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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Skipjack Herring (Alosa chrysochloris)



Skipjack Herring (Alosa chrysochloris), listed as Endangered in Wisconsin, prefers open water, larger river lakes and channels below dams. They may congregate in swift currents below dams early in the year. This species have been caught in nearshore areas of Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Spawning does not occur in Wisconsin waters.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Skipjack Herring (Alosa chrysochloris). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Alosa chrysochloris in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication ER-091.

Identification: Readily distinguished from other herrings by their elongate and much compressed body, silvery coloration, protruding lower jaw and the presence of teeth in both jaws. Adult length: 12-16 inches (30.5-40.7cm).

Habitat: Prefer clear, fast waters over sand and gravel in large rivers.

State Distribution: Mississippi River and lower St. Croix River. Nearly extirpated in Wisconsin. A map outlining Pre-1977 and 1997 to Present Distribution is available.

Phenology: A migratory species, skipjacks assemble below dams in spring (probably in an attempt to return upstream from the gulf or the lower Mississippi to spawn). They spawn from late April to mid June, during which time they can be captured by dip or throw nets.

Diet: Skipjacks eat plankton, minnows and larvae of mayflies and caddisflies. They feed in large schools, leaping out of the water while pursuing prey. This name-giving habit starts at dusk and continues until long after dark, when the skipping of many specimens is nearly impossible to follow with the naked eye.

Management Guidelines: Lock-and-dam structures hinder upstream migration of skipjacks during early spring. Few manage to get upstream since they are unable to negotiate the dams or to use bypassing canals. The skipjack is nearly extirpated from Wisconsin, along with the ebony shell (Fusconaia ebena ) and elephant ear (Elliptio crassidens), both state endangered mussels for which the skipjack is the sole host. Mussel larvae cling to the herring's gills until they mature. Two additional mussel species use the skipjack as a host, although not as exclusively as the ebony shell and elephant ear.



Skipjack Herring

Side view adult.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Skipjack Herring

Side view adult.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Skipjack Herring

Adult specimen found dead on the surface. The eye is damaged and the color is faded.

Photo by John Lyons, WDNR.

Skipjack Herring

Skipjack herring.

Photo © Duane Raver.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Skipjack Herring. Only natural communities for which Skipjack Herring is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Natural community Score

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Skipjack Herring. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Skipjack Herring occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

Ecological landscape score
Western Coulee and Ridges 1
Western Prairie 1

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, December 22, 2022