If it's alive and it lives wild, it's wildlife.

Kevin J. Cook                                              Kevin@WildlifeWindow.com

Fish Catalog

Colorado Fishes Catalog


Status Categories

Indigenous: occurs in an area through natural process without involvement of people.
Exotic: “from another land,” meaning a species occurs in an area as a consequence of human
               involvement in geographic displacement, typically from another continent.


IN:   =  indigenous
EX:   =  exotic
UN:  =  undetermined

in      =  indigenous to a particular place
ex     =  exotic to a particular place; typically, moved by people from an indigenous river drainage to a
                        river drainage where it did not naturally occur

AR   =  Arkansas River Drainage
CO   =  Colorado River Drainage
RE    =  Republican River Drainage
RG   =  Rio Grande Drainage
SP     =  South Platte River Drainage
SLV  =  San Luis Valley

est    =  established: occurring in the wild with a self-sustaining breeding population
fer    =  feral: escaped or released from captivity but with no wild, self-sustaining population and
                       continuing to occur only through ongoing escapes or releases
his    =  historical: through documentation known to have been stocked as game, prey, food, or bait but
                       stocking no longer occurs

Example interpretations:

            IN: SP   =              indigenous to South Platte River Drainage
IN: AR-exCO        =    indigenous to Arkansas River Drainage but exotic to Colorado River Drainage
EX: SLV-fer           =    exotic in San Luis Valley but feral because not known to be established with a self-sustaining population

American Name                              Latin Name                                  Colorado Status

Basses (see “Sunfishes” and “Temperate-Basses”)


Bullhead-Catfishes                         Ictaluridae

        Bullhead, Black                          Ameiurus melas                             IN: AR-RE-RG-SP

        Bullhead, Brown                        Ameiurus nebulosus                      EX: CO-SP

        Bullhead, Yellow                        Ameiurus natalis                           EX: CO

1      Catfish, Blue                              Ictalurus furcatus                          IN: RG-exCO

        Catfish, Channel                         Ictalurus punctatus                       IN: AR-SP

1      Catfish, Flat-headed                   Pylodictis olivaris                         IN: RG-exCO

        Catfish, Headwater                    Ictalurus lupus                              IN: RG

        Stonecat                                    Noturus flavus                              IN: RE-SP


Characins                                        Characidae

2      Piranha, Red                              Pygocentrus nattereri                   EX: fer

3      Tetra, Black                               Gymnocorymbus ternetzi              EX: SLV

3      Tetra, Head-and-Tail-Light        Gymnocorymbus ternetzi              EX: SLV

3      Tetra, Neon                               Paracheirodon innesi                    EX: SLV


Cichlids                                            Cichlidae

3      Angelfish                                    Pterophyllum sp.                           EX: fer?

3      Discus                                        Symphysodon discus                     EX: fer

3      Tilapia, Blue                               Tilapia aurea                                 EX: est?

3      Tilapia, Mozambique                  Tilapia mossambica                      EX: est?


Darters                                            Percidae

        Darter, Arkansas                        Etheostoma cragini                       IN: AR

        Darter, Iowa                              Etheostoma exile                          IN: SP

        Darter, Johnny                           Etheostoma nigrum                      IN: SP

        Darter, Orange-throated             Etheostoma spectabile                  IN: RE

        Logperch, Big-scaled                 Percina macrolepida                     EX


Freshwater-Drums                          Sciaenidae

4      Drum, Freshwater                      Aplodinotus grunniens                  EX: RE-SP


Freshwater-Eels                              Anguillidae

5      Eel, American                            Anguilla rostrata                           IN: AR-RG


Gars                                                 Lepisosteidae

6      Gar, Long-nosed                        Lepisosteus osseus                        IN: RG


Herrings                                          Clupeidae

7      Alewife                                      Alosa pseudoharengus                  EX: his

8      Shad, American                         Alosa sapidissima                          EX: his - CO-SP

        Shad, Gizzard                            Dorosoma cepedianum                 IN: AR-RE-SP

        Shad, Threadfin                          Dorosoma petenense                     EX: CO-SP


Killifishes                                        Cyprinodontidae

        Killifish, Plains                            Fundulus zebrinus                         IN: AR-RE-SP

        Topminnow, Plains                     Fundulus sciadicus                        IN: SP


