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Skipjack Herring

SKIPJACK HERRING

 

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Alosa chrysochloris

CHARACTERISTICS: Particularly as young individuals, skipjack herring and Alabama shad closely resemble one another and are often confused, but several characteristics separate the two. Skipjack herring are not as deep-bodied as Alabama shad; their maximum body depth at the dorsal fin origin goes 4.6 or more times into the total length (fewer than 4.5 times on Alabama shad). When viewed from the side, the skipjack’s lower jaw, the edge of which is completely pigmented, protrudes considerably in front of its upper jaw. The last ray of the dorsal fin is not elongated into a filament – a useful character for separating species of Alosa from species of the genus Dorosoma. Lateral scales number from 53 to 60; the lateral line is absent. Hildebrand (1963) states that skipjack herring lack dark spot along the side, but he may have based his conclusions on preserved museum specimens. We have observed that large live skipjack frequently have one to three dark spots, but they fade shortly after death.

ADULT SIZE: 12 to 15 in (300 to 370 mm). The current state angling record is 3 pounds, 4 ounces from the Mulberry Fork; it was caught on May 2, 2012.  The state angling record (1 lb, 7 oz) was first established from Holt Reservoir on July 9, 2005. The next record was 2 pounds, fourteen ounces, and was caught below Oliver Lock and Dam in Tuscaloosa County on March 17, 2006.   Subsequently, Bruce Ekstrom caught a 3-pound, 1-ounce skipjack herring on December 31, 2008 from Wheeler Lake.

DISTRIBUTION: Skipjack herring have been collected from almost all river systems in Alabama. The lack of records from the Escatawpa River in Alabama is probably due to sampling with improper gear and the inability to use boat electrofishing gear in the area.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: An inhabitant of surface and midwater areas, this species occurs in rivers, reservoirs, and large streams. Skipjack herring migrate both upstream and downstream in rivers, and individuals will occasionally enter the saline waters of the Mobile Delta. Large numbers of adults congregate in swift-flowing tailrace areas below dams in late March and early April, presumably to spawn. Young individuals are more widely distributed and usually occur alone. As many fishermen know, skipjack will readily strike a small spoon or jig and provide a good battle for their relatively small size. Jigging for skipjacks is a popular sport below Claiborne and Millers Ferry locks and below dams on the Alabama River.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Rafinesque described skipjack herring in 1820.

ETYMOLOGY:
Alosa means shad.
Chrysochloris means gold-green, referring to the greenish color of the backs of live individuals.

Except for the angling record information, the copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.

Additional Information: Skipjack herring are also readily caught below Tennessee River dams and other areas of increased flow rate.  Skipjack are often caught using fly rods in the Smith Lake tailwaters during March and April.

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move a herring or other aquatic organism from one public water to another without a permit.

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