lunge, Wisconsin’s state fish inhabits lakes with shallow and deep basins, often waiting in beds of aquatic plants before grasping prey with its flat snout.

Rainbow Smelt

Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) has a compressed, elongated body that reaches a mature length of 10 inches. Its skin color is olive green with a silver band running laterally. Habitat includes coastal shores and surface water of lakes, rivers and estuaries, according to the University of Alaska. Rainbow smelt prey on young fish with their strong, canine teeth. This non-native fish introduced to the Great Lakes, has impacted the native species such as lake trout, whitefish and cisco, and is considered undesirable, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.


Cisco or lake herring (Coregonus artedii) is indigenous to the coldwater Great Lakes. This slender, silvery fish often with pink to purple iridescence measures 11 to 15 inches and weigh 6 oz. to 2 lbs. Diet includes zooplankton or tiny crustaceans. Cisco are the "forage fish" for larger sport fish such as pike and lake trout. This deepwater fish suffered declining populations from overfishing and competition with introduced species such as rainbow smelt.


Mooneye (Hiodon tergisus) wears a steel blue skin on its back and silver sides with a white underbelly. A large, round, silvery iris in its eye dominates its small head. The upper jaw reaches horizontally below the middle of the eye. Mooneye measures approximately 12 to 18 inches as adults. Its habitat includes large streams and rivers, as well as tail waters of locks and dams. These surface feeders feed on plankton when young, then progress to molluscs, insects, crayfish and small fish.

Central Mudminnow

Central mudminnow (Umbra limi) features an olive-brown upper body with mottling and a white to yellow belly, according to Purdue University. Many brown vertical bars appear on the sides and a dark vertical bar marks the base of the tail. Also known as mudfish, dogfish or Mississippi mudminnow, these bottom feeders tolerate low oxygen levels, dig into sediment to survive low water levels and breathe air. Diet for the young consists of water fleas, hatched snails and clams. Adults feed on insect larvae, snails, clams and side swimmers.

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