Livebearers                                     Poeciliidae

3      Guppy                                       Poecilia reticulata                         EX

3      Molly, Sail-finned                       Poecilia latipinna                          EX

3      Molly, Short-finned                    Poecilia mexicana                         EX

9      Mosquitofish, Western               Gambusia affinis                           EX: AR-CO-SP

3      Platyfish, Southern                      Xiphophorus maculatus                EX: RG-SP

3      Platyfish, Variable                      Xiphophorus variatus                   EX

3      Swordtail, Green                        Xiphophorus helleri                       EX


Minnows                                          Cyprinidae

        Bonytail                                     Gila elegans                                  IN: CO

10    Carp, Common                          Cyprinus carpio                            EX: AR-CO

11    Carp, Grass                               Ctenopharyngodon idella             EX: AR-CO

        Chub, Creek                              Semotilus atromaculatus              IN: AR-RE-SP

        Chub, Flat-headed                     Platygobio gracilis                        IN: AR-RG

        Chub, Horny-headed                 Nocomis biguttatus                       IN: SP

        Chub, Hump-backed                 Gila cypha                                     IN: CO

        Chub, Lake                                Couesius plumbeus                       IN: SP

        Chub, Rio Grande                      Gila pandora                                 IN: RG

        Chub, Round-tailed                    Gila robusta                                  IN: CO

        Chub, Silver                               Macrhybopsis storeriana              UN: RE?

        Chub, Speckled                         Macrhybopsis aestivalis                IN: RG-exAR

        Dace, Fine-scaled                      Phoxinus neogaeus                       IN: SP

        Dace, Long-nosed                     Rhinichthys cataractae                 IN: AR-RG-SP

        Dace, Northern Red-bellied       Phoxinus eos                                 IN: SP

        Dace, Southern Red-bellied        Phoxinus erythrogaster                IN: AR

        Dace, Speckled                         Rhinichthys osculus                       IN: CO

12    Goldfish                                     Carassius auratus                         EX: AR-CO

13    Ide                                             Leuciscus idus                               EX: his

        Minnow, Brassy                         Hybognathus hankinsoni              IN: RE-SP

        Minnow, Bull-headed                 Pimephales vigilax                        EX: estRG?

        Minnow, Fat-headed                  Pimephales promelas                    IN: AR-RE-SP

        Minnow, Plains                          Hybognathus placitus                   IN: AR-RE-SP

        Minnow, Sucker-mouthed          Phenacobius mirabilis                   IN: AR-RE-SP

        Pike-Minnow, Colorado            Ptychocheilus lucius                      IN: CO

14    Rudd                                         Scardinius erythrophthalmus        EX: AR-SP

        Shiner, Big-mouthed                   Notropis dorsalis                           IN: AR-SP

        Shiner, Black-nosed                   Notropis heterolepis                      IN: SP

        Shiner, Blunt-nosed                    Notropis simus                              IN: RG

        Shiner, Common                        Luxilus cornutus                           IN: SP

        Shiner, Golden                           Notemigonus crysoleucas             EX: AR-CO

        Shiner, Proserpine                      Cyprinella proserpinus                  IN: RG

        Shiner, Red                                Cyprinella lutrensis                       IN: AR-RE-SP

        Shiner, Red-sided                      Richardsonius balteatus                EX: CO

        Shiner, Rio Grande                     Notropis jemezanus                      IN: RG

        Shiner, River                              Notropis blennius                          IN: RE

        Shiner, Sand                              Notropis stramineus                      IN: AR-RE-RG-SP

15    Shiner, Spot-tailed                     Notropis hudsonius                       EX: SP

        Silvery-Minnow, Rio Grande      Hybognathus amarus                    IN: RG

        Stoneroller, Central                    Campostoma anomalum               IN: AR-RE-SP

16    Tench                                        Tinca tinca                                    EX: AR-CO-RG-SP


Perches                                            Percidae

        Perch, Yellow                            Perca flavescens                           EX: AR-CO

17    Sauger                                       Stizostedion canadense                 UN

17    Walleye                                     Stizostedion vitreum                     UN: inSP?-exAR-exCO


Pikes                                                Esocidae

        Muskellunge                               Esox masquinongy                        EX

18    Pickerel, Red-finned                   Esox americanus                           EX

        Pike, Northern                           Esox lucius                                    EX: AR-CO


