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You Won't Believe How Many Species Of Fish Now Swim In The Chicago River

 The dozens of fish species that have been found in the Chicago River include largemouth bass, carp and even spotted gar.
The dozens of fish species that have been found in the Chicago River include largemouth bass, carp and even spotted gar.
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CHICAGO — Dozens of fish species make their home in the Chicago River.


"People are stunned how many fish live in the river," said Friends of the Chicago River director Margaret Frisbie. "They're used to thinking about the river being polluted and the green dye on St. Patrick's Day, which is not a vote of confidence for fish under the water."

But under the water the fish are. And there are lots of them, from bass and carp, to salmon and sunfish. Finds within the past few years include the banded killifish and the spotted gar. The dozens of species in the river now is a huge jump from the five to seven that were found in the 1970s.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has been conducting fish surveys in the Chicago Area Waterway System since the mid-1970s. Improved water quality due to enhanced treatment processes and the District’s Tunnel and Reservoir Plan has allowed for an increasing number of fish to flourish in the CAWS, according to Reclamation District's Allison Fore.

Fifty-eight fish species, including 28 game fish species and 45 native species, have been collected by the District in the CAWS during the 2000s, Fore said.

RELATED: Fishing In Chicago: Where To Go And What You Can Catch (MAP)

In June 2014, 10,000 channel catfish were released at 333 Lower Wacker Drive. This month, about 2,000 northern pike fingerlings — each about 5 inches long — were dispensed into the river.

RELATED: Want to Catch Carp on Chicago Riverwalk? Use McDonald's French Fries

Frisbie and others are now working on planting water willow and lizard's tail — plants that can tolerate the river's consistent "flashing," or its water level's ability to quickly rise and fall. The plants also will provide a safe haven for the pike and other fish, Frisbie said.

Large numbers of fish will lead to other animals like osprey and weasels reappearing in the river, Frisbie said.

"The presence of fish represents presence of other wildlife," she said.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources hope those fish and others will be safe to eat in the near future. For now, the IDNR warns folks from eating fish from the river.

The IDNR and Army Corps of Engineers conduct occasional counts for the fish. Check out their discoveries in the lists below.

Chicago River Fish

Chicago River Check List for FISH

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