The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Acanthogobius flavimanus
Acanthogobius flavimanus
(Yellowfin Goby)
Marine Fishes

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Acanthogobius flavimanus (Temminck and Schlegel, 1845)

Common name: Yellowfin Goby

Synonyms and Other Names: mahaze, Japanese river goby.

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Distinguishing characteristics, and illustrations or photographs were provided by Berg (1949); Miller and Lea (1972); Moyle (1976); Eschmeyer et al. (1983); and Masuda et al. (1984). The species was included in keys of Berg (1949); Miller and Lea (1972); and Moyle (1976). Yellowfin goby is the largest species of goby occurring in California estuaries. It is distinguished from the longjaw mudsucker Gillichthys mirabilis (another large goby species found in California estuaries) by the size of the mouth (does not extend past eye in A. flavimanus; extends past eye to near gills in G. mirabilis).

Size: 30 cm.

Native Range: Fresh, brackish and marine. Japan, Korea, and China (Eschmeyer et al. 1983; Masuda et al. 1984; Meng et al. 1994).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Introduced to California; the first records in that state were based on two specimens found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region, San Joaquin County, in early 1963. The first of these fish was trawled from the lower San Joaquin River near Venice Island, and the second specimen was taken from the Stockton Deepwater Channel near the Calaveras River (Brittan et al. 1963; Shapovalov et al. 1981). The species later was found in surrounding areas including Suisun, San Pablo, and San Francisco bays, the Sacramento Delta, the Yolo Bypass, Bolinas Lagoon, Delta-Mendota Canal, and the San Luis Reservoir in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Merced, Napa (possibly), San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma counties (Brittan et al. 1970; Moyle 1976; Courtenay et al. 1986; Wang 1986; Sommer et al. 2001). Specimens also were taken in Elkhorn Slough, Monterey County (Kukowski 1972; Wang 1986), and Tomales Bay, Moss Landing Harbor, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County (Miller and Lea 1972; Wang 1986; Tilmant 1999). The first records of this species in southern California were from the Los Angeles Harbor area, Los Angeles County, in 1977 (Haaker 1979); subsequently specimens were found in Long Beach Harbor and near the mouth of the Los Angeles River, Los Angeles County; in the San Gabriel River, Upper Newport Bay, and upstream to San Diego Creek, Orange County; and in Ballona Marsh and Mugu Lagoon (Haaker 1979; Allen 1982; Swift et al. 1993). This species was reported as rare or absent from other coastal areas of southern California including Malibu Lagoon, San Onofre, San Mateo, Las Pulgas, and Santa Margarita lagoons, and Morro Bay (Swift et al. 1993). In 1980, the species was reported as occurring in San Diego (perhaps extending as far south as Baja California Norte, Mexico) (Courtenay et al. 1986). Williams et al. (1998) reported them from southeastern San Diego Bay tidal marshes beginning in 1989, but gave the first date for San Diego County as 1984.

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 Acanthogobius flavimanus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
CA1963202326Aliso-San Onofre; California; Calleguas; Los Angeles; Lower Sacramento; Mad-Redwood; Middle San Joaquin-Lower Chowchilla; Monterey Bay; Newport Bay; Pajaro; San Diego; San Francisco Bay; San Francisco Bay; San Francisco Coastal South; San Gabriel; San Joaquin Delta; San Luis Rey-Escondido; San Pablo Bay; Santa Clara; Santa Margarita; Santa Monica Bay; Seal Beach; Suisun Bay; Tomales-Drake Bays; Upper Mokelumne; Upper Yuba

Table last updated 6/23/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Yellowfin goby is primarily a benthic omnivore with a relatively broad diet, including invertebrates (amphipods, bivalves, chironomids, copepods, cumaceans, oligochaetes, ostracods, polychaetes, tanaids) and small fishes (e.g., arrow gobies Clevelandia ios, juvenile topsmelt Atherinops affinis, sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus) (Baker 1979; Williams et al. 1998; Workman and Merz 2007; Cohen and Bollens 2008). Ontogenetic diet shifts occur in yellowfin gobies, with larvae and juveniles consuming smaller prey species (e.g., harpacticoid copepods) and adults targeting larger prey items (e.g., polychates and small fishes) (Kanou et al. 2004; 2005).

Spawning in yellowfin gobies generally occurs from December to July (Dotu and Mito 1955; Wang 1986). Males construct and guard a Y-shaped burrow in intertidal mudflats where salinity is greater than 5 ppt (Dotu and Mito 1955; Wang 1986). Reproduction does not occur at salinities below 5 ppt, and freshwater populations in the San Joaquin River basin migrate downstream to areas of higher salinity to spawn (Wang 2011). Eggs incubate for 28 days before hatching, and planktonic larvae use tidal currents to migrate upstream into the upper estuaries and tidal sloughs (Wang 2011). In California, yellowfin gobies reach maturity in 2-3 years (Brittan et al. 1963; Baker 1979).

