The Sacramento splittail (Pogonichthys macrolepidotus) is a minnow endemic to the highly modified San Francisco Estuary of California, USA and its associated rivers and tributaries. This species is composed of two genetically distinct populations, which, according to field observations and otolith strontium signatures, show largely allopatric distribution patterns as recently hatched juveniles. Juvenile Central Valley splittail are found primarily in the nearly fresh waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries, whereas San Pablo juveniles are found in the typically higher-salinity waters (i.e. up to 10‰) of the Napa and Petaluma Rivers. As the large salinity differences between young-of-year habitats may indicate population-specific differences in salinity tolerance, we hypothesized that juvenile San Pablo and Central Valley splittail populations differ in their response to salinity. In hatchery-born and wild-caught juvenile San Pablo splittail, we found upper salinity tolerances, where mortalities occurred within 336 h of exposure to 16‰ or higher, which was higher than the upper salinity tolerance of 14‰ for wild-caught juvenile Central Valley splittail. This, in conjunction with slower recovery of plasma osmolality, but not ion levels, muscle moisture or gill Na(+),K(+)-ATPase activity, in Central Valley relative to San Pablo splittail during osmoregulatory disturbance provides some support for our hypothesis of inter-population variation in salinity tolerance and osmoregulation. The modestly improved salinity tolerance of San Pablo splittail is consistent with its use of higher-salinity habitats. Although confirmation of the putative adaptive difference through further studies is recommended, this may highlight the need for population-specific management considerations.