Game fish: European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus)

European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) - Credit Apple2000 on Wikimedia Commons -

The European Whitefish, or Bourget Whitefish, is a freshwater fish from the Salmonidae family.

Found predominantly in lakes and the cold waters of Europe’s mountainous regions, such as the Alps and the Pyrenees, the European Whitefish is notable for its silver colouration, streamlined body, and size reaching up to 60 centimetres. Anglers highly esteemed this fish for its delicate flesh and subtle flavour, making it a celebrated choice in local culinary traditions.

European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) - Credit Biodiversity Library
European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) – Credit Biodiversity Library

What is European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus)?

The European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) is a salmonid species that predominantly inhabits high-altitude lakes and mountainous areas’ clear, cold waters. Its delicate flesh has made it a favoured species among fishermen, but currently, its population faces threats due to overfishing and habitat degradation.

Description of the European Whitefish

Physical Appearance

The European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) is characterised by its elongated, fusiform body with a green-grey back and silver flanks. It has a small mouth, a slightly protruding lower jaw, large scales, and a deeply forked caudal fin. The teeth are very small or sometimes absent.

C. lavaretus
Binomial Name
Coregonus lavaretus (Linnaeus, 1758)
The binomial name for the European Whitefish is Coregonus lavaretus, with Linnaeus being credited as the authority who first described it in 1758.

Size and Weight

The European Whitefish typically measures 25 to 50 cm, occasionally reaching up to 70 cm in larger lakes. Its weight usually ranges between 500 g and 2 kg.


The European Whitefish’s lifespan can reach up to 15 years or more, depending on environmental conditions.

Habitat and Distribution

This species favours the cold, oxygenated, deep waters of lakes and large watercourses. Often found in the aquatic layers of lakes, the European Whitefish is primarily found in the Alpine and subalpine lakes of France and Switzerland, its native regions. It has been artificially introduced in other areas.

Geographic Areas

The European Whitefish is found in Northern Europe, Asia, and America, particularly in the northern lakes of Europe, from northeastern France to Northern Asia and America.

Preferred Habitats

The European Whitefish favours deep, clear, oxygen-rich lakes and is also in large watercourses, avoiding stagnant waters. It is typically found at 10 to 50 meters deep, feeding on zooplankton.

Feeding Habits

The European Whitefish’s diet comprises plankton, small invertebrates, and aquatic larvae. As the fish matures, it expands its diet to include small fish. This feeding habit allows the European Whitefish to thrive in its aquatic environment, contributing to the ecological balance of its habitat.

Gastronomic Value

The European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) is highly prized for its culinary value. Its delicate and tasty flesh is a favourite among chefs and gourmets. Its subtle flavour and tender texture make it an ideal ingredient for various dishes, from simple grilled preparations to sophisticated gourmet recipes. In local cuisines, especially in the Alpine regions, the European Whitefish is often featured in traditional dishes, celebrated for its versatility and the unique taste of the culinary arts.

Fishing Techniques for the European Whitefish

The European Whitefish is commonly caught using drifting or fixed gillnets, as well as vertical nets. Bottom lines or hand nets are also employed by fishermen targeting this species.

Sport fishing, particularly popular in Alpine lakes where European Whitefish are abundant, uses techniques such as trolling, casting, and sometimes fly fishing.

Due to the European Whitefish’s popularity among anglers, stringent regulations are often in place to manage catches and ensure the sustainable presence of the European Whitefish population.

Common names for European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus)

The most popular common names for the European Whitefish are Corégone lavaret (French), Blaufelchen (German), Coregone (Italian), Lavareto (Spanish), Grote marene (dutch) and Sieja (polish).

Conservation Status

Due to overfishing and habitat degradation, the European Whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) is currently classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List. This status highlights the need for ongoing conservation efforts to protect and preserve this valuable species in its natural habitats.

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