Cig — salmon fish that lives mainly in fresh waters – rivers and lakes. He loves cold and clean water, and therefore most of all whitefish live in the river basins that flow mainly through the territory of Russia and flow into the Arctic Ocean: Pechora, Northern Dvina, Ob. The meat of this fish is highly valued, it is actively hunted.
Origin of the species and description
Whitefish belong to the class of ray-finned fish that arose on the planet at the end of the Silurian period. At first, they developed at a slow pace, and only after about 150-170 million years, by the Triassic period, a clade of teleosts appeared – this is what whitefish belong to. But before the appearance of both this species itself and the salmon-like order, of which they belong, it was still far away. Only by the beginning of the Cretaceous period did another detachment arise – herring-like ones. They acted as progenitors for salmonids, and they appeared by the middle of the Cretaceous.
But regarding the latter, scientists have different versions: fossil finds of salmon dating back to that time have not yet been discovered, and therefore their occurrence is then still remains a theory. The earliest finds date back to the Eocene, they are about 55 million years old – it was a small fish that lived in fresh water.
At first, there were obviously few salmonids, since there are no fossils for a very long period, and only in layers of antiquity of 20-25 million years they appear, and at once quite a large number . Species diversity increases as we approach modernity, and the first whitefish appear already in these layers.
The name of the genus – Coregonus, comes from the ancient Greek words “corner” and “pupil” and is due to the fact that the pupil of some whitefish species seems angular in front. The scientific description was made by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. In total, the genus includes 68 species – however, according to different classifications, there may be a different number of them.
Appearance and features
Whitefish are distinguished by a high degree of variability: species can differ from each other very much, sometimes 5-6 varieties of whitefish are caught in one reservoir, so dissimilar to each other that they can be considered representatives of completely different genera. From the general one can distinguish only a humpbacked snout, as well as some features of the structure of the mouth: the small size of the oral cavity, the absence of teeth on the maxillary bone and its shortening. Everything else changes, sometimes drastically. For example, some whitefishes have 15 gill rakers, while others have up to 60. They themselves are both smooth and serrated, and the body of the fish is rather short or clearly elongated.
The size of whitefish can also vary greatly, from rather small to large fish – up to 90 cm in length and weight of 6 kg. There are lake, river and anadromous whitefish, predators and those that feed only on plankton: in a word, diversity is their main characteristic. Nevertheless, the following signs are characteristic of most of the varieties: the body is oblong, pressed on the sides, the scales are dense, silvery in color, and the dorsal fin is dark. The back itself is also dark, it may have a slightly greenish or purple tint. Belly lighter than body, light gray to creamy.
Fun Fact: Fishing for whitefish is easiest in the spring, when hungry fish rush at everything. It is more difficult, but not much, to catch it in the fall, but the reward is greater – over the summer it puts on fat, becomes larger and tastier. In summer, whitefish bite worse, here you already need to carefully choose the bait, use baits.
Where does the whitefish live?
To its range includes almost all of Europe, including the European part of Russia. It also lives in the northern part of Asia and North America.
In Europe, it is most common in the northern and central parts, including:
- Great Britain;
- Baltic States;
In Russia, it inhabits the basins of most of the large rivers flowing into the seas of the Arctic Ocean, as well as many lakes: from the Volkhov River in the west to Chukotka itself. It also occurs further south, but less frequently. For example, it lives in Baikal and other lakes of Transbaikalia. Although most of the range of whitefish in Asia falls on the territory of Russia, these fish also live outside of it, for example, in the lakes of Armenia – for example, whitefish is fished in the largest of them, Sevan. In North America, the fish lives in the waters of Canada, Alaska, and the US states near the northern border. Previously, the Great Lakes were very populated with whitefish, as well as the Alpine lakes in Europe – but there and there most of the species that used to live died out, others became very rare.
Whitefish live mainly in the northern rivers and lakes because they combine all the qualities they prefer: the water in them is simultaneously cool, clean and rich in oxygen. Whitefish are demanding on all of the above and, if the water is polluted, they quickly leave the reservoir or die out. This fish is freshwater, but there are also species that spend part of the time in salt water, such as omul and Siberian vendace: they can rise to the mouths of rivers and spend time in bays, or even swim out to the open sea – but still must return to fresh water .
