What Are Game Fish?  + List of 25 Popular Game Fish Species.

What are game fish?

Game fish are fish species caught by anglers for their fighting ability. Some game fish are excellent eating, but others are just pursued for their sporting qualities.

There are thousands of freshwater and saltwater species of fish. While a lot of fish are fun to catch, not all fish are great fighters, or ideal for chasing with a rod and reel. But some are great fighting fish and will run the line out quickly. These are generally game fish.

Other species have great jumping abilities and can jump out of the water. Some are known for their eating quality out of the water.

Some of these fish, depending on the region, may have several different names, especially in the salmon family.  Some fish may also have different subspecies as well.

Not all of these game fish are native to North America, some of these common species are pursued all over the world. Such as around Europe, Canada and Australia to name a few areas.

A lot of these game fish are active feeders at dusk and dawn and ideal for night fishing.

So here is a game fish list of some popular freshwater and saltwater fish, listed for their fishing abilities.

Game fish list


Arctic grayling.

The Arctic grayling (Thymallus articus) is also known as the Alaska grayling. It is a freshwater fish that is part of the salmon family.

It has five subspecies and can be found in Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Russia as well as other places throughout the Artic and Pacific.  It eats larvae, insects, fish eggs and crustaceans.  It grows to about 2 to 3 lbs (1 to 1.3 kg).


Atlantic salmon.

The Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is found in the Atlantic Ocean and rivers that flow into the Atlantic. Juveniles eat mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies.  Adults feed on shrimp, small fish, eels and even squid.


Atlantic tarpon.

Atlantic tarponThe Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) is considered a great game fish, for its strength, endurance and acrobatics.  It feeds on crustaceans and smaller fish.

They can be fished for on the flats in shallow water and are very hard to hook, because of their hard mouth.  They are not considered good eating because of the bones.  They are generally a catch and release fish.



Sought after fish found from Indo-pacific regions from Japan to the Persian Gulf.

The Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) can live in freshwater and saltwater and is popular fishing for in parts of Australia.  It changes from male to female at roughly two years of age.  It has great acrobatics and strength and excellent eating. It also called an Asian seabass.



Bluefish (Pomatmus saltatrix) is also called Shad and Elf in South Africa. In Australia it is called tailor and it is found in all marine environments.

Its jaws are razor sharp and feed on other fish, shrimp and squid. Bluefish swim in schools and like hunting around drop offs. They have been known to even strike un-baited shiny hooks!




Bonefish are considered to be one of the top premier game fish because of their fighting abilities.  They maybe pound for pound the fastest and strongest saltwater fish.

Bonefish (Albula vulpes) inhabit tropical waters like the Florida Keys and Hawaii.  They feed on crabs, worms and shrimp and hunt in shallow waters.

They are also called, gray ghost and phantom, because of their ability to disappear.


Brook trout.

Brook trout for fishing

Also known as Speckled trout and Coaster trout, the Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) prefers higher altitudes. Some have a beautiful sprinkling of red dots and blue along its flank. The Brook trout is susceptible to pollution and competes with other species, making it vulnerable in some countries.

The brook trout is a small trout compared to other trout species.


Brown trout.

Brown trout

Brown trout (Salmo trutta) have been widely introduced into the waters of the world, like New Zealand, North America, South America and Australia.  Brown trout are considered to be natives to Europe and Asia.

Brown trout are considered harder to catch than rainbow trout.  They prefer cover like undercut banks, weedy areas and submerged trees and rocks.  Their diet includes a wide variety of insects, small fish, frogs and are even known to take mice.


Chinook salmon.

Chinook salmon

The Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is the biggest of the Pacific salmon family and are generally in deeper waters.

Also known as King, Quinnant and Red Salmon. Found in North America, Siberia, Japan and even introduced to lakes in Australia and New Zealand.


Common Snook.

A marine fish that lives in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and can enter fresh water.  Sergeant fish and Robalo are other names for the Common snook (Centropomus undecimalis).  It has a black distinctive stripe along the lateral line.

It is one of the biggest snooks and feeds on smaller fish crabs and shrimps.



Crappie fishing
Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) and White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis) eat a wide range of food, from insects, crustaceans and small fish.

Sought after by ice-fishers and are tasty to eat.  Other names for crappie’s are, Calico bass, Strawberry bass, White perch, Specks and Papermouths.


Cutthroat trout.

There are several subspecies of Cutthroat trout (Omcorhynchus clarki) which can have all different coloration’s and habitats.  All of them however, have a distinctive red, pink or orange color on their lower jaw.

It is a species of freshwater fish of the Salmon family.



Grayling is widespread from Europe to Russia.  Grayling (Thymallus thymallus) is part of the freshwater fish in the salmon family.  Grayling feed on a wide variety of insects, zooplankton, other small fish and even spiders.

