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27 Fish that Migrate (A to Z List with Pictures)

27 Fish that Migrate

Examples of fish that migrate include alewives, American paddlefish, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, and beluga sturgeon.

Migrating fish swim thousands of miles in search of food, spawning grounds, and better living conditions due to seasonal changes. Some species, like salmon, even travel upriver to lay their eggs.

Let’s take a look at some examples of fish that migrate and why they do it.

Examples of Fish that Migrate

1. Alewives

Scientific NameAlosa pseudoharengus
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethe Atlantic Ocean and the lakes and streams that drain it from Newfoundland to North Carolina

These small, silvery fish migrate in large schools in late spring from the ocean into estuaries and rivers to spawn.

Related Article: 13 Fish that Look Like Dragons

2. American Paddlefish

Scientific NamePolyodon spathula
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethe Mississippi River basin from New York to Montana and south to the Gulf of Mexico

The American paddlefish is a freshwater fish that is native to North America. It can grow to be over six feet long and weigh over 200 pounds. The American paddlefish migrates in search of food. plankton, which it feeds on, is more abundant in certain areas at different times of the year.

3. Atlantic Cod

Atlantic Cod
Scientific NameGadus morhua
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethroughout the northern Atlantic ocean, from Greenland to North Carolina on the western side, and in Scandinavia

The Atlantic cod is a migratory fish that swims in the ocean waters off the coast of North America. Every year, they migrate south to escape the cold weather and find better feeding grounds. In the spring, they return to their northern homes to spawn.

4. Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic Salmon
Scientific NameSalmo salar
Type of AnimalFish
RangeNorth America, Iceland, Greenland, Europe, and Russia

Atlantic salmon are born in freshwater rivers, but they spend most of their lives in the ocean. Around the time they reach sexual maturity, typically after 3-5 years, they return to their natal river to spawn. After spawning, they die.

The journey back to their natal river can be thousands of miles long and is fraught with danger, including predators, parasites, and disease. But the urge to reproduce is strong, and salmon will risk everything to make it back to their birthplace to lay their eggs.

5. Beluga Sturgeon

beluga sturgeon
Scientific NameHuso huso
Type of AnimalFish
RangePonto-Caspian Sea region includes the Caspian Sea (the largest inland body of water in the world) as well as the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea

The Beluga Sturgeon is a large, white fish that can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds. They are found in the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean and migrate to the warmer waters of the Caspian Sea to spawn.

6. Black Sea Salmon

Scientific NameSalmo labrax
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethe northern Black Sea coasts and inflowing

The Black Sea salmon is a species of migratory fish that is found in the Black Sea and the adjacent rivers. Salmon migrate in order to breed and lay their eggs in freshwater rivers. After hatching, the young salmon spend several months in freshwater before migrating to the sea where they spend the majority of their lives.

7. Blue Cod

Blue Cod
Scientific NameParapercis colias
Type of AnimalFish
RangeNew Zealand in shallow waters around the rocky coasts

Found in the waters around New Zealand, blue cod migrate in search of food. Their diet consists mainly of small invertebrates, so they move to areas where these creatures are abundant.

8. Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon
Scientific NameOncorhynchus tshawytscha
Type of AnimalFish
RangeMonterey Bay area of California to the Chukchi Sea area of Alaska

The Chinook salmon is the largest species of Pacific salmon. They can grow up to four feet long and weigh over 60 pounds. Every year, Chinook salmon migrate from the ocean upriver to lay their eggs in freshwater streams. After hatching, the young salmon spend a few years in freshwater before migrating back to the ocean to live out the rest of their lives. The Chinook salmon’s annual migration can be over 3,000 km long.

9. Chum Salmon

Chum Salmon
Scientific NameOncorhynchus keta
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethroughout the North Pacific Ocean and range from the Arctic coast of Canada and throughout the northern coastal regions of North America and Asia

Chum salmon are found in the northern Pacific Ocean and migrate to spawn in rivers in Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington. Every fall, chum salmon leave the ocean and swim upriver to lay their eggs in freshwater gravel beds.

10. Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon
Scientific NameOncorhynchus kisutch
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethroughout the North Pacific Ocean and in most coastal streams and rivers from Alaska to central California

Every fall, coho salmon migrate from the Pacific Ocean back to their freshwater birthplace to spawn. The journey can be over 1,000 miles long and requires them to swim upstream through rivers and creeks.

11. European Eel

European Eel
Scientific NameAnguilla anguilla
Type of AnimalFish
Rangefrom the northern reaches of Russia and Finland all the way down to the coasts of Morocco, Egypt, and even within the Black Sea

The European eel is a long, snake-like fish that can be found in rivers and lakes all across Europe. Every year, millions of eels migrate from their homes in freshwater to the Atlantic Ocean to mate and lay eggs.

12. European Sea Sturgeon

European Sea Sturgeon
Scientific NameAcipenser sturio
Type of AnimalFish
Rangeon the coasts of Europe, except in the northernmost regions and the Baltic region

These fish can grow up to 20 feet long and live in the Atlantic Ocean. Every spring, they migrate from the Mediterranean Sea into the Black Sea to spawn.

13. Green Sturgeon

Green Sturgeon
Scientific NameAcipenser medirostris
Type of AnimalFish
Rangefrom Alaska to Mexico but are most commonly encountered north of Point Conception, California

The green sturgeon is a large fish that can live up to 60 years. It is found in the Pacific Ocean from Alaska to central California. Every year, adult green sturgeons migrate upstream to spawn in rivers. After spawning, they return to the ocean.

14. Hawaiian Freshwater Goby

Hawaiian Freshwater Goby
Scientific NameLentipes concolor
Type of AnimalFish
RangeHawaii, where it occurs in mountain streams

The Hawaiian freshwater goby is a small fish that is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. It is found in streams and rivers on all of the main islands, except for Kahoʻolawe.

These fish migrate in search of food and better living conditions. During the wet season, the gobies move to higher elevations in search of food. As the water level lowers in the dry season, the fish move to lower elevations where there is more water.

15. Herring

Scientific NameClupea harengus
Type of AnimalFish
Rangeshallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans, including the Baltic Sea, as well as off the west coast of South America

Herring migrate in large schools, sometimes consisting of millions of fish. They travel to find food or to escape predators. Herring have a special sense called lateral line which allows them to sense movement in the water around them. This sense helps them stay together in large groups while they are migrating.

16. Lake Sturgeon

Lake Sturgeon
Scientific NameAcipenser fulvescens
Type of AnimalFish
RangeNorth America from the Hudson Bay to the Mississippi River

These giant freshwater fish can grow up to 7 feet long and live for over 100 years! They are bottom-feeders and eat things like insects, crayfish, and small fish.

Every spring, sturgeon migrate upstream to lay their eggs in rivers and streams. After spawning, they head back downstream to the lakes where they spend the rest of the year.

17. Mekong Giant Catfish

Mekong Giant Catfish
Scientific NamePangasianodon gigas
Type of AnimalFish
RangeMyanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam

The Mekong giant catfish lives in the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. It can grow to be over 10 feet long and weigh up to 660 pounds. The fish is endangered and is only found in this one river.

During the dry season, the water level in the Mekong River drops significantly. This forces the fish to migrate to deeper waters in order to find food and avoid being stranded on land.

18. North American Eel

North American Eel
Scientific NameAnguilla rostrata
Type of AnimalFish
Rangealong the Atlantic coast including the Chesapeake Bay and the Hudson River and as far north as the Saint Lawrence River region

Eels are a type of fish that spend most of their lives in freshwater rivers and lakes, but they must return to the ocean to spawn.

Some eels travel as far as 3,700 miles from North America to the Sargasso Sea in order to mate and lay their eggs.

