The cisco, also known as tulibee or lake herring, was formerly an important Great Lakes commercial species and was once caught in great numbers. There are (or were) seven separate species of cisco in the Great Lakes, but by the 1950s, overfishing had reduced some species to near extinction (McClane, 1954). Their numbers declined further due to competition from the alewife and rainbow smelt, both invasive species. However, as the alewife and smelt populations have declined, the cisco is making a comeback, particularly in Lake Superior (Minnesota Sea Grant, 2008 and UW Sea Grant, 2013).
A close relative of the
lake whitefish and
round whitefish, the cisco is a cold-water fish and is usually found
in deep water, particularly during the summer. Therefore, most taken by
anglers are caught during other seasons. Cisco are slender fish, and
adults range in weight from about six ounces to two pounds (UW
Sea Grant Institute, 2013). Though cisco have a rather strong odor,
they are quite edible and are often smoked. If your interested in
learning about smoking fish, go to
How to Smoke Fish.
Photos courtesy of Jay T. Hatch, Natural History of Minnesota Fishes. Reprinted with permission.
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