The Atlantic whitefish is a member of the family Salmonidae and is related to salmon and trout. It is often called Acadian whitefish, Sault whitefish, round whitefish and common whitefish.
The Atlantic whitefish has a very limited Distribution
in southwestern Nova Scotia and is not known to occur anywhere
else in the world.
Petite Rivière Watershed, Lunenburg County
Atlantic whitefish are known to occur in Millipsigate, Minamkeak
and Hebb Lakes. These populations are landlocked. There
appears to be an anadromous (seagoing) component, and are
seen occasionally in the estuary. Specimens have also been
found in the estuary of the LaHave River, Lunenburg County.
Tusket River Watershed, Yarmouth County
The Tusket River population of Atlantic whitefish was considered
anadromous although they have not been noted in the watershed
for several years. Additionally, specimens have been found
in Yarmouth Harbour and the Annis River, a tributary of
the Tusket River.
The lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis), a related
species can be found in several areas of Nova Scotia and
are often confused with Atlantic whitefish.
Atlantic whitefish have the following characteristics:
Average length of the anadromous form is about 38 centimeters
(15 inches) with an elongated body. The landlocked populations
are generally 20 - 25 centimeters (8-10 inches).
Overall colouration is dark blue to dark green on the
back, silvery on the sides and silvery to white on the belly.
The dorsal fin and deeply forked caudal (tail) fin are dusky
and the lower fins are light It also has an adipose fin
(the small, fleshy fin between the dorsal and caudal fins,
typical of salmonids).
Several physical characters can be used to distinguish
between Atlantic whitefish and lake whitefish of equal size
such as adipose fin base length, pectoral fin length, and
nare (nostril) diameter but all are difficult to assess
in the wild.
The number of lateral line scales differs significantly
between Atlantic whitefish and lake whitefish. Atlantic
whitefish typically possess more than 88 lateral line scales
(usually 91-100) while lake whitefish typically possess
fewer than 88 lateral line scales.
Facts About Atlantic Whitefish
The endemic (only found in one geographical location) Atlantic
whitefish is classified as "endangered" by the Committee
on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)
and is protected under the Maritime Fishery Regulations
and the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act.
The Atlantic whitefish was first reported from Millipsigate
lake, Lunenburg County and is considered the most primitive
form of all the North American whitefishes.
The genus name Coregonus is coined from the Greek words
meaning pupil and angle of the eye.
Acidification of southwestern Nova Scotia, poor land use
practices, barriers to fish passage, overfishing and competition
with others fish species is assumed to have impacted whitefish
populations in Nova Scotia.
The landlocked populations of the Petite River watershed
are known to have been angled for the last 60 years,
confused with the lake whitefish and considered a
Anglers considered Atlantic whitefish as an excellent
game fish often rising for flies and performing acrobatics
Interviews with local residents indicate that prior
to 1965, the Tusket River population was "ruthlessly"
exploited during the upstream migration in October
and the fish caught by poachers were apparently loaded
into a dump truck and used as fertilizer.
The Atlantic whitefish is a protected species and
angling for them strictly prohibited. If you see or
accidentally catch what you believe is an Atlantic
whitefish please make note of the location, date,
size appearance of the fish, release it and notify
one of the fisheries departments listed below.
The Atlantic whitefish is anadromous, however, very little is know about its habitat requirements in both sea and fresh water, its reproduction or its behaviour. Landlocked Atlantic whitefish are thought to have similar life history strategies to lake whitefish.
Atlantic whitefish, in captivity, spawn in late fall or
early winter (mid to late December) similar to lake whitefish.
In the wild, they have been observed moving upstream among
Atlantic salmon in October and November, presumably a spawning
migration. In 1954, between October 18 and November 7, 86
Atlantic whitefish were caught in a research trap in the
Tusket River fish ladder and were apparently present in
the estuary prior to any captures in the trap.
Atlantic whitefish are believed to inhabit coastal waters
during the summer months as captures were made from late
May to August in Yarmouth Harbour, Hall's Harbour, the Petite
Riviere estuary and off Wedgeport. Specimens have also been
captured during the winter ice smelt fishery in the LaHave
Very little is known about their diet or growth, however,
stomach contents of specimens taken in Yarmouth Harbour
yielded amphipods, small periwinkles, and marine worms.
It is assumed that landlocked populations feed on plankton,
aquatic insect larvae, emergent insects, minnows and fish
Stewardship of Atlantic Whitefish (English)
For more information contact your local federal or provincial
Department of Fisheries, or write to:
For more information contact your local federal or provincial Department of Fisheries, or write to:
|Fisheries & Oceans Canada
PO Box 550
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Facsimile: (902) 426-1489
||Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture, Inland Fisheries Division|
PO Box 700
Pictou, Nova Scotia
Facsimile: (902) 485-4014
Email: Inland Fisheries
Published With Funding from the Canada-Nova Scotia Cooperation Agreement on Economic Diversification, Resource Competitiveness Program.