19. Red Tuna

Bluefin Tuna
Scientific NameThunnus thynnus
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethroughout the North Atlantic Ocean

Red tuna migrate to different areas in search of food. As the water temperatures change, so does the location of their prey. In order to follow their food source, red tuna must migrate to where the food is plentiful.

20. Russian Sturgeon

Russian Sturgeon
Scientific NameAcipenser gueldenstaedtii
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethe rivers of Russia and occurs eastward to Lake Baikal

The Russian sturgeon is a species of fish that is found in the Black and Caspian seas. They can grow to be up to six feet long and weigh over 200 pounds. These fish migrate in order to spawn. They travel from the Black sea into the River Danube where they lay their eggs.

21. Shad

Gizzard Shad
Scientific NameAlosa sapidissima
Type of AnimalFish
Rangealong the Atlantic coast of North America from Newfoundland to Florida

These fish travel up the Chesapeake Bay to spawn in the spring. They follow the same path every year, moving from the Atlantic Ocean into freshwater rivers and streams.

22. Shortnose Sturgeon

Shortnose Sturgeon
Scientific NameAcipenser brevirostrum
Type of AnimalFish
Rangerivers and coastal waters from Canada to Florida

The shortnose sturgeon is a threatened species of fish that can be found in the eastern United States. Every year, they migrate up the Hudson River to spawn in the spring. They travel back down the river in the fall.

23. Siberian Sturgeon

Siberian Sturgeon
Scientific NameAcipenser baerii
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethe rivers of Siberia and the Lake Baikal

The Siberian sturgeon is a type of fish that is found in the rivers and lakes of Siberia. Every year, these fish migrate upstream to lay their eggs in the shallow waters near the shore. The journey can be as long as 1,000 miles.

One reason why the Siberian sturgeon migrate is to avoid the cold winters in Siberia. The water temperatures in the rivers and lakes can drop to below freezing, and the sturgeon need to migrate to warmer waters to survive.

24. Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon
Scientific NameOncorhynchus nerka
Type of AnimalFish
RangeAlaska fisheries

Sockeye salmon are anadromous fish, meaning they live in the ocean but return to freshwater to spawn. Every year, sockeye salmon migrate from the ocean back to their natal streams in Alaska and British Columbia. The journey can be over 2,000 miles long and is one of the longest migrations of any vertebrate animal.

25. Steelhead Trout

Steelhead Trout
Scientific NameOncorhynchus mykiss
Type of AnimalFish
Rangethroughout California, Oregon, and Washington

Steelhead trout are a type of salmon that is found in the Pacific Ocean. Every year, they migrate upriver to lay their eggs. The journey can be up to 3,000 miles long.

Steelhead trout migrate in order to find the best possible spawning grounds. Since they lay their eggs in rivers, they need to find stretches of river that are clean and have a good water supply. They also need to find areas where there are lots of other steelhead trout so that their eggs will have a good chance of surviving.

26. White Sturgeon

White Sturgeon
Scientific NameAcipenser transmontanus
Type of AnimalFish
Rangecoastal waters from Ensenada, Mexico, to Alaska

The white sturgeon is a freshwater fish that can grow to be up to 20 feet long and weigh over 1,000 pounds. They are found in rivers and lakes all across North America, from Alaska all the way down to California.

Every year, between late fall and early winter, the white sturgeon migrate upstream to spawn in the shallower waters of rivers and streams. After spawning, they return back downstream to the deeper waters where they spend the rest of the year.

27. White Tuna

Scientific NameLepidocybium flavobrunneum
Type of AnimalFish
Rangetropical and warm temperate waters in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans

White tuna are found in all oceans, but they migrate to different areas at different times of year. In the spring and summer, they move to cooler waters near the poles. In the fall and winter, they move to warmer waters near the equator. They do this to follow their food source – small fish that are also migrating.


There are many different types of fish that migrate. Some migrate to breed, some to find food, and others to escape predators. Migration can be a difficult journey, and many fish don’t survive the trip. But for those that do, migration provides an important way to keep populations healthy and ensure the continuation of their species.

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