Coregonus artedi (LeSueur, 1818)

member of the Salmon Family (Salmonidae)












What's In a Name?
Cisco, a.k.a. lake herring and inland tullibee: cisco comes from a French name used for this fish and similar looking species from the Greak Lakes

Coregonus (co-regg´-on-us) means angle eye in Greek
(are-ted´-ee) named after the Swedish naturalist, Peter Artedi


    Where Do They Live?
Cisco is common in Lake Superior, but they also occur in many inland lakes of the central and northeast lakes region of the state. The cisco is a cold-water fish that needs well-oxygenated water deep in the lake in summer time. That usually means the lake cannot be eutrophic (it can't have a lot of nutrients). So, ciscoes usually do best in deep, clear water lakes.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
The size of cisco is highly variable depending on the lake they come from. In Cass Lake, for example, they typically reach 300-350 mm (12-14 in) and about 340 g (.075 lbs). In Lake Itasca they sometimes reach a whopping 600 mm (almost 24 in) nearly 2 kg (4.5 lbs). In Ten Mile Lake they rarely go beyond 80 mm (3.2 in) and 30 g (1.05 oz).

    What Do They Eat?
The diet of cisco changes very little as they grow. They begin eating copepods and small waterfleas and later add bigger waterfleas, midge and ghost midge larvae. Sometimes they feast on mayflies and caddisflies as they "hatch" at the water's surface.

What Eats Them?
Young and smaller cisco fall prey to many kinds of piscivorous (fish-eating) fish, such as northern pike, lake trout, burbot, yellow perch, rainbow trout, and walleyes. Yellow perch, brown bullheads and cisco, themselves, eat their eggs. Humans used to be a major predator. Their commercial fishing operations were partly responsible for the decline of the cisco in the Great Lakes.


How Do They Reproduce?
The spawning season for cisco starts in late fall (usually late November) just as or a little before the ice forms on the water. The spawning sites are commonly in shallow water (1-5 m deep) over bottoms of clean rock, gravel, or sand. In the Great Lakes spawning often occurs in much deeper water (3-15 m). Two or more males escort a female as she swims to the bottom. As she nears the bottom, she releases her eggs and the males fertilize them. The eggs sink to the bottom and stick to the surfaces of bottom materials. They receive no care from the parents. A single female may lay 3,000-15,000 eggs depending on her size. The embryos develop over the winter and hatch the following spring. Unlike newly hatched trout and salmon, cisco larvae swim up from the bottom within a few days and begin feeding. It takes several more weeks before their fins are fully developed.


Conservation and Management
Cisco used to be an important commercial fish in the Great Lakes. Their populations are now very low in all but Lake Superior, and very few commercial fishers now fish for them. In some inland lakes in the fall, a limited amount of non-commercial gill netting is permitted for this species. A small number of people do this. There are also a few anglers who fish specifically for cisco in winter and in the early summer when ciscoes feed on emerging insects.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002