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Mountain Whitefish - Prosopium williamsoni

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:


 

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General Description
The mountain whitefish is familiar to most Montanans. This widespread native fish is primarily a stream-dwelling species, but populations are also found in reservoirs and lakes. The mountain whitefish is found in abundance in most clear, cold rivers in the western drainages and eastern mountain front of Montana. The typical mountain whitefish is a cylindrical 10-16 inch fish, but they can reach a weight of 5 pounds. Trout fishermen frequently catch several whitefish for every trout taken. They are considered a nuisance by some anglers, but are sought after by others. Whitefish provide forage for larger trout. They have evolved with our native trout and have been shown to provide little competition with trout. Their pointed snout and small round mouth makes them efficient at vacuuming invertebrates from the substrate while trout tend to feed more on drifting insects. Mountain whitefish often congregate in large schools on their fall-spawning runs to broadcast their adhesive eggs over gravel bars in tributary streams. Mountain whitefish are one of our most important native gamefish because of their abundance and willingness to take a bait or artificial fly.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Mouth overhung by snout.

Species Range
Montana Range

Year-round

Western Hemisphere Range

 


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 3855

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)



Migration
May migrate into lower reachs of tributary streams to spawn.

Habitat
Prefers medium to large cold mountain streams. Also found in lakes and reservoirs. Normally a stream spawner in riffles over gravel or small rubble but has been seen spawning along lake shorelines.

Food Habits
Lives mostly on aquatic insects but also takes terrestrial insects which fall into water. May eat fish eggs, but rarely fishes Feeds actively in Winter. Zooplankton important in lakes.

Ecology
Competition with trout is probably slight as they use different areas in a body of water. Whitefish feed mostly from the bottom whereas most trout feed of drift out of the water column.

Reproductive Characteristics
Sexually mature in 3 years. Spawns in fall with peak during late Oct. to early Nov. at water temperatures from 35-44 degrees F. Broadcast spawner. Eggs hatch in March.

References
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Avery, E.L. 1969. Effects of domestic sewage on aquatic insects and salmonids of the East Gallatin River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 23 p.
    • Bahn, L. 2007. An assessment of losses of native fish to irrigation diversions on selected tributaries of the Bitterroot River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 118 p.
    • Boussu, M.F. 1953. Relationship between trout populations and cover on a small stream. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 26 p.
    • Boyer, J.K. 2016. Spawning and early life history of Mountain Whitefish in the Madison River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 115 p.
    • Clothier, W.D. 1952. Fish loss and movement in irrigation diversions from the West Gallatin River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 32 p.
    • DosSantos, J.M. 1985. Comparative food habits and habitat selection of mountain whitefish and rainbow trout in the Kootenai River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 68 p.
    • Gaffney, J.J. 1954. Utilization of the mountain whitefish Coreqonus williamsoni in Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 35 p.
    • Gerald, J.W. 1965. Food habits of the Longnose Dace, Rhinichthys cataractae. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 27 p.
    • Gillespie, D.M. 1966. Population studies of four species of mollusks in the Madison River, Yellowstone National Park. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 43 p.
    • Gunderson, D.R. 1966. Stream morphology and fish populations in relation to floodplain use. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 21 p.
    • Heaton, J.R. 1966. The benthos and drift fauna of a riffle in the Madison River, Yellowstone National Park. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 59 p.
    • Holt, R.D. 1955. Comparative morphometry of the Rocky Mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni). M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 20 p.
    • Kraft, M.E. 1968. The effects of controlled dewatering on a trout stream. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 31 p.
    • Lewis, S.L. 1967. Physical factors influencing fish populations in pools of a trout stream. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 34 p.
    • Liebelt, J. E. 1970. Studies on the behavior and life history of the Mountain Whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni Girard). Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 45 p.
    • Lyden, R.S. 1973. Fisherman use and fish harvest on the West Gallatin River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 34 p.
    • Magee, J.P. 1993. A basin approach to characterizing spawning and fry rearing habitats for westslope cutthroat trout in a sediment-rich basin, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 89 p.
    • McClure, W.V. 1991. Initial effects of streambank stabilization on a small trout stream. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 93 p.
    • Mogen, J.T. 1996. Status and biology of the spawning population of Red Rock Lakes Arctic grayling. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 90 p.
    • Mullins, M.S. 1991. Biology and predator use of cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 68 p.
    • Nelson, F.A. 1976. The effects of metals on trout populations in the Upper Boulder River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 60 p.
    • Nelson, M.L. 1999. Evaluation of the potential for resident bull trout to reestablish the migratory life-form. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 72 p.
    • Nelson, P.H. 1953. Life history and management of the American Grayling (Thymallus signifer tricolor) in Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 45 p.
    • Posewitz, J.A. 1961. Observations on the fish population of Willow Creek reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 29 p.
    • Purkett, C.A. Jr. 1950. A comparative growth rate of trout in relation to elevation and temperature. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 33 p.
    • Rahrer, J.F. 1963. Age and growth of four species of fish, Flathead Lake, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 16 p.
    • Reiland, E.W. 1997. Fish loss to irrigation canals and methods to reduce these losses on the West Gallatin River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 170 p.
    • Roberts, B.C. 1988. Potential influence of recreational use on Nelson Spring Creek, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 79 p.
    • Spinelli, J.P. 2010. Spatial and temporal entrainment of fish from Hauser Reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 107 p.
    • Stefanich, F.A. 1951. The population and movement of fish in Prickley Pear Creek, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 42 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Mountain Whitefish — Prosopium williamsoni.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from