Mudminnow Species of New York (Upstate)

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About Mudminnows

Mudminnow Parts

Mudminnows are small bottom-dwelling fish of the Umbridae family (often called Umbra). They are referred to as “mudminnows” because of their habit of burying themselves tail-first into the muddy bottoms of ponds, streams or rivers where they hide from predators. Mudminnows are not true minnows, but are actually a close relative of the pike. Four species of mudminnows are found in North America, with only two in New York State waters.

Mudminnows are generally considered to be baitfish, but themselves are ambush predators. They wait near-motionless in heavily vegetated, murky waters and when suitable prey comes along they dart out to grab it. Tolerant of stagnant, poorly oxygenated waters within a range of temperatures, mudminnows thrive in water that many other fish cannot. Their dull, earthy colors and grainy skin patterns help camouflage them in muddy waters.

What to look for: Stout, posteriorly-compressed body; soft-rayed fins; large dark blotch at the base of the caudal (tail) fin; short snout; round tail fin; dorsal fin sits on the rear half of the body; large eyes.

The details presented below generally represent adult specimens, not juveniles.

Click here for New York State sportfishing regulations

Fishing Books and Guides

New York State Mudminnow Identification Guide

Eastern MudminnowUmbra pygmaea1
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Eastern Mudminnow (Umbra pygmaea)

AKA: Rockfish

Identifying characteristics: A small fish with a robust body, usually compressed posteriorly, and large scales. The colors are generally dull brownish-gray with 10 to 14 lateral stripes leading from the gills to a dark blotch running down the base of the tail fin. The belly is usually a paler color. All of the fins are round, single lobed and have only soft rays. The dorsal and anal fins are located on the back half of the body. The pelvic fins are located at the abdomen. The snout is short and the eyes are large.

Size: Up to 4 inches in length.

New York State record: Not kept

Habitat: Slow-moving, shallow waters in lakes, ponds, rivers and streams with muddy or sandy bottoms. Marshes. Abundant aquatic vegetation and high turbidity preferred.

General range: From the Hudson Valley region and Long Island to Florida.

Food: Insects and their larvae; snails; crusteceans. They are an ambush predator.

Recommended baiting: Due to their affinity for shallow, murky waters with plentiful vegetation, they are generally not fished for. Most baitfish are bred in captivity.

Predators: Larger fish (especially Northern Pike and Sunfish), amphibians and birds.

Stocked? Not officially. They are bred in captivity for use as baitfish and also as pets. Some may find their way into wild populations.

Reproduction: Spawning occurs in May/June. Males and females gather in slow-moving water (usually overflow pools). The females deposit up to 2,000 eggs onto vegetation, the males fertilize them and they leave. The eggs hatch in about one week.

Nesting: none.

Other Info.: Mudminnows make great baitfish, especially for walleye, because of their tough bodies. They are popular in home aquariums because of their affinity for the bottom layer of the tank, their tolerance of acidity and low-oxygen levels, as well as their quick-feeding behavior.
Mudminnows unknowingly act as environmental indicators. Their high tolerance for various water conditions allow them to survive in waters that cannot sustain other species. If a body of water is found to sustain large populations of mudminnow, but few other species, it is a strong indication that water conditions (such as pollution) are at play.

Central MudminnowCentral MudminnowFind more images of this species on Bing

Central Mudminnow (Umbra limi)

AKA: Rockfish

Identifying characteristics: A small fish with a robust body, usually compressed posteriorly and large scales. The colors are generally a mottled olive-brown with a pale belly and brownish fins. A dark blotch runs down the base of the tail fin. All of the fins are round, single lobed and have only soft rays. The dorsal and anal fins are located on the back half of the body. The pelvic fins are located at the abdomen. The snout is short and the eyes are large.

Size: Averaging 3.5 inches in length (sometimes reaching 5 inches).

New York State record: Not kept

Habitat: Slow-moving, shallow waters in lakes, ponds, rivers and streams with muddy or sandy bottoms. Marshes. Abundant aquatic vegetation and high turbidity preferred.

General range: The Great Lakes region.

Food: Insects and their larvae; snails; crusteceans. They are an ambush predator. May also feed on plant matter.

Recommended baiting: Due to their affinity for shallow, murky waters with plentiful vegetation, they are generally not fished for. Most baitfish are bred in captivity.

Predators: Larger fish (especially Northern Pike and Sunfish), amphibians and birds.

Stocked? Not officially. They are bred in captivity for use as baitfish and also as pets. Some may find their way into wild populations.

Reproduction: Spawning occurs in May/June. Males and females gather in slow-moving water (usually overflow pools). The females deposit up to 2,000 eggs onto vegetation, the males fertilize them and they leave. The eggs hatch in about one week.

Nesting: none.

Other Info.: Mudminnows make great baitfish, especially for walleye, because of their tough bodies. They are popular in home aquariums because of their affinity for the bottom layer of the tank, their tolerance of acidity and low-oxygen levels, as well as their quick-feeding behavior.
Mudminnows unknowingly act as environmental indicators. Their high tolerance for various water conditions allow them to survive in waters that cannot sustain other species. If a body of water is found to sustain large populations of mudminnow, but few other species, it is a strong indication that water conditions (such as pollution) are at play.

Note

Some fish images originally prepared by Ellen Edmonson and Hugh Chrisp as part of the 1927-1940 New York Biological Survey. Permission for use granted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Others were acquired from the public domain. Some are used as part of a Creative Commons license.

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