Black Redhorse

Friday, October 13, 2017
Redhorse, Black

Came across some redhorse in a pool of one of my favorite creeks where I had never seen any before. Sight fished this one from directly above on a fallen tree. When I brought the fish to hand I thought the face seemed longer than other goldens but quickly took pictures and let it go. After I got home and had a closer look I counted 47-48 lateral line scales and was pretty excited. Im no professional at identifying redhorse so I didnt get too excited until both Isaac and my district biologist both responded with black. On the survey of this creek the biologist conducted in 2004 black redhorse were the only species of redhorse sampled in the entire system. This specimen was in a group of maybe 8-10 others and was one of the largest in the pack. Even though Ive had a few folks look at it I still dont feel like its real for some reason. Id appreciate it if someone could chime in with some reassurance. 


andy's picture

Sure looks like a black to me, nice catch man!



Corey's picture


Scale count is 46 by my reckoning, which eliminates Golden redhorse.



Outdoors4life's picture

The reason people question it is because it looks like a golden. Without counting scales correctly I would say it is a golden based on looks. Josh Knuth and I spoke this spring about ID and counting scales correctly and it can be confusing. 

I know Corey counted but I would still be curious to see what Josh says because it really looks golden at a glance.

JUst to be clear I am not arguing for either way. But wanted to explain why people would question the ID on it.

It is all perspective!

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andy's picture

  • The somewhat slender head
  • The irridescent sheen around the head (even though the body is brassy)
  • Dorsal has a swoosh
  • Dark fins
  • Not a slender caudal peduncle, but not fat
  • No tubercle marks on head


That was enough to be fairly confident it's a black without counting scales.


RoughFish's picture

I was hoping for Dr Flathead to chime in too if he reads this...... I thought it looked pretty golden as well, the only thing I found to differentiate the two was lateral scales and if I had taken a picture of both pelvic find to looks for 10 rays on one or both. John Lyons has a good page on comparing the two species.

RoughFish's picture

And thanks for taking the time to count that Corey, I never thought about doing it in paint like that great idea.

Corey's picture

I could totally be wrong. I've had this discussion before and been wrong, but as always I like to define exactly how people reach their conclusions. And defining what criteria are acceptable for a fish to be counted as a species is very important to establish consistently.

Dr Flathead's picture

I would say without a doubt that this is a Black Redhorse.  Nice catch!  Makes me want to get out there and try for one before winter sets in...

Jknuth's picture

Looks like a black to me, but Ill explain why if interested. 

Lateral line

count of 46 like Corey had. (the 47-48 you had included the two after the Hypural notch) 
See this post on scale counting
Counting scales and caudal peduncle proportion (black redhorse example)

Caudal Peduncle proportions

Ratio of 1 : 0.78 


Breeding Tubercules 

This fish is a male. Though it is well past the spawn the scars from the tubercules remain. 
There are no scars on the nose, only the caudal and anal fin. (Black redhorse do not have tubercules on the head)

Soft tissue fin pigmentaion

Normally this is hard to see but on your fish its very very clear.  The pigmentation on the soft tissue between the rays of the dorsal and caudal fin is dark and dusky and almost black in some spots. (Black redhorse gets its name from this) though most specimans we have seen in the river we dont mention dont have this as clear. 
I suspect there is more tannin in this river or its due to the Fall to winter gold colors that most fish develop. For some reason most fish gain a gold to brown hue in late fall through winter, probably due to less daylight. this is giving the fish a more gold color and likely darkening the pigment as well. 

In short
I'd call it a black. And a neat looking one too.  

RoughFish's picture

Thanks fellas! I wasn't familiar with the Hypural notch Josh appreciate the link. Also didn't know about not having tubercles on the head. This creek had a huge contamination of pcb in the past and has some real large specimens of every species it holds. My personal best smallmouth, longear, striped shiner, and hognose all came from here probably due to the fish advisory. The striped shiner was 9" long (first pic in my life list entry). I was joking with my fishing partner about how I wanted to send it to you (jknuth) to have it mounted but I had to let that champion go back home. Appreciate everyone having a look at this redhorse, best confirmation you can get.

Outdoors4life's picture

I had counted the Scales and came up with the right number for not being a golden. 

It is great to have it explained why because it is a different look to it.  We have also seen that different drainages have slight variations. This will be a great example of a variation.

It is all perspective!

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Hengelaar's picture

Congrats on a great lifer! And bonus points, obviously, for sight fishing it from a fallen tree. Sight fishing from a fallen tree is awesome.


And the stuff on this thread is what makes this site great.

Fishn sure is neat