|Identification of Pond Fish Species
Use this page to identify many of the fish that you may encounter
in your pond of lake. Largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish,
channel catfish, hybrid striped bass, hybrid sunfish, and grass carp are the only species that are generally
recommended for stocking in ponds less than 25 acres. However, many
other species may have been stocked or may have invaded smaller ponds.
We have listed many of these common species here. For information
on removal of undesirable species, see the fish management link to the left.
For additional sport species found in Arkansas, see the link below.
Largemouth Bass (top)
bass is the largest of the sunfish family. It
typically has greenish to brownish sides with a dark lateral
bar that may extend from the eye to the tail. Unlike other
black bass, its jaw extends beyond the rear edge of the
eye. Unlike the sunfishes such as bluegill, redear
sunfish, and crappie, largemouth bass have two dorsal
fins that are nearly separated by a deep dip.
round and laterally compressed, with small mouths that
are angled upward. Coloration can vary greatly with
age, season, and sex, but two characteristics usually persist
that can be used to distinguish this species. These are
black spots that are found at the rear edge of the gill
cover, and at base of the posterior dorsal fin.
Green sunfish also have black spots at the posterior
dorsal as well, but can be distinguished by their large
mouth and light margined "ear flap.". In general
bluegill are somewhat lavender and bronze, with about six
dark bars on their sides. Males can be very dark
or colorful during the spawning season.
Redear Sunfish (top)
as a "shellcracker" because of its tendency to eat snails,
the redear sunfish is similar in shape to bluegill but
lacks the distinguishing black dot on the dorsal fin. Redears
have a characteristic red or orange margin around the "ear flap,"
and the mouth and snout protrudes more forward than other
sunfish. The body coloration is light olive-green
to gold, with red and orange flecks in the breast.
The breast of a mature redear is typically yellow, and
the pectoral fins are long and pointed.
Hybrid Sunfish (top)
bream is a hatchery cross between a male bluegill and a female green sunfish.
The offspring exhibits characteristics of both parents. It's not quite
as deep in the body as the bluegill but is deeper bodied
than the green sunfish. The mouth is larger than the bluegill but smaller
than the green sunfish. The color markings have no distinct
patterns as do the parents, and hybrids may appear speckled or
The black crappie
is a silvery-green to yellowish fish with large dorsal and
anal fins of almost identical shape and size. The
sides are marked with black blotches which become more intense
towards the back. The dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are
also marked with rows of dark spots. Crappie have compressed
bodies, small heads and arched backs. They have a
large mouth with an upper jaw extending under the eye.
Black crappie can be distinguished from white crappie, a
similar species, by the number of dorsal spines. Black
crappie have 7-8 dorsal spines, while white crappie have
5-6 spines and usually exhibit light vertical bars on the sides
of the body.
Green sunfish are not recommended for
Arkansas ponds. These fish are easily identified by
their large mouth; white to orange margined fins, and large
dark spot at base of second dorsal fin (similar to spot of
bluegill, but bluegill have much smaller mouths).
a stout, deep body similar to that of a bluegill or redear
sunfish, yet have a large, bass-like mouth. They
have a red eye and vary from brassy to dark-olive green and often
have a purple tint overall. Broad, irregular dark bars give
it a mottled appearance. The soft-rayed portions of
the dorsal and anal fins are marked with rows of dark spots.
Three or four conspicuous dark stripes radiate back from
the eye across to the cheek and gill cover.
sunfish species that is not recommended for recreational
fishing ponds, the longear sunfish has a long ear flap,
especially prevalent on the adult male. Ear flap is
horizontal on adults and slanted upward on young. Wavy
blue lines on cheek and gill. Adult is dark red to
bright orange and is marbled or spotted with blue.
Hybrid Striped Bass
striped bass is a cross between striped bass and white
bass. Body coloration is often olive-green to blue-gray
on the back with silvery to brassy sides and white on the belly.
It is easily recognized by the 7-8 prominent black stripes
on the sides that are often broken. Hybrid striped
bass can not reproduce in ponds and therefore must be restocked
periodically if desired.
are very uncommon in farm ponds and will not reproduce in
them. The stripes of white bass are lighter than the
other temperate bass, and usually there are 4-7 dark
gray-brown stripes on a silver-white side. Body deepest
between dorsal fins.
bass are found in some ponds and can be confused with other
temperate basses including white bass and hybrid striped
bass. This species has 5-7 thick black stripes on
silver-yellow side broken and offset on lower side.
Usually, the presence of yellow bass suggests that fish are
invading the pond from downstream.
Channel Catfish (top)
have a deeply forked tail, a rounded anal fin with 24-29
fin rays, and juveniles have scattered black spots along
their back and sides. They have a small, narrow head,
and the back is blue-gray with light blue to silvery gray sides
and a white belly. Males may become very dark during the
spawning season and develop a thickened pad on their head.
can easily be differentiated from channel catfish by the
absence of a deeply-forked tail. The body is squat
and the tail is round or square. The chin barbels on brown
bullheads are pigmented, not whitish as with yellow bullheads.
The sides of brown bullheads have a distinct, irregular
brownish mottling over a light background,
while yellow bullhead are yellow-olive to slate-black
above and lighter, often yellow to yellow-olive, on its sides
with little to no mottling.
Common Carp (top)
carp is a heavy bodied, laterally compressed minnow with
a long dorsal fin and arched back. The first ray of the dorsal
and anal fins is a stout, serrated spine. The small triangular
head is scaleless and tapers to a blunt snout. The small,
protrusible mouth contains no teeth and is located below
the snout. There are two pair of barbels on the upper jaw.
The body is scaled and color is brassy green on top grading
to bronze or gold on sides. The belly is yellowish white.
Fins typically are yellow, orange, golden, or light olive
Grass Carp (top)
are slender bodied with a large very broad head and a
wide mouth. Unlike common carp, the dorsal fin is short.
Coloration is dark greenish-brown on the back and the sides
are pale golden. This species is commonly introduced
to control vegetation problems.
Golden Shiner (top)
shiners are silvery with a dusky band along the side.
This band fades with age as the fish takes on a golden color.
Adults are usually less than 6 inches, although can grow to about
10 inches. Golden shiners are usually introduced by
anglers when they empty their bait buckets into the pond.
Gizzard Shad (top)
are silvery with a single dark spot behind the operculum (gill
cover). They have a long, whip-like last dorsal ray, a
blunt snout, and sub-terminal mouth. Only threadfin shad
share the threadlike dorsal ray, but threadfin shad are
differentiated by their terminal mouth and much smaller
maximum size. Gizzard shad are not recommended for small
are are dull gray or brown in color with a rounded tail.
Their mouths point upward for surface feeding. Mosquitofish
can persist in ponds with sufficient shallow vegetated
areas where they can hide from predators.