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Atlantic Herring

Atlantic Herring

What is a herring?
There are several species of fish in the herring family. Herrings are small, streamlined, schooling fish which feed mainly on plankton. The nearly 200 true herring species which belongs to the family Clupeidae, share several distinguishing characteristics. Herring are silvery fish with a single dorsal fin with no lateral line. Their lower jaw looks like the jaw of a bulldog. These true herrings have soft fins that lack spines, unlike many other fish. They have streamlined body, which helps in swimming. Their body is relatively deep and flattened laterally, with a distinctly forked tail. The compressed body of the herring and silvery scales on their body help them to protect themselves from their predators from attacking. However, silvery scales, are of no help during attacks from above. The anglers sense the presence of these silvered colored herring even in the murky water. Generally, the species of the herring family migrate in groups at the time of spawning and can cover trip distances up to 3000 km. Many of the species of the herring family are quite different from one another in terms of size, appearance, behavior, and distribution. The Atlantic herring is a comparatively small fish that schools in the waters of northern latitudes and feed on plankton from the water. Whereas, the tropical wolf herring grows up to a size of around 1 meter in length and is a rapacious predator of fish. In other cases there are close differences between herring species. For example, Bluebacks (Alosa aestivalis) and alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus), are so uniform in size and appearance that even the experienced fishermen face difficulty telling them apart. In fact, it is very difficult to distinguish these two fish without the aid of a dissecting knife. Thousands of fish which travel upstream from the Great Salt Bay can be seen at the river flowing out of Damarascotta Lake in mid-coast Maine in May.

The Atlantic Herrings (Clupea harengus)
The Atlantic herrings are a small and pelagic plankton-feeder, which grows to a maximum of 17 inches and weighs up to1.5 pounds. These fish have a distinguished feature that they have a dorsal fin located midway along the body, whereas a weak saw-toothed keel along the belly. The fish is shining, greenish or grayish blue by its dorsal fins with a silvery abdomen and sides. This type of coloration is commonly found in pelagic species of fish, as it provides a degree of disguise in open waters. If they are viewed closely, they can be easily identified by its conspicuous cluster of small teeth arranged in an oval shape on the roof of its mouth. Only Atlantic herring among these species possesses this distinctive circle of teeth. Young juveniles can be found in great numbers in inshore waters along the Maine coast in the spring and summer. Whereas, the adults of these species migrate hundreds of miles of ocean, during their life span.

The Pacific Herrings(Herrings (Clupea pallasii)
The Pacific herrings (Clupea pallasii) in the North Pacific Ocean, closely resembles the Atlantic species, (Clupea harengus). They are similar morphologically but there are some differences in their life histories. Atlantic herrings spawn in the spring and fall, whereas Pacific herring strictly spawn in spring.