Young whitefish swim near the surface of the water and usually close to the shore, but adults tend to stay deeper, most often at a depth of 5-7 m, and sometimes they can even dive into holes on the river bottom and swim closer to the surface only for feeding. They love to live near rifts with cool springs.
Now you know where the whitefish is found. Let's see what fish eat.
What does a whitefish eat?
Whitefish can be either surface or bottom fed, and some combine both. That is, they can hunt for small fish, or absorb plankton.
Most often whitefish eat:
- larvae ;
They often migrate in search of more abundant food places in the river, they can go to the lower reaches for food, and at the end of the season they return to the upper reaches of the rivers, looking for places where fry accumulate. They often feed on caviar, including their own species, and fry of their own species are also eaten. Large predatory whitefish prefer to attack unexpectedly, before that they can watch their prey from an ambush. The fish is cautious, and it will not rush to the bait quickly – first it will observe its behavior. Often they attack at once in a flock, so the victims are less likely to escape. Often large whitefish simply lurk in a hole at the bottom and patiently wait until some fish swims up to them, after which they make a short throw and grab it. Both a small fish and a rather large one can become a victim, they can even eat relatives. Smaller whitefish mainly feed on river plankton, consisting of various small crustaceans, mollusks, larvae and other small living creatures. Bottom-dwelling whitefish eat benthos, organisms that live on the bottom of a river like worms and mollusks.
Interesting fact: In the north, such a whitefish dish as sugudai is very popular. It is very easy to prepare: fresh fish needs to be marinated with spices, and in just a quarter of an hour it will be ready to eat in the refrigerator. & Lifestyle
Whitefish are characterized by secrecy: they always show caution and try to stay away from other fish of a similar, and even more so, superior to their own size. At the same time, they are aggressive and tend to displace fish smaller than themselves from water bodies. This is often used by fishermen: they catch whitefish in places where small things accumulate in the spring, where they can be found all the time, they mercilessly exterminate fry. They hibernate in pits, often accumulating in them in dozens. Winter fishing on them is possible, you just need to find such a hole.
In general, their behavior and lifestyle vary greatly depending on the form. There are lake, river and migratory whitefish, and the behavior of representatives of each of these forms is completely different. In addition, the fish that lives in large lakes, in turn, is divided into coastal, pelagic and deep-sea. Accordingly, coastal whitefish stay near the shore and near the surface of the water – most often they are representatives of small species or just young fish; pelagic – in the zone between the surface and the bottom; deep-sea – at the very bottom, usually in pits, most often these are the largest whitefish.
This determines the behavior of fish, and deep-sea whitefish with their habits very little resemble coastal whitefish, they should be considered separately. The life expectancy of whitefish can be 15-20 years, but on average it is lower, and fish that are 5-10 years old are most often caught. Whitefish with few rakers are on average larger than those with many rakers and live longer.
Social structure and reproduction
Whitefish males become sexually mature at the fifth year of life, and females a year or two later. The spawning period begins in autumn, in the second half of September, and can last until the end of autumn or the beginning of winter. At this time, large flocks of whitefish move either from lakes to rivers, or to the upper reaches or tributaries of large rivers.
They spawn in the same places where they themselves were born. Usually it is shallow water, the best water temperature is 2-5 degrees. The female lays 15-35 thousand eggs, usually for this she chooses a quiet backwater rich in vegetation. After spawning, neither males nor females die – they can spawn annually.
But parents do not participate in the protection of eggs either – after spawning is completed, they simply swim away. Only the hatched larvae are very small – less than a centimeter in length. The larval stage lasts a month and a half. At first, the larvae remain near the place of birth in a flock and feed on plankton, if it is a lake or a quiet backwater. If they appeared in the river, then the current carries them down until it nails them to some calm place.
When they grow up to 3-4 cm, they become fry, begin to eat insect larvae and small crustaceans. By the age of one, whitefish are already beginning to move freely along the river, they begin to hunt larger prey – from that time on, they have the main features of an adult, although they reach sexual maturity much later.
