Skipjack Herring
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • Close-up gill rakers.
  • Notice that the dorsal fin origin is ahead of the pelvic fin origin; there are 42-50 lateral line scales.
  • Close-up mouth: Notice the very small and difficult to see (easy to feel) teeth in the jaws and on the tongue.
  • Close-up keel: Notice the scales on the saw-like keel.
  • Close-up dorsal fin: There are 17 dorsal rays.
  • Close-up anal fin: There are 18 anal rays.
  • Alternative side view of an adult held by Phil Cochran.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Herrings (Clupeidae)
Mouth and Snout: Slightly superior, upturned, very large obvious maxillary extending almost to the middle of the eye. There are 20-30 gill rakers. The skipjack herring has small teeth that can be seen and felt. No barbels. Body Pattern: The body and fins are solid silvery or golden. There may be a row of dusky shoulder spots. Cycloid scales. Body Shape: Laterally compressed. Typical adult size is 250-450 mm TL (11-16 inches), with a maximum of about 550 mm.
One single dorsal fin without an elongated last ray located in the middle of the back. The anal fin has 17-18 rays, and the tail is deeply forked. The pelvic fins are abdominal and located just below the dorsal fin. The origin of pelvic fins is even with or slightly behind the origin of the dorsal fin. Pelvic abdominal fins with axillary processes. No adipose fin.
Distinguishing Characteristics
Members of the herring family in Wisconsin have a keel-like belly with projecting scales that have a saw-tooth texture. The keel extends from vent forward to isthmus. The skipjack herring has visible teeth in its jaw. Dorsal fin typically with 17 rays, none are longer, and origin forward of origin of pelvic fins. 18 anal fin rays; superior mouth; 20-30 gill rakers on first gill arch; no gular membrane; no lateral line and 53-60 scales in lateral series. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Juveniles are not as deep-bodied as adults.
None known in Wisconsin.
Compare Similar Species
AlewifeScaled, saw-like keel extending from vent forward to isthmus (gill area)
GoldeyeFleshy keel, lacking scales and not saw-like
Herring, SkipjackScaled, saw-like keel extending from vent forward to isthmus (gill area)
MooneyeFleshy keel, lacking scales and not saw-like
Shad, GizzardSaw-like keel
Dorsal Fin Rays
AlewifeTypically 13-14, no elongated rays and origin forward of origin of pelvic rays
GoldeyeLess than 13 rays
Herring, SkipjackTypically 17, no elongated rays and origin forward of origin of pelvic fins
MooneyeLess than 13 rays
Shad, GizzardTypically 10-12 rays with last ray more than three times longer than adjacent ray and dorsal origin behind pelvic origin
Anal Fin Rays
AlewifeTypically 17-18
Herring, SkipjackTypically 18
Shad, GizzardTypically 27-34
AlewifeSuperior mouth and teeth on jaws weak or absent
GoldeyeNo teeth on jaws or tongue
Herring, SkipjackSuperior mouth and teeth on jaws and tongue
MooneyeNo teeth on jaws or tongue
Shad, GizzardNo teeth on jaws or tongue
Gill Rakers
Alewife41-44 on 1st gill arch
Herring, Skipjack20-30 on 1st gill arch
Shad, GizzardAbout 190 on 1st gill arch
Gular Membrane
Herring, SkipjackAbsent
Shad, GizzardAbsent
Lateral Line
AlewifeAbsent, 42-50 scales in lateral series
GoldeyePresent, 57-62 scales in lateral series
Herring, SkipjackAbsent, 53-60 scales in lateral series
MooneyePresent, 52-57 scales in lateral series
Shad, GizzardAbsent, 52-70 scales in lateral series
Similarity Index
AlewifeModerately similar
GoldeyeModerately similar
Herring, SkipjackN/A
MooneyeModerately similar
Shad, GizzardModerately similar
Herring, SkipjackAlso moderately similar to deep-bodied shiners of the minnow family (Cyprinella, Luxilus, Notemigonus, Scardinius)