Alosa chrysochloris

skipjack herring



Type Locality

Ohio River (Rafinesque 1820).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Alosa, Latin name for shad; chrysochloris, Greek for “golden green”, in reference to color of the back (Pflieger 1975). Common name derived from the herring’s habit of leaping out of the water (Smith 1979).



Pomolobus chrysochloris Rafinesque 1820:39; Hildebrand 1963:315.

Clupea chrysochloris Hay 1881:502, 1883:67.

Alosa chrysochloris Cook 1959:67.



Maximum size:  Up to 550 mm, 21.6 in (Pflieger 1975).


Coloration: Back bluish or greenish with silvery reflections, shading to silver-white on sides and belly (Pflieger 1975).


Teeth count: Small teeth on tongue in 2 – 4 rows (Pflieger 1975).


Counts: Dorsal soft fin rays 16-18, anal soft fin rays 19-20 (18-21), pectoral soft fin rays16-17 (Pflieger 1975). Lateral line scales 51-60, gillrakers less than 30 (usually 20-24)  (Ross 2001).


Body shape:  Laterally compressed (Page and Burr 1991). Body depth contained more than three times in standard length (Hubbs et al 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal (Pflieger 1975; Simon 1999).


Morphology: Fewer than 30 gill rakers below angle of first arch (Hubbs et al 1991).  Lateral line is absent and there are no scales on the head; body with cycloid scales.  Adipose eyelid present, abdominal pelvic fins, with an auxiliary process just above the base of each pelvic fin; belly has sharply pointed scales, creating sawtooth edge (Page and Burr 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Native to the Gulf of Mexico (Hubbs et al 1991). Increasing numbers found in Missouri River system since dredging and impoundments have deepened channel and reduced suspended solids (Cross 1975). Extirpated from upper Mississippi system following construction of navigational facilities there, primarily lock and dam at Keokuk, Indiana (Burgess 1980).


Texas distribution: In freshwater known to range at least to Colorado River, Texas (Burgess 1980). Brazos River, Texas (Li and Gelwick 2005).


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, Non-governmental organizations)

Currently Stable (Warren et al 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat:  Prefers clear, deep waters (Burgess 1980). Occasionally found in streams, lakes, and borrow pits in gulf drainages (Hubbs et al 1991). Usually inhabits deep and swift water, and avoids turbid waters (Trautman 1957).


Mesohabitat: Schooling species usually in current over sand or gravel (Page and Burr 1991).



Spawning season: From early March to late April in Apalachicola River, FL (Wolf 1969). They are believed to have an extended spawning season, beginning in early May and ending in early July in upper Mississippi (Coker 1930).


Spawning location: Spawning probably occurs in the depths of main channel over coarse sand-gravel bars (Wolfe 1969).


Fecundity: Females averaged 120,973-291,112 ova, with diameters of 0.8-1.0 mm, .003-.040 in (Wolfe 1969). Females produce about 100,000 to 300,000 eggs per year, presumably after 2 to 3 years of growth (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Age at maturation:  At about 300 mm, 11.8 in (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Migration:  Highly migratory, peripheral freshwater species occasionally moving into brackish and marine waters (Burgess 1980). They are able to complete life cycle in fresh water (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Although generally not considered anadromous, skipjack herring do move considerable distances within freshwater (Ross 2001).


Longevity: At least four years (Wolfe 1969).


Food habits:  Both adults and juveniles piscivorous, commonly eating shad; juvenile diet also includes dipterans and other aquatic insects (Wolfe 1969). Adults have been observed feeding at surface on small gizzard and threadfin shad (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Growth: Young may reach total lengths of 75-150 mm (2.9-5.9 in) during their first year (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Easily distinguishable from other clupeids by its elongate and strongly compressed body, silvery coloration, prominently protruding lower jaw, and presence of teeth in both jaws (Smith 1979).  Formerly placed with Pomolobus, recently synonomized with Alosa (Svetovidov 1964). Original description by Rafinesque may have been based on a series containing both Skipjack herring and Alabama shad (Hildebrand 1963).


Host Records

No information at this time. 


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Useful as sport fish (Etnier and Starnes 1993).



Berry, F. H.  1964.  Review and emendation of family Clupeidae by Samuel F. Hildebrand.  Copeia 1964:720-730

Burgess, G. H.  1980.  Alosa chrysochloris (Rafinesque), Skipjack herring.  pp. 63 in D. S. Lee, et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes.  N. C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

Coker, R. E. 1930.  Studies of common fishes of the Mississippi River at Keokuk.  Bull. U. S. Bureau Fish., 45:141-225

Cook, F. A.  1959.  Freshwater Fishes in Mississippi.  Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, Jackson

Cross, F. B. and D. G. Huggins.  1975.  Skipjack Herring, Alosa chrysochloris, in the Missouri River Basin.  Copeia 1975(2):382-385

Etnier, D. A. and W. C. Starnes.  1993.  The Fishes of Tennessee.  The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 681 pp.

Hay, O. P.  1881.  On a collection of fishes from eastern Mississippi.  Proc. U. S. Nat. Mus. 3:488-515

Hay, O. P.  1883.  On a collection of fishes from the lower Mississippi valley.  Bull. U. S. Fish Comm. 2:57-75.

Hildebrand, S. F. 1963.  Family Cluepidae. Vol. 1, pt. 3, pp. 257-454.  Memoir, Sears Foundation of Marine Research, Yale Univ., New Haven, Conn.

Hubbs, C., R. J. Edwards, and G. P.Garrett.  1991.  An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species.  Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56

Li, R. Y. and F. P. Gelwick. 2005. The relationship of environmental factors to spatial and temporal variation of fish assemblages in a floodplain river in Texas, U.S.A.  Ecology of Freshwater Fish 14(4):319-330

Page, Lawrence M., and Brooks M. Burr.  1991.  A Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America, north of Mexico.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 432 pp.

Pflieger, W. L.  1975.  The Fishes of Missouri.  Missouri Department of Conservation  343 pp.

Rafinesque, C. S. 1820.  Ichthyologia Ohiensis or natural history of the fishes inhabiting the River Ohio and its tributary streams, preceded by a physical description of the Ohio and its branches.  W. G. Hunt, Lexington, Ky.

Ross, S. T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi 624 pp.

Simon, T. P. 1999. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press. Boca Raton; London; New York; Washington.

Smith, P. W. 1979.  The Fishes of Illinois.  University of Illinois Press, Chicago,  314 pp.

Svetovidov, A. N.  1964.  Systematics of the North American Anadromous Clupeoid Fishes of the Genera Alosa, Caspialosa, and Pomolobus.  Copeia 1964(1):118-130

Trautman, M. B. 1981.The fishes of Ohio. University of Ohio Press. 782 pp.

Warren, L. W., Jr., B. M. Burr, S. J. Walsh, H. L. Bart, Jr., R. C. Cashner, D. A. Etnier, B. J. Freeman, B. R. Kuhajda, R. L. Mayden, H. W. Robison, S. T. Ross, and W. C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries, Conservation. 25(10):7-29.

Wolfe, J. C. 1969. Biological studies of the skipjack herring, Alosa chrysochloris, in the Apalachiola River, Florida. M.S. Thesis. Florida State University, Tallahassee. 68 pp.