Common name: Skipjack Herring
Synonyms and Other Names: Blue Herring, Green Herring, Golden Shad, River Herring, Skipjack Shad
available through www.itis.gov
Identification: Oblong body is a golden-green, silvery color and back is gray to dark blue with dark streaks. A dull, dark spot is present behind the head. Eye diameter is less than the snout length. Unlike Alosa pseudoharengus and A. aestevalis, this species has a distinctive protruding lower jaw and teeth on its tongue and upper and lower jaw (Becker 1983; Whitehead 1985; Page and Burr 1991; Etnier and Starnes 1993).
Size: 53 cm.
Native Range: Red River drainage (Hudson Bay basin) and Mississippi River basin from central Minnesota south to the Gulf of Mexico, and from southwestern Pennsylvania west to eastern South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas; Gulf Slope drainages from the Apalachicola River, Florida, to the Colorado River, Texas (Page and Burr 1991). Populations are declining in the upper Mississippi River drainage, and Skipjack Herring is considered endangered in Wisconsin and Minnesota (WI DNR 2020; MN DNR 2021).
Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Alosa chrysochloris are found here.
Table last updated 12/7/2023
† Populations may not be currently present.
Ecology: The Skipjack Herring inhabits open waters of large rivers and their lakes (Becker 1983). This species prefers fine substrates and clear waters (Cross and Huggins 1975) and is known to inhabit depths of 1.5–13.9m in the Mississippi River (Miranda and Killgore 2014). Adults often aggregate in the swift tailwaters of dams. It is a euryhaline species, and is known to be andramadous in the Gulf of Mexico but can also complete its life cycle solely in freshwater (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Exact thermal range is unknown, but in a laboratory study this species’ upper avoidance temperature was 29°C (Coutant 1977).
The diet of the Skipjack Herring is broad, including plankton, insects, and small fishes. Populations often swim in schools and engage in communal feeding (Becker 1983; Dembkowski and Miranda 2014). Individuals often leap or “skip” from the water when in pursuit of fish. This species spawns in spring by casting eggs onto substrate, and females often migrate upstream but can be blocked by dams. Females mature after 2 or 3 years (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Fecundity ranges from 100,000–300,000 and averages 146,000 eggs per female (Jaric et al. 2015).
Means of Introduction: Skipjack Herring may enter the Great Lakes via natural dispersal from flooding or through constructed canals. This species occurs within 20 km of Lake Michigan, but is barred by the Aquatic Nuisance Species Barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Between 1989 and 1993, three reports of Skipjack Herring in Lake Michigan were made by Wisconsin commercial fishermen. It likely gained access to Lake Michigan via the canal prior to the construction of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Barrier (Fago 1993). Unknown in West Virginia.
Status: Reported from Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Great Lakes: Only four reports of Skipjack Herring in the Great Lakes have been made to date (Fago 1993; USACE 2009). However, without additional reports of specimens in the Great Lakes the status of this species in the Great Lakes is unknown (Ricciardi 2006). A report of Skipjack Herring from Lake Erie was rejected by Trautman (1981).
Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.
References: (click for full references)
Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/EcoNatRes.FishesWI.
Coutant, C.C. 1977. Compilation of temperature preference data. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 34(5):739–745. https://doi.org/10.1139/f77-115.
Dembkowski, D.J., and L.E. Miranda. 2014. Environmental variables measured at multiple spatial scales exert uneven influence on fish assemblages of floodplain lakes. Hydrobiologia 721(1):129–144. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-013-1655-x.
Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.
Fago, D. 1993. Skipjack herring, Alosa chrysochloris, expanding its range into the Great Lakes. Canadian Field-Naturalist 107:352-353.
Jaric, I. J. Gessner, and M. Lenhardt. 2015. A life-table metamodel to support the management of data deficient species, exemplified in sturgeons and shads. Environmental Biology of Fishes 98:2337–2352. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-015-0439-8.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR). 2021. Rare Species Guide: Alosa chrysochloris. https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/rsg/profile.html?action=elementDetail&selectedElement=AFCFA01030. Accessed on 10/27/2021.
Miranda, L.E., and K.J. Killgore. 2014. Fish depth distributions in the lower Mississippi River. River Research and Applications 30:347–359. https://doi.org/10.1002/rra.2652.
Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.
Ricciardi, A. 2006. Patterns of invasion in the Laurentian Great Lakes in relation to changes in vector activity. Diversity and Distributions 12:425-433. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1366-9516.2006.00262.x.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). 2009. Skipjack herring. Chicago District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago, IL. https://glmris.anl.gov/documents/docs/ans/Alosa_chrysochloris.pdf.
Whitehead, J.P. 1985. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 7. Clupeoid Fishes of the World (Suborder Clupeoidei). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the herrings, sardines, pilchards, sprats, anchovies and wolf-herrings. Part 1 - Chirocentridae, Clupeidae and Pristigasteridae. Volume FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125, Vol. 7. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR). 2020. Endangered Resources: Skipjack Herring (Alosa chrysochloris). https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/EndangeredResources/Animals.asp?mode=detail&SpecCode=AFCFA01030. Created on 10/08/2020. Accessed on 10/27/2021.
Bartos, A., and P. Fuller
Revision Date: 4/19/2022
Peer Review Date: 4/8/2022
Bartos, A., and P. Fuller, 2023, Alosa chrysochloris (Rafinesque, 1820): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=489, Revision Date: 4/19/2022, Peer Review Date: 4/8/2022, Access Date: 12/7/2023
This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.