Because of our complicated geological history and challenging aquatic environments, California has a relatively small number of freshwater fishes, including 66 native freshwater, estuarine or anadromous species (Moyle 2002). Nonetheless, this small number of species has huge impact in many ways on the state.  According to Moyle (2002), the Central Valley has 28 native species, 40 introduced species for a total of 68 species of fishes. Of those, 8 are at risk of extinction and 3 already are extinct.  The following table is modified from Table 1 in Moyle (2002).  CA=found in California; Regional=located in the 2d (Sacramento-San Joaquin Zoogeographic Province); Campus=likely to be seen near campus in the Lower American River. (codes: N=Native, E=Extinct Native, I=Introduced, ?=uncertain status, 0=occasional marine visitor (not counted), *=at risk of extinction

Species CA   Regional Central Valley Campus
. n=native, I=intro
Pacific lamprey CA SJ N CSUS Pacific Lamprey
Pit-Klamath brook lamprey CA SJ n
River lamprey CA SJ N CSUS River Lamprey ammocoete
Kern brook lamprey CA SJ N n
Western brook lamprey CA SJ n
Klamath River lamprey CA
White sturgeon CA SJ N n
Green sturgeon CA SJ N* n
American shad I CSUS American Shad
Threadfin shad I
Common carp I
Goldfish I
Golden shiner I
Tui chub CA SJ I
Thicktail chub CA SJ E
Blue chub CA
Arroyo chub CA
Bonytail CA
Lahontan redside CA SJ* I
Red shiner I
Fathead minnow I
Hitch CA SJ N*
California roach CA SJ N
Sacramento blackfish CA SJ N
Sacramento splittail CA SJ N*
Clear Lake splittail CA SJ
Hardhead CA N
Sacramento pikeminnow CA N CSUS Sacramento Pikeminnow
Colorado pikeminnow CA
Speckled dace CA N
Mountain sucker CA I
Santa Ana sucker CA
Sacramento sucker CA N CSUS Sacramento Sucker
Modoc sucker CA
Tahoe sucker CA
Owens sucker CA
Klamath largescale sucker CA
Klamath smallscale sucker CA
Lost River sucker CA
Shortnose sucker CA
Razorback sucker CA
Flannelmouth sucker CA
Blue catfish I
Channel catfish I
White catfish I
Brown bullhead I
Black bullhead I
Delta smelt CA N*
Wakasagi I
Longfin smelt CA N*
Eulachon CA
Coho salmon CA E
Chinook salmon CA N CSUS Chinook Salmon parr
Kokanee I
Pink salmon CA
Chum salmon CA
Rainbow trout/Steelhead trout CA N CSUS Rainbow Trout
Cutthroat trout CA I
Brown trout I
Brook trout I
Lake trout I
Bull trout CA E
Rainwater killifish I
Western Mosquitofish I CSUS Western Mosquitofish
Striped mullet CA
Topsmelt CA 0
California killifish CA
Inland silverside I
Desert pupfish CA
Owens pupfish CA
Amaragosa pupfish CA
Salt Creek pupfish CA
Threespine stickleback CA N
Prickly sculpin CA N CSUS Prickly Sculpin
Coastrange sculpin CA
Riffle sculpin CA N
Pit sculpin CA ?
Reticulate sculpin CA
Marbled sculpin CA
Paiute sculpin CA
Rough sculpin CA
Striped bass I CSUS Striped Bass
White bass I
Sacramento perch CA N ?
Black crappie I
White crappie I
Warmouth I
Green sunfish I
Bluegill I
Pumpkinseed I
Redear sunfish I
Largemouth bass I CSUS Largemouth Bass
Spotted bass I
Smallmouth bass I
Redeye bass I
Yellow perch I
Bigscale logperch I
Tule perch CA N CSUS Tule Perch
Shiner perch CA 0
Tidewater goby CA E
Longjaw mudsucker CA 0
Starry flounder CA N

Where to see fishes

There are several good locations for seeing fishes in the Lower American River, including some right on campus. If you walk out on the Guy West bridge and look down, at the right time of the year, you can see Chinook salmon and steelhead/rainbow trout swimming up and down the river.

The American River Parkway runs adjacent to the Lower American River and there are many spots to look at the river such as the Howe Avenue Access Point. I have seen Mosquitofish in the shallow pool right there. You can also see fish by swimming or snorkeling, and possibly while kayaking or paddle-boarding.  However, BE VERY CAREFUL: currents in the American River can be extremely dangerous. ALWAYS wear a life-jacket or floatation device, even if you think you are a fantastic swimmer. People drown every year in the American River who think that they are great swimmers.  You simply cannot fight the current. If you do find yourself caught in a current, go with the current, i.e., downstream, angling towards the shore. NEVER try to swim upstream or directly to the shore; you will get too tired, too soon.


Moyle, P.B. (2002) Inland Fishes of California. Revised and Expanded Edition. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.