Plated-Catfishes                              Callichthyidae

3      Corydora                                   Corydora sp.                                 EX: fer? - SLV


Salmons                                           Salmonidae

19    Char, Arctic                               Salvelinus alpinus                         EX: CO

19    Cisco, Bonneville                       Prosopium gemmifer                    EX: his

19    Dolly Varden                             Salvelinus malma                          EX: his

        Grayling, Arctic                          Thymallus arcticus                        EX: AR-CO-SP

19    Salmon, Atlantic                         Salmo salar                                   EX: CO

19    Salmon, Chinook                       Oncorhynchus tshawytscha          EX: CO

19    Salmon, Chum                           Oncorhynchus keta                       EX: CO

19    Salmon, Coho                            Oncorhynchus kisutch                   EX: CO

        Salmon, Kokanee                      Oncorhynchus nerka                     EX: AR-CO

        Trout, Brook                              Salvelinus fontinalis                      EX: AR-CO

        Trout, Brown                             Salmo trutta                                  EX: AR-CO

        Trout, Cutthroat                         Oncorhynchus clarkii                    IN: AR-CO-RG-SP

20    Trout, Golden                            O. mykiss aguabonita                   EX

        Trout, Lake                                Salvelinus namaycush                   EX: AR-CO

21    Trout, Ohrid                               Salmo letnica                                EX: his

        Trout, Rainbow                          Oncorhynchus mykiss                   EX: AR-CO

22    Whitefish, Lake                          Coregonus clupeaformis               EX: his - CO

        Whitefish, Mountain                   Prosopium williamsoni                 IN: CO


Sculpins                                           Cottidae

        Sculpin, Mottled                         Cottus bairdi                                 IN: CO

23    Sculpin, Paiute                           Cottus beldingi                              IN: CO


Silversides                                       Atherinopsidae

24    Silversides, Mississippi               Menidia audens                             EX: his - SP


Smelts                                              Osmeridae

25    Smelt, Rainbow                          Osmerus mordax                           EX: SP


Sticklebacks                                    Gasterosteidae

        Stickleback, Brook                    Culaea inconstans                         IN: SP-exAR

26    Stickleback, Nine-spined           Pungitius pungitius                       EX: SP


Sturgeons                                        Acipenseridae

27    Sturgeon, Shovel-nosed             Scaphirhynchus platorynchus       IN: RG


Suckermouth-Catfishes                  Loricariidae

3      Sucker-mouthed Catfish             Hypostomus plecostomus              EX: fer - SLV-SP

3                                                       Otocinclus sp.                                EX: fer - SLV-SP


Suckers                                            Catostomidae

28    Buffalo, Big-mouthed                 Ictiobus cyprinellus                       UN: inRG?

29    Buffalo, Small-mouthed              Ictiobus bubalus                            UN: inRG?

30    Carpsucker, River                      Carpiodes carpio                          UN: inRE-RG-SP?

31    Quillback                                   Carpiodes cyprinus                       UN: inSP?

32    Redhorse, Short-headed            Moxostoma macrolepidotum        UN: inSP?

        Sucker, Blue-headed                  Catostomus discobolus                 IN: CO

        Sucker, Flannel-mouthed            Catostomus latipinnis                   IN: CO

        Sucker, Long-nosed                   Catostomus catostomus                IN: SP

        Sucker, Mountain                       Catostomus platyrhynchus           IN: CO

        Sucker, Razor-backed               Xyrauchen texanus                       IN: CO

        Sucker, Rio Grande                   Catostomus plebeius                     IN: RG

        Sucker, White                            Catostomus commersoni              IN: AR-RE-SP


Sunfishes                                         Centrarchidae

        Bass, Large-mouthed                 Micropterus salmoides                  EX: AR-CO

33    Bass, Rock                                Ambloplites rupestris                    EX: CO

        Bass, Small-mouthed                  Micropterus dolomieu                   EX: AR-CO

        Bass, Spotted                            Micropterus punctulatus               EX: AR

        Bluegill                                       Lepomis macrochirus                    EX: AR-CO

        Crappie, Black                           Pomoxis nigromaculatus              EX: AR-CO

        Crappie, White                          Pomoxis annularis                        EX: AR

        Pumpkinseed                             Lepomis gibbosus                          EX: AR

34    Sacramento-Perch                     Archoplites interruptus                 EX: SP

        Sunfish, Green                            Lepomis cyanellus                         IN: AR-RG-SP