Natural enemies whitefish
The number of enemies of an adult whitefish may differ depending on depending on its size and the reservoir in which it lives. Sometimes this fish displaces all other large predators, and then it lives very freely. In other cases, there are not so many of them, and they themselves are not too large, so they are hunted by large predatory fish, like pikes, catfish, burbots.
All the same, little threat comes from the water for adult whitefishes. People are much more dangerous for them, because very active fishing is carried out on these fish, sometimes bait is selected specifically for them, especially often in winter, when whitefish are among the most actively pecking fish. There are much more dangers in the reservoir for fry and especially caviar. Swimming beetles love to eat them, and even their larvae feed on caviar. This insect often becomes the main barrier that prevents whitefish from breeding in the reservoir and displacing other fish species from it. Also, opponents for fry are water striders, water scorpions, smooth bugs. The latter are able to kill not only barely born, but also slightly grown young whitefish – their bites are poisonous to fish. Dragonfly larvae also feed only on hatched fry.
Amphibians, like frogs, newts, are also dangerous – they eat both game and small fish, and even their tadpoles love caviar. There are also dangerous birds: ducks hunt for fry, and loons and gulls can even attack adults if they are of a small size. Another misfortune is helminths. Whitefish suffer from helminthiasis more often than most other fish, usually parasites settle in their intestines and gills. Meat must be handled very carefully to avoid infection.
Population and species status
The genus includes a large number of species, and their status can be very different: some are not threatened by anything and there are no restrictions on their catch, others are on the verge of extinction. In Russian reservoirs, where the whitefish is the most, a general trend has nevertheless emerged: its numbers are falling almost everywhere. In some rivers and lakes, where there used to be a lot of this fish, now completely incomparable populations live. So active fishing affected the whitefish, and even more so – environmental pollution, because the purity of the water is very important for them.
But due to the wide variety of species, the situation must be analyzed separately for each of them. For example, the European vendace is widespread, and so far its population in the rivers of Europe is not threatened. The same with omul, living mainly in Siberian rivers and in North America. They continue to actively catch the arborvitae in the northern rivers of Russia – so far there have been no problems with its numbers; to the east – in Siberia, Chukotka, Kamchatka, as well as in Canada, they continue to actively catch the whitefish, and nothing threatens it either.
But Atlantic whitefish are vulnerable species, since their population has declined significantly due to active fishing, so restrictions have been introduced. Also vulnerable is the common whitefish, accepted as a typical representative of the genus. There are even less common whitefish, some species even ended up in the Red Book.
Interesting fact: Whitefish is a perishable, fatty fish, and therefore it is very important to ensure that it is fresh: stale or poorly stored whitefish can be poisoned.
Here the situation is the same as with the population: some species are allowed to be caught freely, others are protected by law. This is also superimposed by the factor of state borders: even the same species can be allowed to be caught in one country, and prohibited in another, although they share the same river.
In Russia, several species are protected. Thus, the population of Volkhov whitefish was seriously undermined due to the construction of a hydroelectric power station on the river back in 1926 – access to spawning grounds was blocked for fish, and since then their population has had to be maintained with the help of artificial breeding. Baunt whitefish living in Transbaikalia are also protected: before, there was an active fishery, and hundreds of tons of this fish were caught, but such exploitation undermined its population. The common whitefish is also protected in some regions of Russia.
In the reservoirs of the Koryak Autonomous Okrug, five species live at once, which cannot be found anywhere else, and all of them are also protected by law: they were previously actively caught, as a result of which the populations of each of these species have seriously decreased. If earlier they were protected only on the territory of the reserve, now control is also strengthened over the spawning grounds of these fish beyond its borders.
Some species of whitefish are also protected in other countries: there are too many species and states on whose territory they dwell to list everything. Measures to maintain the population can be different: restriction or prohibition of fishing, creation of protected areas, control of harmful emissions, artificial breeding of fish.
Sig is a very tasty fish, while it lives in northern latitudes, where there is no other prey so many, and therefore especially valuable. Due to active fishing, some species of whitefish have become very rare, therefore, measures are required to protect and restore the population. It is impossible to allow its further decline, otherwise the northern reservoirs will lose important inhabitants.