Fish Identification


Target Audience:

Anyone needing fish identification skills.

Summary and Objectives:

The purpose of this course is to develop participants' fish identification skills and knowledge of freshwater fish species. Participants learn an overall system for identifying fish, including collection labeling and preservation, sample processing, use of distribution maps, use of dichotomous keys, and taxonomic procedures (e.g., counting scales and rays and extracting and counting pharyngeal teeth). Course location will determine regional freshwater fish that are emphasized (e.g., cyprinids and percids at the National Conservation Training Center); however, specimens from nearly all North American freshwater fish families will be available for study. This course is hands-on and laboratory intensive. Field exercises provide fresh specimens for identification. This course is available for 3 hours of graduate credit through West Virginia University. The graduate credit option is considerably more rigorous and includes both pre- and post-course work (readings, writing papers, and taking an examination).

Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Correctly identify unknown fish by following the methods described in the course.
  • Use proper fish-collection labeling and preservation techniques.
  • Discuss the benefits of using a combination of reference sources for fish identification.
  • Use distributional maps as an aid to fish identification.
  • Employ dichotomous keys.
  • Discuss identification tricks of the trade.
  • Correctly obtain morphometric information needed for fish identification.

Competency Addressed:

Fishery Biology - Intermediate

Course Short Name
Course Type
Training Tuition Cost
38.0 hours
Training Credit Hours
Semester Hours

Questions and Registration


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