        Sunfish, Orange-spotted             Lepomis humilis                            IN: AR-SP

        Sunfish, Red-eared                     Lepomis microlophus                    EX: AR

35    Warmouth                                  Lepomis gulosus                            EX: CO


Temperate-Basses                          Percichthyidae

36    Bass, White                               Morone chrysops                           EX: AR-CO-SP

36    Bass, Striped                             Morone saxatilis                           EX: AR-CO-SP

37    Perch, White                              Morone americana                        EX: ?


Trouts (see “Salmons”)


Man-Made Hybrids

        Bass, Palmetto                  ? Morone chrysops × ? Morone saxatalis           EX: AR-RE-SP

        Bass, Sunshine                  ? Morone saxatalis × ? Morone chrysops           EX: RE-SP

        Muskellunge, Tiger            Esox lucius × Esox masquinongy                         EX: AR-SP

        Saugeye                            Sander canadensis × Sander vitreus                     EX: AR

        Splake                              Salvelinus fontinalis × Salvelinus namaycush      EX: AR

        Trout, Cutbow                  Oncorhynchus clarkii × Oncorhynchus mykiss     EX: CO-RG-SP

        Trout, Tiger                       Salmo trutta × Salvelinus fontinalis                     EX: AR






1      Catfishes, Blue and Flat-headed —


2      Piranha, Red — Once sold in aquarium shops as “Red-bellied Piranha,” this species is now named “Red Piranha” by the American Fisheries Society (see Common and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States and Canada, 5th ed, 1991, page 103.)  People would release these “pets” into local waters, typically ponds in city parks or homeowners’ association neighborhoods, either as a prank or simply because they tired of them.  Someone fishing for urban bullheads, Common Carp, or Goldfish would occasionally catch a Piranha; and the catch would make a photo for the local newspaper.  The Red Piranha’s tropical origin makes them ill-suited to survive winters in Colorado, but they could still be problematic in an urban pond even if only for a few summer months.  Consequently, they are now illegal to buy, sell, or own within the state of Colorado.


3      Aquarium Fishes


4      Drum, Freshwater — Introduced into Bonny Reservoir (Yuma County) in 1951 with other introductions elsewhere up to at least 1968.


5      Eel, American — A catadromus species, the American Eel breeds in the Sargasso Sea of the southwestern North Atlantic Ocean.  The young, called “elvers,” migrate into continental rivers where they spend three years maturing before returning to the ocean to breed and die.  Historically, the species migrated up rivers that emptied into the Gulf of Mexico and then up tributaries of them.  They reached Colorado at least in the Rio Grande and Arkansas River and quite likely in the Republican and South Platte as well.  Dams have obstructed all of these waterways downstream from Colorado so that the species no longer occurs in the state naturally.  However, an eel-ranching enterprise in the San Luis Valley was terminated and the captive American Eels were released into local waters where they could still be seen in the late 1980s.  If the Eels do not breed, they can live at least 70 years.


6      Gar, Long-nosed


7      Alewife — Introduced into Williams Fork Reservoir (Grand County) in 1970.


8      Shad, American — This species was stocked into the Denver stretch of the South Platte River in 1872.  It was later stocked into the Colorado River system according to records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; I have not yet tracked down exact dates.


9      Mosquitofish, Western — Introduced into Boulder area ponds probably as early as 1975.  Since then, it has become a popular means of mosquito control and was promoted heavily as an alternative mosquito-control strategy when West Nile virus entered the state in the early 2000s.


10    Carp, Common


11    Carp, Grass — Introduced into Cherry Creek Reservoir in 1965.  The species is from the Amur River system of eastern Asia ergo the name “White Amur” used in some fish literature.  It grows to six feet long and more than 100 pounds and has been cited as a cause of death of fishers on the Amur River.  It is vegetarian and usually stocked as a strategy to control algae.  Various factors indicated a possibly severe ecological problem if the species became established in the same manner as the Common Carp, so the Colorado Division of Wildlife implemented restrictions on where it could be stocked by private fisheries owners. 


12    Goldfish — This most familiar of aquarium fishes is often released into city ponds or other waters by people who grow tired of them.  However, it has in years past also been stocked as a catchable species for children’s fishing days.  It was introduced into Marston Reservoir in the early 1870s for reasons unknown and has since been stocked into many state waters.


