Boating Lifestyle

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Saltwater Fish - Shad


Alosa sapidissima

AKA:  American shad

Distinguishing Markings:

A large member of the herring family with green or greenish blue on the back and silvery sides, white underneath (colors darken when fish enters fresh water to spawn).  The belly with sharp scales, or scutes, forms a distinct keel; one or more dark spots in a row behind operculum.  The lower jaw has a pointed tip that fits into v-shaped notch in upper jaw.



Males average 1 to 2 pounds; females weigh 4 pounds or more and 20 to 24 inches.



American Shad is a schooling and highly migratory species.  Historically, American shad probably spawned in virtually every accessible river and tributary along the Atlantic coast from the Bay of Fundy, Canada to the St. Johns River, Florida.  Blockage on spawning rivers by dams and other impediments, degradation of water quality, and overfishing depleted American shad stocks.  Introduced to Pacific Coast and Columbia River.



Shad are anadromous, they hatch in freshwater, migrate to sea, then return to freshwater to spawn.  Shad are river-specific, each major river along the Atlantic coast appears to have a discrete spawning stock and adults return to their natal river to spawn.


Food Preference:

Feeds on plankton



Early to late spring on East Coast; later on West Coast.  Spawning runs go up into coastal rivers


Fishing Tips:

Tough fighters for anglers using light tackle. Although they are bony, the flesh has good flavor, especially when smoked. The roe is a delicacy.  Use brightly colored mini-jigs, darts, spinners, even a couple of red beads above a bare hook will take shad.


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