Cisco or Lake Herring (Coregonus artedii)
Cisco are coldwater fish having dark blue to pale olive backs and silvery sides. All their fins are basically clear, although the anal and pelvic fins are milky on adults. This fish has a protruding lower jaw forked tail, and an adipose fin. Although size varies greatly, cisco are usually 10-14 inches long and weigh 1/2-1 pound.
Cisco are widely distributed in lakes cross New York. It is present in Lakes Erie and Ontario, tributaries of the St. Lawrence River, Otsego Lake, and in various lakes in the Adirondacks including Lake Champlain. It is also present in the Finger Lakes area and Oneida Lake and has been introduced in other places in recent years (for example, Schoharie Reservoir).
Spawning occurs in late fall, when large spawning groups congregate. Males move to spawning areas before females. In inland lakes, spawning usually takes place in shallow water (3-10 feet deep) over almost any type of bottom, but often over gravel or stony substrate. In large lakes, spawning may occur in shallow water or in deep water. About 20,000-29,000 eggs are deposited on the lake bottom by each female; no parental care is given eggs or young, which hatch early the following spring.
Cisco are a schooling fish, usually frequenting deep water. They move to shallower water in fall as upper waters cool. They are primarily plankton feeders, though insects and small minnows are eaten on occasion. Cisco are an important food for large game fish.
The flesh of these fish is palatable. It is caught commercially and sought by sport fishermen in the fall using flies and small minnows. It is also caught through the ice on jigs.
Distribution of cisco in NY state. Dark dots represent where actual samples of cisco were taken. White dots represent historic distributions.
An image of the cisco also available for download.