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Blueback Herring and Effects on Freshwater Fishing

Blueback Herring and Fishing


Blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis)(picture) are a favorite food of bass where they live in the same waters. They are a saltwater fish that can live in freshwater and have become established in many freshwater lakes.

  • Blueback Herring Description - Blueback herring and alewife are very similar. They are flat sided fish with rounded bellies and forked tails. Both are silvery with dark blue or bronze backs and have small spiny scales along their belly.

  • Blueback Herring Size - Reach a maximum length of 16 inches (40 cm) and weight of 7 ounces (200 g.) MAximum age is about eight years.

  • Blueback Herring Distribution - From Nova Scotia to northern Florida and inland rivers and lakes.

  • What Blueback Herring Eat - Microscopic plants and animals (plankton), small insects, small fish and eggs of fish (including bass)

  • Blueback Herring Spawn - In fresh or brackish water by depositing eggs that stick to hard objects like gravel, rocks, plants and wood. In lakes they like hard botoms composed of clay or gravel where wind and wave action keep silt clear. They will spawn on riprap, seawalls and pilings, too.

  • Blueback Herring Attraction to Light - Blueback herring seem to come to the surface when the sun is shining and go deep on darker days. For that reason the topwater bite is better on sunny days and largemouth and spotted bass tend to feed better when the sun is shining.

  • Blueback Herring Life Cycle - In saltwater adult blueback herring swim to fresh or brackish water to spawn. They spawn in water above 70 degrees, so lake herring spawn when the water reaches about 70 degrees. Many adults die after the spawn but a few survive to return to the sea. The larval herring live for a few months in spawning areas then move back to the sea. In freshwater herring are more likely to survive the spawn. Female herring are fully mature at five years old and produce 60,000 tp 100,000 eggs. Males are smaller and mature at three to five years of age.

  • Blueback Herring Problems In Freshwater Lakes - Since blueback herring eat fish eggs and fry as well as the food that game fish fry eat, they are director predators and competitors with them. Because of this they ahve caused problems with largemouth populations in Lake Burton and Nottely in Georgia and walleye populations in Lake Hiwassee in North Carolina. All state Departments of Natural Resources work to limit their spread in freshwater lakes and it is illegal to use them as live bait in lakes where they don't already exist and it is always illegal to stock them.

  • Forum Discussion - See my response to a forum post and add your own about bluebacks

Blueback herring are a mixed blessing in lakes and the long term effects might be very bad. Follow your state's rules about stocking any species in any lake. The biologists know more about this than we fishermen do.

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