Alberta is home to more than 65 species of fish. Each species plays an important role in supporting healthy aquatic ecosystems and providing unique fishing opportunities. Some of these fish – commonly referred to as game fish - are a source of subsistence for Indigenous users and provide enjoyment for hundreds of thousands of anglers each year through sportfishing.
Being able to identify any fish you catch is essential to follow Alberta’s fishing regulations. Zero possession limits (also known as catch and release) are in place at some waterbodies for some species, and there are province-wide year-round zero possession limits for species at risk, such as the bull trout.
If you don’t know, let it go.
If you aren’t sure what species of fish you’ve caught, quickly release it to avoid accidentally (and illegally) harvesting a species that has a zero possession limit.
Before you harvest your catch, make sure it meets all other angling regulation requirements, such as size limits.
Identify your catch
Keeping fish wet as much as possible improves their chance to survive and reproduce once released. While your catch is still in the water, check for three main characteristics of the fish:
- Body spots and colouration
- Mouth shape
Fins – Notice where the fins are located on the body - take note of whether your catch has one or two dorsal fins. Only trout and char species have an adipose fin, which is a small fleshy fin on the back between the dorsal fin and tail.
Body Spots and Colouration – Look at the size, distribution and colour of spots or other markings on the fish. Keep in mind that colours can vary greatly within a species depending on what the fish is eating and the season.
Mouth – Look at the location (is it terminal, or at the end of their body) and shape of the mouth.
Identifying Alberta fish species:
Test your fish identification knowledge:
Learn about fish in Alberta:
Updated: Jul 2, 2021