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October 26, 2001

From Salt to Fresh

Many game fish can exist in fresh and salt water.

Q: I have occasionally caught tarpon, which I consider a saltwater fish, in places where the water seems to be mostly fresh. Can tarpon live in pure fresh water? Are there many other fish that can live both in entirely fresh and entirely salt water? - Marianne McNeill, Pembroke Pines, Florida

A: Quite a few fish, including tarpon and snook, can live in all three types of water: salt, brackish and fresh. Salmon and their relatives that travel from salt to fresh water to spawn, including many trouts and chars, constitute one large group of examples. Others include various basses, such as striped bass and white perch; several jacks including permit; some herrings such as American shad; and twenty-some species of sturgeons. Fish require special salt-excreting organs to survive in salt water, otherwise they would dehydrate from drinking the salt water.