E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Coregonus clupeaformis (Mitchill, 1818)
Lake Whitefish
Family: Salmonidae
Photo of species

© Ian Gardiner  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5828)

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Source: Distribution map provided by Don McPhail for E-Fauna BC
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Species Information

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 11 - 13; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 10 - 14; Vertebrae: 55 - 64. Adipose fin well developed, often larger in males; axillary process present in pelvic fins (Ref. 27547). Dark brown to midnight blue above fading to silver on sides and wide beneath; no parr marks in young (Ref. 27547).

Source: FishBase. Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman 1973 Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bull. Fish. Res. Board Can. 184:1-966.


Species Biology

Primarily a lake dweller (Ref. 27547). Also found in large rivers and enters brackish water (Ref. 5723). Nerito-pelagic (Ref. 58426). Appears to be rather sedentary, at least in the Great Lakes (Ref. 27547). Movement in large lakes generally consists of 4 stages: movement from deep to shallow water in the spring; movement back to deep water in the summer as the shoal water warms; migration to shallow-water spawning areas in the fall and early winter; and post-spawning movement back to deeper water (Ref. 27547). Forms separate populations in large lakes (Ref. 27547). Adults feed mainly on aquatic insect larvae, mollusks and amphipods (Ref. 1091, 3849), but also other fishes and fish eggs, including their own (Ref. 1998). Extensive hatchery programs for the propagation have been carried out on the Great Lakes and other areas for years (Ref. 3746, 3849)

Source: FishBase. Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman 1973 Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bull. Fish. Res. Board Can. 184:1-966.


BC Distribution and Notes

This species is native to central and northern B.C.; however, stocks from eastern North America have been introduced into lakes in the Okanagan and Kootenay drainage systems. The taxonomy of this complex of species is still confused. We may have one or, perhaps, two species in B.C. In addition, there is a genetically divergent form that apparently survived the last glaciation in the Nahanni glacial refuge (Foote et al. 1992). This complex needs work.

Source: Information provided by Don McPhail for E-Fauna BC.
Global Distribution

North America: throughout Alaska and most of Canada south into New England, the Great Lakes basin, and central Minnesota. This species was stocked into high Andean lakes in two countries in southern Latin America (Ref. 1739)

Source: FishBase. Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman 1973 Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bull. Fish. Res. Board Can. 184:1-966.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS5YellowNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2023-09-27 3:55:24 PM]
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