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March, 29, 2017

The King-fish, a Fish without Scales and Other Inhabitants of the Waters of Baikal

Baikal attracts not only by the beauty of its landscape and the boundless still water. The fans of fishing take pride in their journey to Lake Baikal and the opportunity to get acquainted with its unique underwater world.

Lake Baikal is known throughout the world as the largest freshwater lake on the planet. A special world of underwater animals and plants characterized by the unique beauty and rich diversity hides in its purest and clear waters.

Scientists have calculated over 1000 species of plants and more than 1500 species of animals in the flora and fauna of Baikal, the most part of them are truly unique: they live exclusively in the waters of this Lake (the so-called endemic animals and plants).

The Lake is actively inhabited by many animals through the entire thickness of waters: both in shallow waters, where the temperature is warmer, and at great depths because deep waters are saturated with oxygen. The oldest inhabitants of Lake Baikal are considered sponges. They gather in large groups at undersea rocks and the Lake’s canyons, forming beautiful deep landscapes. Large amounts of plankton and small benthic animals provide food to about 60 species of fish, besides a half of them cannot be encountered anywhere else on the planet. Many species of fish are commercial, so experienced fishermen respect summer fishing on Lake Baikal, but winter fishing is especially good – during this season the valuable fish species rise to shallow waters.

5 unique fishes of Lake Baikal

 

The Baikal omul is the main Baikal fish living exclusively in the waters of this purest Lake. According to one version of scientists, the Baikal omul, like Baikal seals, came to Lake Baikal along the Yenisei and Angara Rivers from the Arctic Ocean millions of years ago, during the ice age. Omul belongs to the family of Salmonidae and is of a great interest for gourmands and for fishermen as a valuable fish whose flesh is distinguished by its tender, juicy taste. Omul’s flesh is also really healthy: rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamins and quickly digested. An average weight of one fish amounts to 1-2 kg, you can catch the fish almost all year round, except during the spawning season (in autumn). You can try the freshly caught omul: light-salted, dry-cured, as well as hot- and cold-smoked, at the restaurants and cafes on the coast of the Lake. The Baikal omul has long become a symbol of the Lake and a versatile souvenir that is traditionally brought home in its smoked form from the trips to the Pearl of Siberia (the Lake is called this way). The widespread fishing has had a negative impact on the population of the legendary Baikal fish. Nowadays ecologists develop and actively implement programs for the preservation of this unique fish and the increase in the number of fish units.

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The Baikal sturgeon is the “King-Fish” rightly named so by the Russian writer V.P. Astafyev. It is the largest fish of Lake Baikal. The sturgeon is characterized by really huge dimensions: its length reaches over 1.5 meters and it weighs up to 200 kg. This noble freshwater fish is listed in the “Red Book” as a rare species; it is prohibited to catch sturgeons. The Baikal sturgeon goes for spawning to 1000 km up the river (mainly the Selenga River), however, the timber rafting on the rivers and the poachers have a negative effect on the population of the Baikal sturgeon.

The Baikal oilfish is an unusual, pale-pink, almost transparent fish that is unique in all respects: it has no scales (hence the name) and, unlike other Baikal fishes, it does not spawn, does not lay eggs, but is a live-bearing fish, like sharks, which is also a big rarity for a cold climate. The oilfish is an ancient endemic of Baikal and inhabits only this Lake. It is not a commercial fish, people do not eat it, so the number of the species in the Lake, according to the scientists’ calculations, amount to 70% of the entire fish biomass of Lake Baikal. However, the oilfish is willingly eaten by omul, sturgeon and other large fish.

The red Baikal sculpin is a peculiar and very colorful fish: red with light-colored spots, with wide beautiful fins and a large broad head (hence the name). It also lives only in the waters of Baikal and leads a bottom lifestyle: the fish lives in the mud under the stones. The Baikal sculpin is a commercial fish, it is sold fresh and salted at the markets of Baikal villages. In addition to the fishermen, the main enemies of the Baikal sculpin are burbot and the Baikal ringed seal.

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The yellowfin Baikal sculpin is a small interesting fish that received its name due to its bright yellow pectoral fin in males. These fish stick to each other in shoals and like to live at the bottom of the Lake, behind the rocks. The males of yellowfin sculpins treat the roe-corn laid by the females under big stones with great care: the “fathers” responsibly protect these and take care of their roe-corns.

If you are not a diver loving extreme sports or a fan of fishing, you can see and admire the unique fishes of Lake Baikal at the Limnological Museum of Baikal located in the village of Listvyanka with the exhibition including more than 10 huge aquariums with living representatives of the underwater world of Lake Baikal.

 

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