Fish Sizes

Range of Sizes

Missouri’s fishes come in all sizes. As their names imply, the least darter and pygmy sunfish are two of Missouri’s smallest fishes with an adult size of about 1 1/2 inches. On the other end of the spectrum are the gigantic lake sturgeon and blue catfish with individuals of each of these species reportedly (early in Missouri’s history) reaching more than 300 pounds.

Fish also show us much about the world in which we live. There are many lessons to be learned from the adaptations fish have to survive in the aquatic world. The diversity of fish shows us how fish have adapted to live in a variety of environments—from the murky depths of “Big Muddy” to the cypress swamps of southeast Missouri to a life in complete darkness found in many Missouri caves. For example, you must look very closely to see a sculpin because of its chameleon-like ability to change its color to blend into its multicolored gravelly stream bottom surroundings.

All small fish aren’t minnows...

Many kinds of fish are small, including many species of minnows, which make up nearly one-third of Missouri’s fishes. Darters, another kind of small Missouri fish, are members of the perch family (related to walleye) that commonly inhabit riffles of streams and attain an adult size of less than 4 inches.

Missourians are well aware of catfish in the state, including the Missouri State Fish, the channel catfish. However, less familiar are a group called madtoms to which most of Missouri’s catfish belong. Madtoms are miniature catfish found in streams throughout Missouri, and most reach an adult size of less than 4 inches. Madtoms are infrequently observed due to their nocturnal nature, but some species are occasionally caught by anglers fishing with worms on the bottom of streams.

All minnows aren’t small fish...

Although most species of minnows in Missouri remain small throughout their lives; several minnow species grow to large sizes. The common carp, a non-native minnow, first stocked into Missouri in 1879, is known to attain a size of nearly 50 pounds.

The common carp is dwarfed by another non-native minnow that now occurs in our waters. The bighead carp is known to reach a weight of more than 90 pounds.

External anatomy of a fish

Fish length diagram

Fish anatomy diagram

Key Messages: 

Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt and fish.

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