Samples of resident biota and bed sediments were collected in 1992 from 18 sites on or near the floor of the San Joaquin Valley, California, for analysis of 33 organochlorine compounds. The sites were divided into five groups on the basis of physiographic region and land use. Ten compounds were detected in tissue, and 15 compounds were detected in bed sediment. The most frequently detected compound in both media was p,p'-DDE. Concentrations of ??DDT (sum of o,p'- and p, p' forms of DDD, DDE, and DDT) were statistically different among groups of sites for both tissue and sediment (Kruskal- Wallis, p < 0.05). Concentrations in both media were highest in streams draining the west side of the valley. Concentrations of ??DDT in tissue were significantly correlated with specific conductance, pH, and total alkalinity (p < 0.05), which are indicators of the proportion of irrigation return flows in stream discharge. Concentrations in sediment on a dry-weight basis were not correlated with these water-quality parameters, but total organic carbon (TOC) normalized concentrations were significantly correlated with specific conductance and pH (p < 0.05). Regressions of the concentration of ??DDT in tissue, as a function of ??DDT in bed sediment, were significant and explained up to 76% of the variance in the data. The concentration of ??DDT in sediment may be related to mechanisms of soil transport to surface water with bioavailability of compounds related to the concentration of TOC in sediment. The results of this study did not indicate any clear advantage to using either bed sediment or tissues in studies of organochlorine chemicals in the environment. Some guidelines for protection of fish and wildlife were exceeded. Concentrations of organochlorine chemicals in biota, and perhaps sediment, have declined from concentrations measured in the 1970s and 1980s, but remain high compared to other regions of the United States.