Fish can be found in many of the lakes and streams of Cape Breton Highlands National Park as well as along the coast outside the park.
There are ten species of freshwater fish native to Cape Breton Highlands National Park—less than one third of the species found on mainland Nova Scotia. The small variety of freshwater species is due mainly to natural barriers such as the ocean and the mountains, as well as low water levels in summer. The oxygen-rich waters are ideal for trout and salmon.
The eastern brook trout lives in most of the park's lakes and streams, and the Atlantic salmon spawns in most of the larger rivers, with an unusual early spring run in Chéticamp River. Brackish ponds near the coast support smelt, gaspereau, sticklebacks and banded killifish.
From the 1950s until the mid 1970s, some of the lakes and rivers in the park were commonly stocked with trout and salmon. Two lakes were even poisoned to get rid of fish species such as American eel, smelt, gaspereau and white perch which were not deemed desirable for sport fishing. Nowadays the park is working to keep the lakes, rivers and fish populations as natural as possible and stocking no longer occurs.
Rainbow trout and brown trout, two non-native fish species, occur in small numbers.
A variety of saltwater fish occur off and near the coast including Atlantic cod, haddock, halibut, herring and mackerel. Several species including Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon and haddock can no longer be fished commercially because of their small population size.
Cartilaginous fish such as sharks, skates and stingrays also live in the saltwater around the park. The sharks that are most commonly sighted near Nova Scotia are the spiny dogfish and the blue shark. The large but harmless plankton-eating basking shark, an IUCN Redlist vulnerable species, is often seen near Nova Scotia as well.
Checklist of freshwater fish in Cape Breton Highlands National Park
|Family (Common Name)|
|Species||Scientific name||Status within park|
|Salmonidae (Salmon and allies)|
|Atlantic salmon||Salmo salar||Common to uncommon|
|Brook trout||Salvelinus fontinalis||Abundant|
|Brown trout||Salmo trutta||Uncommon - introduced to NS|
|Rainbow trout||Salmo gairdneri||Rare - was stocked|
|Rainbow smelt||Osmerus mordax||Rare|
|Anguillidae (Freshwater eels)|
|American eel||Anguilla rostrata||Common|
|Gaspereau (alewife)||Alosa pseudoharengus||Locally Common|
|Banded killifish||Fundulus diaphanus||Uncommon|
|Threespine stickleback||Gasterosteus aculeatus||Rare|
|Fourspine stickleback||Apeltes quadracus||Rare|
|Ninespine stickleback||Pungitius pungitius||Rare|
|Percithyidae (Temperate basses)|
|White perch||Morone americana||Rare|