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Don’t Call Me “Skipjack”

One of the frustrations of fish identification is that different fish are called a variety of common names.  Sometimes it depends on who you ask.

That may not be a problem unless you are a pointy-headed fisheries biologist.  Then, calling the right fish by the right name is important.  That does not necessarily mean a person has to go around spouting scientific names, but we can be a little bit “anal” about using the right names for the right fish.

One that comes up all the time, in Nebraska mistakenly used all the time, is “skipjack”.

This is a “skipjack”, skipjack herring.


On occasion skipjack herring can be found in our Nebraska stretch of Missouri River, but they are rare.  So, most of the time, when someone calls a Nebraska fish a “skipjack”, it is actually something else.  Skipjack herring can be caught on rod & reel, often on small jigs.

Gizzard shad are much more common in waters throughout the state, especially large reservoirs.  Unfortunately, some folks will call them “skipjack”.


Gizzard shad are a very prolific baitfish and most will be relatively small, eight inches or less.  However, adult gizzard shad are capable of reaching much larger sizes up to three or four pounds.  Gizzard shad of any size are rarely caught on rod & reel.

Another common resident of the Missouri River and Nebraska tributaries to the Missouri is the goldeye.  Goldeye are the other species that are frequently, mistakenly called “skipjack”.


Goldeye are often caught on rod & reel on a variety of small live and artificial baits.  They actually are a lot of fun to catch.

Goldeye are members of the Mooneye family.  Mooneye look very similar to goldeye, but mooneye have hardly ever been documented from any Nebraska waters.

While I am on the subject.  That is a goldeye.  This is a goldeneye:

NEBRASKAland photo.

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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