Means of Introduction: Initial and possibly later introductions were probably by way of ballast water carried in transoceanic ships (Brittan et al. 1963). It also is hypothesized that introduced gobies arrived as eggs on fouling organisms, such as oysters, growing on ship hulls (Hubbs and Miller 1965; Eschmeyer et al. 1983). Although first collected in 1963, the yellowfin goby was probably introduced into California in 1959 or 1960, likely about the same time as the chameleon goby (Brittan et al. 1970; Meng et al. 1994). Once established, this species spread in California, probably as a result of its own dispersal abilities, and sometimes with the aid of currents; in addition, dispersal may have resulted from the species' use as a baitfish (Brittan et al. 1970; Courtenay and Hensley 1979a).

Status: Established in coastal and inland waters of central and southern California.

Impact of Introduction: In at least one saltwater location, yellowfin gobies were reported to have partially replaced Pacific staghorn sculpins Leptocottus armatus (Brittan et al. 1970). There also is concern that the yellowfin goby might outcompete and possibly eliminate freshwater populations of the small and endangered tidewater goby Eucyclogobius newberryi (Moyle 1976). Meng et al. (1994) suggested that environmental disturbances, coupled with the introduction of this and other foreign species, are altering fish communities and hastening declines of native fishes in California. Although Meng et al. (1994) found that the yellowfin goby has an impact on the introduced chameleon goby Tridentiger trigonocephalus, recent investigations have shown this species is actually the shimofuri goby Tridentiger bifasciatus (not the chameleon goby) that occurs in Suisun Bay where the study was conducted (Fleming, personal communication). Hence, it is the shimofuri goby that is affected.

In the San Francisco Estuary system yellowfin gobies are used as a baitfish (both fresh and frozen), being sold with both longjaw mudsucker (Gillichthys mirabillis) and staghorn sculpin (Leptocottus armatus) under the common names "mudsucker" or "bullhead". Young et al. (2017) found that Yellowfin Goby inhabit muddy substrate in the San Francisco Estuary, thus potentially do not have a high impact on the native Prickly Sculpin due to a lack of habitat overlap.

Remarks: The yellowfin goby underwent a population explosion in the San Francisco area in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Brittan et al. 1970). In 1967, a fish kill occurred in the San Luis Reservoir, which receives freshwater from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. About half of the approximately 10,000 fishes killed in this incident were A. flavimanus (Brittan et al. 1970). Apparently another massive die-off occurred in Rodeo Lagoon in 1981 and was thought to be caused by low salinity (<5 ppt) (Wang 1986).

The species first was reported from Suisun Marsh, a portion of the San Francisco Bay estuary, in 1967 (Brittan et al. 1970); by the early 1980s its population in that area had grown and it was reported as the third most abundant fish in 1980-1982 trawl catches by Meng et al. (1994). Recent drought conditions in California have reduced freshwater outflows and may have allowed this goby to gain an advantage over native freshwater and estuarine fishes less able to tolerate high salinity conditions (Herbold et al. 1992; Meng et al. 1994). Meng et al. (1994) presented a figure showing the annual relative abundance of chameleon and yellowfin gobies taken in trawls over the period 1979 to 1992. Brittan et al. (1970), Courtenay and Hensley (1979a), and Lee et al. (1980 et seq.) provided maps showing this species distribution in California.

Voucher specimens: California (CAS 14405; LACM 37711-1, 39764-6, 44205-1).

References: (click for full references)

Baker, J.C. 1979. A contribution to the life history of the yellowfin goby (Acanthogobius flavimanus) in the San Francisco Bay-Delta area. M.S. Thesis, California State University, Sacramento, CA.

Berg, L. S. 1948-1949. Freshwater fishes of the U.S.S.R. and adjacent countries, 4th edition. Three volumes. Translated from Russian, 1962-1965, for the Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation, by Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem, Israel. Volume 1:504 pp.; volume 2:496 pp.; volume 3:510 pp.

Brittan, M., A. Albrecht, and J. Hopkirk. 1963. An oriental goby collected in the San Joaquin River delta near Stockton, California. California Fish and Game 49(4):302-304.

Brittan, M. R., J. D. Hopkirk, J. D. Conners, and M. Martin. 1970. Explosive spread of the oriental goby Acanthogobius flavimanus in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region of California. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 38:207-214.

Cohen, S.R., and S.M. Bollens. 2008. Diet and growth of non-native Mississippi silversides and yellowfin gobies in restored and natural wetlands in the San Francisco Estuary. Marine Ecology Progress Series 368:241-254.

