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When it comes to types of fish, Minnesota has a lot to brag about

Inspiration comes in strange places at unusual times. While scrolling through Facebook's news feed the other day, I came across a friend's post with a photograph of himself and his boys inside a fish house. My friend, smiling broadly, had in his hands one of my favorite fishes — the rock bass. "What!?" you say.

Indeed they are. The scrappy little rock bass, also known as "rockies" and "red-eyes," often represented the stark difference between my enjoying a fish dinner or not. On days when nothing else would bite, the rock bass generally and readily strikes one's offerings. A good tussle ensues and good table fare they are.

Minnesota is called "Land of 10,000 Lakes." A Minnesota tourism television commercial many years ago exulted in the miles of shoreline that this great state has. The commercial boasted that Minnesota has more miles of shoreline than Hawaii, California, and Florida combined.

Counting the lakes, including the deepest, coldest, and largest freshwater lake of them all, Lake Superior, Minnesota is also home to thousands of miles of rivers and streams.

Wetlands, too, dot the landscape, as do near countless lakes and rivers of the Canadian Shield along the Minnesota-Canada border of the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness.

Here are some numbers to mull over. There are actually over 12,000 permanent lakes in Minnesota. No other state, save for Alaska, has more lakes. Including streams, the North Shore, and the inland lakes, Minnesota can boast of having more than 6,700 square miles of shoreline. Around 15,000 linear "river miles" exist throughout the state as well.

Within a majority of all those lakes, rivers, and streams, are lots of fishes. Including some recent introductions of non-native species, Minnesota has probably over 150 different species of fishes swimming in its waters now. Of the 26 or so families of fishes in Minnesota, the minnow family, Cyprinidae, is the largest, with 44 species.

Our state fish, the walleye, along with saugers and yellow perch, make up the second largest family, Percidae, with 18 native species. Several species of darters, small minnow-like fishes, also belong to this family.

Minnesota has many interesting kinds of fishes. Some are ubiquitous, like the toothy and predatory northern pike. And some are less abundant, such as the primitive looking paddlefish. Some are exceedingly popular with anglers, like walleye, crappie, and bass, while other species, such as eelpout, not nearly so much.

And some can get big. The lake sturgeon, the largest fish in the state, can grow to over 200 pounds. Found primarily in Lake of the Woods and Lake Superior, but also found in larger rivers, the lake sturgeon is the focus of special regulations to help the population become healthier and more abundant.

Lake sturgeons need a long time to get large. They can reach over 100 years of age and don't become sexually mature until they are 15 to 20 years old. Other Minnesota fishes that can grow big are muskellunge (muskie), northern pike, channel catfish, paddlefish, lake trout, Chinook (king) salmon, and carp. All of these fishes can exceed 30 or more pounds.

Other fishes are just plain weird. Minnesota is home to the American eel and the sea lamprey. Lampreys are eel-like, parasitic fishes that have no jaws. These fishes and their relatives are the most primitive fishes in the world. There are four species of lamprey known to exist in Minnesota and all of them use their unusual open, disc-like mouths to attach themselves to the bodies of other fishes. Once attached, lampreys suck fluids through the skin of their prey for their own nourishment.

American eels apparently find their way to Minnesota from the Atlantic Ocean as adults. These fishes have the body design of lampreys, but have jaws. Their diet is typical of other predatory fishes, capturing small fishes and other organisms to eat. Female eels can reach up to four feet in length.

Minnesota's state fish, the walleye, is highly sought-after by anglers. The Minnesota record walleye was caught in the Seagull River and weighed 17 pounds, 8 ounces.

And speaking of record fish, just recently a monster of an eelpout, also called burbot, which is Minnesota's lone species of freshwater cod, was caught through the ice in Lake of the Woods by a lucky angler. The 19 pound 11 ounce fish broke the old record of 19 pounds 8 ounces that was set only four years ago, also taken from Lake of the Woods.

Another favorite fish, especially among children, are fishes belonging to the sunfish family. Most notably, the several species of "panfish:" Bluegills, pumpkinseeds, and others. Two species of the ever-popular crappie, the black and the white crappie, are prized by many anglers year around.

Rock bass, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass, fishes full of fight and excitement for anglers, are also very popular. It has often been said that pound-for-pound, no other fish in Minnesota fights harder than the smallmouth bass.

Minnesota is home to many fishes in many a lake and river. From dogfish to catfish, redhorse to rocky, mudminnow to mooneye, shad to shiner, and from perch to pike, we Minnesotans have plenty of reasons to brag as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

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