Yuba Field Guide Fish Species to Watch

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Yuba Field Guide

A look at our watershed’s sensitive and invasive animal species

Chinook salmon

salmon enews

Lifespan:  1 to 6 (more commonly 2 to 4) years in salt water; 3 to 24 months in fresh water

Temperature Tolerance:

  • Preferred: 5-13oC (41-55oF)
  • Maximum: 24oC (75oF)

General Adult Size:  30 to 50 lbs. – some can be over 100 lbs./considered mature at 36 inches length

Yuba Overview: The Chinook salmon are the largest of any Salmon, and the Lower Yuba River is close to the southern extent of their habitat. Juvenile Chinook will spend anywhere from 3 months to 2 years developing and growing before they head towards the ocean.  The salmon then spend anywhere from 1 to 6 years, generally 2 to 4 years out at sea maturing.

Once ready, the adult fish will do a fall “run” up the Sacramento River and into the Lower Yuba and produce a “redd”.  This nesting area will be used to lay and fertilize the eggs.  The Chinook will remain there to protect the eggs and 3 to 5 months later the eggs will hatch depending on the water temperature.  The adult fish will soon die off and the cycle will continue.



 Steelhead Trout

Lifespan: 1-3 years freshwater; smolting period; 1-2 years at sea; 6

Temperature Tolerance:

  • Preferred: 13OC-16OC (55OF-61OF)
  • Maximum: 24OC (75OF)

General Adult Size: Up to 25 lbs. and up to 30 inches in length

Yuba Overview:  In the upper watershed the Steelhead trout are non-existent due to dams blocking their ability to migrate.  Larger Steelhead no longer

exist in the lower Yuba either due to

 Rainbow Trout

Lifespan:  4 to 6 years but may live up to 11 with ideal habitat

Temperature Tolerance:

  • Preferred: 13OC-16OC (55OF-61OF)
  • Maximum: 24OC (75OF)

General Adult Size: 3 to 12 lbs. and can range from 13 to 25 inches

Yuba Overview:  Rainbow trout are the same species of fish as Steelhead trout, the difference being that Steelhead migrate to the sea for part of their life (anadromous).  These fish have silvery bodies with black spots on their dorsal fin, adipose fin and top side.  The distinct pink to red lateral band is a large trademark for these fish.  As juveniles they have between 6 to 13 parr marks laterally across their body.

Rainbow trout are the only native trout in the Yuba water ways.  These fish seek deep cold pools in the summer time which the South Yuba tends to lack.  The resident inland trout will stay in the same reach of river sometimes staying within a couple hundred meters their entire life.  Female rainbow trout will lay up to 1,000 eggs annually versus a Steelhead which can deposit anywhere from 200 to 12,000 eggs depending on their size (2,000 eggs/2.2lbs of body weight).  Rainbows can be found between 1,500 and 3,500 feet elevation and in isolated pockets above that.


Lifespan: Most growth before age 5, may live up to 16 years

Temperature Tolerance:

  • Preferred: 18OC-28OC (64OF-82OF)
  • Maximum: 38OC (100OF)

General Adult Size: 0.25 to 5 lbs. maximum ever recorded was 32 lbs./mature after 5th year of growth; roughly 10 to 14 inches

Yuba Overview:  Pikeminnow, also called yellow belly, boxhead and bigmouth, have a large presence in the Yuba waterways.  This species is very adaptive and can survive in warmer waters, but are not found above the 2,500 foot elevation line. The Sacramento Pikeminnow became distinct from their closest relative, the Colorado Pikeminnow, between 10 and 17 million years ago.  These fish have been calling the Sacramento River and its tributaries their home for millions of years while the salmon of the area become present roughly 500,000 years ago.

As juvenile fish they are more silvery in color but then as the fish mature, they form a more brown-olive back and a yellow belly.  They have a distinct dark stripe down their side and do not have any spotting.  Juvenile fish will feed on aquatic insects while the adult fish will feed on other fish up to half their size, including their own species.  Generally adult Pikeminnow will swim in pools during the day and move into faster shallow water to feed at dawn and dusk.

Sacramento Sucker

Lifespan: Can live up to 10 years and spawn between ages 4 and 6

Temperature Tolerance:

  • Preferred:
  • Maximum:

General Adult Size: Can grow up to 22 inches in length

Yuba Overview: The Sacramento Sucker can tolerate a variety of habitats but this species thrives in water that is cool and clear and reservoirs of moderate elevation.

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