Courtenay, W. R., Jr., and D. A. Hensley. 1979a. Survey of introduced non-native fishes. Phase I Report. Introduced exotic fishes in North America: status 1979. Report Submitted to National Fishery Research Laboratory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gainesville, FL.

Courtenay, W. R., Jr., D. A. Hensley, J. N. Taylor, and J. A. McCann. 1986. Distribution of exotic fishes in North America. Pages 675-698 in C. H. Hocutt, and E. O. Wiley, editors. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Dotu, Y., and S. Mito. 1955. On the breeding habits, larvae and young of a goby, Acanthogobius flavimanus (Temminck and Schlegel). Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 4:153-161.

Eschmeyer, W. N., E. S. Herald, and H. Hamann. 1983. A field guide to Pacific Coast fishes of North America. Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA.

Haaker, P. 1979. Two asiatic gobiid fishes, Tridentiger trigonocephalus and Acanothogobius flavimanus, in southern California. Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Science 78:56-61.

Herbold, B. A., A. D. Jassby, and P. B. Moyle. 1992. Status and trends report on aquatic resources in the San Francisco estuary. EPA Public Report, San Francisco, CA.

Hubbs, C. L., and R. R. Miller. 1965. Studies of cyprinodontid fishes. XXII: variation in Lucania parva, its establishment in western United States, and description of a new species from an interior basin in Coahuila, Mexico. Miscellaneous Publications of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology 127. pp. 1-104.

Kanou, K., M. Sano, and H. Kohno. 2004. Food habits of fishes on unvegetated tidal mudflats in Tokyo Bay, central Japan. Fisheries Science 70:978-987.

Kanou, K., M. Sano, and H. Kohno. 2005. Ontogenetic diet shift, feeding rhythm, and daily ration of juvenile yellowfin goby Acanthogobius flavimanus on a tidal mudflat in the Tama River estuary, central Japan. Ichthyological Research 52:319-324.

Kukowski, G. E. 1972. Southern range extension for the yellowfin goby, Acanthogobius flavimanus (Temminck and Schlegel). California Fish and Game 58(4):326-327.

Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

Masuda, H., K. Amaoka, C. Araga, T. Uyeno, and T. Yoshino, editors. 1984. The fishes of the Japanese Archipelago. Tokai University Press. Text: i-xxii + 437 pp.; atlas: pls. 1-370.

Meng, L., P. B. Moyle, and B. Herbold. 1994. Changes in abundance and distribution of native and introduced fishes of Suisun Marsh. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 123:498-507.

Miller, D. J., and R. N. Lea. 1972. Guide to the coastal marine fishes of California. Fish Bulletin of the California Department of Fish and Game 157:1-235.

Moyle, P. B. 1976. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Shapovalov, L., A.J. Cordone, and W.A. Dill. 1981. A list of freshwater and anadromous fishes of California. California Fish and Game. 67(1): 4-38.

Sommer, T., B. Harrell, M. Nobriga, R. Brown, P. Moyle, W. Kimmerer, and L. Schemel. 2001. California's Yolo Bypass: Evidence that flood control can be compatible with fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, and agriculture. Fisheries. American Fisheries Society. 26 (8): 6-16.

Swift, C. C., T. R. Haglund, M. Ruiz, and R. N. Fisher. 1993. The status and distribution of the freshwater fishes of southern California. Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Science 92(3):101-167.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

Wang, J.C.S. 1986. Fishes of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary and Adjacent Waters, California: A Guide to the Early Life Histories. Berkeley Digital Library Project.

Wang, J.C.S. 2011. Fishes of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary and Adjacent Waters, California: a guide to early life histories. Tracy Fish Collection Facility Studies, vol. 44. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region and Denver Technical Service Center.

Williams, G.D., J.S. Desmond, and J.B. Zedler. 1998. Extension of two nonindigenous fishes, Acanthogobius flavimanus and Poecilia latipinna, into San Diego Bay marsh habitats. California Fish and Game 84(1):1-17.

Workman, M.L., and J.E. Merz. 2007. Introduced yellowfin goby Acanthogobius flavimanus: diet and habitat use in the lower Mokelumne River, California. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 5(1): Article 1.

Young, M.J., K.A. Berridge, T. O'Rear, P.B. Moyle, and J.R. Durand. 2017. Habitat partitioning by native and alien fishes and decapods in novel habitats of the upper San Francisco Estuary. Biological Invasions 19(9):2693-2710. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-017-1477-2.

FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 5/7/2019

Peer Review Date: 1/26/2012

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2024, Acanthogobius flavimanus (Temminck and Schlegel, 1845): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=707, Revision Date: 5/7/2019, Peer Review Date: 1/26/2012, Access Date: 6/23/2024

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.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/23/2024].

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