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Male (at top) and female (at bottom) capelin
Depending on the population and the year, capelin can vary significantly in size.In the waters of the St. Lawrence, individuals averages between 13 to 20 cm in length, but can reach up to 23 cm, with males being larger than females. The capelin found along the coast of Labrador can reach lengths of nearly 30 cm. Capelin lifespan is estimated at five or six years, and the species reaches sexual maturity around the age of three.
During the spawning period, the abdomen of the female is swollen with eggs and the pectoral fins of the male lengthen and project out from the body. These distinctive characteristics appear approximately four to five weeks before the start of spawning. For the rest of the year, the differences between the two sexes disappear and it is almost impossible to distinguish between the male and female.