Freshwater fish evolved from anadromous ancestors can be found in almost all continents. The roles of paleogeographic events and nature selection in speciation process often are under focus of research. We studied genetic diversity of anadromous and resident tapertail anchovies (Coilia nasus species complex) in the Yangtze River Basin using 4,434 nuclear loci, and tested the history of freshwater invasion of C. nasus. We found that both C. brachygnathus and C. nasus were valid species, but the resident C. nasus taihuensis and the anadromous C. nasus were not different genetically based on Bayes factor species delimitation (BFD*). Maximum likelihood tree, Network, PCA and STRUCTURE analyses all corroborated the results of BFD*. Two independent freshwater invasion events of C. nasus were supported, with the first event occurring around 4.07 Ma and the second happened around 3.2 Ka. The time of the two freshwater invasions is consistent with different paleogeographic events. Estimation showed that gene flow was higher within ecotypes than between different ecotypes. F‐DIST analyses identified 120 disruptive outliers by comparing C. brachygnathus to anadromous C. nasus, and 21 disruptive outliers by comparing resident C. nasus to anadromous C. nasus. Nine outliers were found to be common between the two comparisons, indicating that independent freshwater invasion of C. nasus might involve similar molecular pathways. The results of this study suggest that adaptation to landlocked freshwater environment of migratory fish can evolve multiple times independently, and morphology of landlocked ecotypes may cause confusion in their taxonomy.