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Fish & Wildlife

The San Joaquin River abounds with fish and wildlife. Read on to discover some of the many species that make up the river ecosystem, and how we can act to protect their habitats along the river.

California Roach (Lavinia symmetricus )

 Native: Native Species 

California roach. Captured from the Gualala River.

Gizzard Shad (Dorosoma cepedianum)

Family: Clupeidae, Herrings view all from this family

Description: To 16" (41 cm). Deep, moderately compressed; back dark blue or gray, sides silvery, belly white; 6 or 8 horizontal dusky stripes on upper sides; dusky humeral spot. Head small, mouth small and inferior; adipose eyelid present. Pelvic fin almost directly under origin of dorsal fin. Last ray of dorsal fin elongate, filamentous.

Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)

Family: Petromyzontidae, Lampreys view all from this family

Description: To 33" (84 cm). Eel-like; olive-brown above, usually mottled yellowish-brown on sides, pale below; some have shades of red, blue, and green on sides, others blackish. Mouth without jaws, with numerous rasplike teeth; eyes small; 7 pairs of gill openings. Dorsal fins separated, distinct from caudal fin; no paired or anal finds.

White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)

Family: Acipenseridae, Sturgeons

Description To 12'6" (3.8 m); 1,387 lbs (630 kg). Elongate, rounded in cross section, head slightly flattened; gray above, lighter below. Snout short, broad, pointed; mouth ventral, below eye; 4 long barbels near tip of snout. 38-48 midlateral plates. Tail heterocercal.

Endangered Status The White Sturgeon is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in Idaho and Montana.

Sacramento Perch (Archoplites interruptus)

Family: Centrarchidae, Sunfishes

Description: To 16" (41 cm). Moderately elongate, compressed; back olive to black, sides olive-brown, upper sides mottled with 6-8 irregular olive-brown bars, belly whitish. Mouth large, extends to middle of eye; preopercle and subopercle serrate. 12-13 dorsal fin spines; 6-7 anal fin spines; caudal fin slightly forked.

Prickly Sculpin (Cottus asper)

Family: Cottidae, Sculpins view all from this family

Description: To 12" (30 cm). Elongated, tapered; body often prickly. Brown above, with many dark brown blotches; pale yellow below. 1st dorsal fin spiny, 2nd longer-based, mirrors anal fin; tail fin rounded; pectoral fins fanlike.

Red Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Cool Facts The Red-shouldered Hawk is divided into five subspecies. The four eastern forms contact each other, but the West Coast form is separated from the eastern forms by 1600 km (1000 mi). The northern form is the largest. The form in very southern Florida is the palest, having a gray head and very faint barring on the chest. Although the American Crow often mobs the Red-shouldered Hawk, sometimes the relationship is not so one-sided.

Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus)

(Hypomesus transpacificus)

Federal Listing - Threatened (1993)

State Listing - Threatened (1993)

 General Habitat: Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary


The delta smelt is a small, slender-bodied fish, with a typical adult size of 2-3 inches (55- 70mm standard length) although some may reach lengths up to 5 inches (130mm).

Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

(Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Status: Steelhead-Northern California ESU Federal Threatened 2-06-06. Steelhead-Central California Coast ESU Federal Threatened 2-06-06. Steelhead-South/Central Calif Coast ESU Federal Threatened 2-06-06. Steelhead-Southern California ESU Federal Endangered 2-06-06.

Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Salmon were an important part of the cultures of many indigenous tribes living in the Central Valley; tribes in this region attained some of the highest pre-European-settlement population densities in North America (Yoshiyama 1999). In the mid-1800s, particularly during the California Gold Rush, salmon gained the attention of early European settlers, and commercial harvest of salmon in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers soon became one of California’s major industries (Yoshiyama 1999). Excerpts from Yoshiyama et al. (1996) is provided in Appendix C, which details accounts of the historical distribution of Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin River watershed.

In the San Joaquin River, spring-run Chinook salmon historically spawned as far upstream as the present site of Mammoth Pool Reservoir (River Mile 322), where their upstream migration was historically blocked by a natural velocity barrier (P. Bartholomew, pers. comm., as cited in Yoshiyama et al. 1996). Fall-run Chinook salmon generally spawned lower in the watershed than spring-run Chinook
salmon (CDFG 1957). Th

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