Fly fishing with dry flies and nymphs can be effective for the “Lady of the stream.”


Largemouth bass.

Largemouth bass. Bigmouth bass

The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) is also known as Widemouth bass, Florida bass, bigmouth, black bass, Green trout, Largemouth bass, Bucketmouth and Green Bass.  They eat a wide variety of foods, from small fish, frogs, insects and even eat small birds and baby alligators.

Largemouth bass are a popular sport fish in America, found in most states and has excellent fighting abilities.

The bigmouth bass would be one of the top fish species included on the game fish list.



Northern pike

The Northern Pike or Pike (Esox Lucius) is found in the Northern hemisphere, from Russia, Europe to North America.

They are aggressive hunters and have sharp teeth.  They eat a variety of fish by lying in wait, then ambushing its prey.  It is bony, although considered fair eating in some countries.


Peacock bass.

There are six known species of Peacock bass which are found in South America, Malaysia and parts of United States.

The Peacock bass (Cichla ocellaris) are good fighters and will take streamers and poppers. Most have three vertical stripes on their bodies and a spot on their tail.



The Permit fish (Trachinotus falcatus) is found in shallow tropical waters of the Western Atlantic. They can also be referred to as a Snub Nosed Dart in some parts of the world.

The Permit has great fighting ability, stamina and are common to 25 lbs.  They mainly feed on bottom-dwelling crabs, shrimp, small clams, and small fish.


Rainbow trout.

Rainbow trout. What are game fish?

The rainbow trout is an excellent example of, “What are game fish?” It is a great fighting fish and can be nice eating.

Rainbow trout have a beautiful red or pink strip along the lateral line.  It is found in at least 45 countries throughout New Zealand, Europe, Asia, Australia and South and North America.

The Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) has a tendency to feed more at the surface than the Brown trout and frequently will jump out of the water when caught.

They are a popular sport fish and sometimes can be seen jumping high out of the water at passing dragonflies and damselflies.  The Rainbow trout eat a wide variety of insect, crustaceans and small fish.  The ocean going trout are also known as Steelhead or Ocean trout.


Smallmouth bass.

Smallmouth bass.

The Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui) prefer much deeper water than Largemouth Bass.  It can be found in rivers and lakes of Canada and North America.

Other names are Brownie, Bronze bass Brown bass, Smallie and Bronzeback.  It eats crustaceans that inhabit the rocky areas it prefers, as well as insects, leeches and smaller fish.  Smallmouth bass are a very popular game fish.


Sockeye salmon.

The Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) is also called Blueback salmon and Red salmon. At spawning the body can become a brilliant bright scarlet color.  They feed on plankton and shrimp.  The sockeye salmon ranges from Japan, United States, and Siberia to Canada.


Spotted bass.

What are game fish? Spotted bass.

The Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus) feeds on frogs, crustaceans, smaller fish and insects. It resembles a Largemouth bass. They are excellent fighters and are also called Kentucky bass and Spotted Black bass.


Spotted seatrout.

Other names for the Spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) are Speckled Trout, Spec and Spotted Weakfish.

It occurs in the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Its diet includes crustaceans, shrimp and other small fish. Spotted seatrout hunt near sea grass beds of shallow bays and estuaries during the warmer months.


Striped bass.

Striped bass

The Striped bass (Morone saxatilis) can live in both freshwater and saltwater environments.  It can be found in parts of the Atlantic and are also called Striper, Rockfish and Lineside, as horizontal lines run down its body.

Striped bass have two sharp points on each gill cover and hunt smaller fish.



The Taimen (Hucho taimen) is also known as the Siberian salmon or Siberian Taimen is the largest salmon in the world.  It apparently can weigh up to 200 lb and live to 50 years old or older.  Its natural habitat is Eurasia and Russia.


White bass.

The White bass (Morone chrysops) is also named Sand Bass, Barfish, Streaker and Silver Bass.  They can be found in schools and the White bass is a freshwater fish.

A lot of their feeding occurs near the surface where some fish, crustaceans, and emerging insects can be found.  White bass are excellent fighters, and are considered good eating.


Conclusion. – What are game fish?  

Some other game fish, and big game fish that are popular with saltwater anglers are: types of tuna, marlin, sailfish and the mahi-mahi (dolphinfish.)

Several sharks like the mako, bull shark and types of reef sharks are also targeted for their fighting abilities or brute strength.

Whether lure fishing, using bait, fly fishing, or kayak fishing these fish are highly regarded. These game fish can even be targeted for spearfishing.

Some very popular game fish in North America, is bass fishing. With species like the largemouth bass, striped bass, peacock bass and smallmouth bass.

There are other noteworthy species that are excellent game fish and have nice eating qualities as well. But the above list of fish are highly regarded by saltwater and freshwater fisherman all over the world.