13    Ide


14    Rudd


15    Shiner, Spot-tailed — Introduced into Quincy Reservoir in 1975 and again in 1978.


16    Tench


17    Sauger and Walleye — Some people long thought the Sauger was indigenous to Colorado and the Walleye exotic because the Sauger is more adapted to streams than to lakes whereas the Walleye is more adapted to lakes than to streams.  Ergo, one of these in the South Platte River would seem to be a Sauger.  However, range maps published in Page and Burr’s Peterson Field Guide, Freshwater Fishes, shows the Walleye dipping into northeastern Colorado and the Sauger no closer than eastern Nebraska and northern Wyoming.  Further, a Colorado Division of Wildlife paper dated 1997 specifically cites Walleye as “native” and Sauger as “nonnative.”  I have not yet seen specimen evidence or research analysis that convinces me of either.


18    Pickerel, Red-finned — The State Fish Commissioner’s report for 1886 cited pickerel being stocked into Denver-area ponds the previous year but did not identify which pickerel species.  Other sources cite “Grass Pickerel” being in Colorado by the 1950s.  The AFS has since dropped the name “Grass Pickerel” and now uses “Redfin Pickerel,” which I adapt to my uniform orthography for wildlife names.


19    Various Salmons — The settlement years (1859-1900) brought enormous pressures on Colorado’s only indigenous trout, the Cuthroat.  Because the state developed industrially before it developed agriculturally, feeding the laborers of the railroads and mines depended on procuring food from natural resources.  Cutthroat Trout were netted and dynamited as a way to feed workers.  Moreover, mining and railroad work brought about devastating change to water quality, rendering many streams uninhabitable.  The federal government instituted a program of fish rearing and stocking as a way to provide quick protein for settlers.  The program included instructions on how to rear fishes in private ponds as a source of food for settlement families.  Many salmonids were introduced into Colorado waters as a hopeful experiment that they would survive and proliferate where the Cutthroat Trout had disappeared.  In the postsettlement years, particularly during and following the 1930s, salmonids became an attractive group to stock the great reservoirs being built in the West.  Many more species were brought here than survived on their own; many were abandoned as unsuited for our waters.


20    Trout, Golden — Long treated as a discrete species, the Golden Trout has been reclassified as a subspecies of Rainbow Trout now known as Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita.


21    Trout, Ohrid — This European species was introduced into Big Creek Reservoir (Jackson County), Parvin Lake (Larimer County), and Turquoise Lake (Lake County) in 1969.


22    Whitefish, Lake — Introduced into the Denver area in 1879, into Lake San Cristobal by 1881, and elsewhere in the Colorado River system.  Wiltzius cites 950,000 stocked out by the federal government in 1907.


23    Sculpin, Paiute — The Paiute Sculpin has been on a classification teeter-totter for decades, being variously treated as a species or as a subspecies of the Mottled Sculpin.  Published lists of Colorado fishes that omit the Paiute Sculpin probably regard it as a subspecies, an omission that does not parallel the separate listings of Cutthroat Trout subspecies.


24    Silversides, Mississippi — Introduced into Quincy Reservoir in 1975 and into Carbody Reservoir (Weld County) in 1976.


25    Smelt, Rainbow — Wiltzius cited “American Smelt” but added parenthetically “now believed to have been Pigmy smelt.”  Since then, the AFS has treated the Pygmy Smelt as a form of the Rainbow Smelt.  This species was introduced into Clear Creek Reservoir in 1970, into Quincy Reservoir in 1977, into Rampart Reservoir in 1978, and into Horsetooth Reservoir in the 1980s.  The usual motivation for stocking this species was for it to serve as prey for more desirable game fishes such as Walleye.  However, the Rainbow Smelt grows large enough and can be cooked just right to make it a desirable netting fish for some people.


26    Stickleback, Nine-spined


27    Sturgeon, Shovel-nosed


28    Buffalo, Big-mouthed


29    Buffalo, Small-mouthed


30    Carpsucker, River


31    Quillback


32    Redhorse, Short-headed


33    Bass, Rock — First stocked into Colorado by the federal government in 1896; the stocking continued into the 1960s.


34    Sacramento-Perch


35    Warmouth — According to Wiltzius, brought to Colorado in 1895 and stocked into “...Stevens L. near Cucharas.”  No further documentation.


36    Temperate-Basses


37    Perch, White








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