• Family: Clupeidae (Herrings and Shads)
• Other Names: Skipjack, McKinley Shad, or Tennessee Tarpon
• Ohio Status: No special status
• Adult Size: Typically 12-16 inches, can reach 21 inches. Usually weigh 1 pound or less, can reach 3.5 pounds.
• Typical Foods: Feeds on small fish, primarily emerald and channel shiners in the Ohio River.
Skipjack herring are a very silvery fish with a long narrow body that is laterally compressed (nearly flat when lying on their side). They have a large terminal (ending at tip of snout) mouth that extends to below the middle of the eye. The dorsal fin is positioned directly above the pelvic fins and they, like other Alosa sp., lack the greatly extended last dorsal ray of the Dorosoma sp. of shads. Their belly comes to a point with a single row of scales folded over the edge. This gives their belly a sharp saw like edge. Skipjack are very bright silver in color with a darker back. They have some black pigment on the tip of the lower jaw and can have 1-9 dusky or black spots along the upper sides with the most visible one being directly behind the gill opening. Skipjack differ from the closely related alewife by being more elongated and having a larger mouth. Additionally skipjack herring are only found in the Ohio River basin while the alewife is primarily found in Lake Erie.
Habitat and Habits
Skipjack herring are found in larger rivers often in areas of swift current. They avoid very turbid (murky) waters by congregating in the clearer waters of creek mouths during high water. In Ohio this species is only found in the Ohio River and its larger tributaries, particularly the Scioto River. They are often caught on hook and line in the swift waters below the dams on the Ohio River.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Spawning habits of skipjack herring are poorly understood. They are thought to spawn sometime between May and July and may have a prolonged spawning period.