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What are American Shad?


American shad(Alosa sapidissima)
American shad are flat-sided fish with a green- or greenish-blue back, a row of 3 to 23 dark spots along its silvery sides, and a white belly. Sharp saw-like scales, or scutes, along its belly, distinguish it from other fish. The American shad is the largest member of the herring family with an average weight of two to seven pounds and an average length of 10 to 30 inches.

Shad are found along the Atlantic seaboard from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in eastern Canada to Florida and along the Pacific coast from California to Alaska.

American shad tend to inhabit areas near the bottom in the main river channels. They are very sensitive to water temperature and any dramatic changes in the temperature of its habitat can have a very negative impact on the fish. The ideal habitats for juvenile shad are large reservoirs. However, fish ladders and dam bypasses are necessary to assist in the migration of the American shad past dams.

Spawning Habits
In late March or early June, the shad are prompted by rising temperatures to leave the ocean and return to their freshwater place of birth to spawn. These areas of spawn are rivers or streams, both requiring upstream ventures. Upon entering freshwater, the belly of the shad changes from white to a darker color.
The female shad, carrying 30,000 to 600,000 eggs, joins the male in an area with fine gravel or sandy bottoms to mix the sperm and eggs.
Shortly after spawning, adults will either die or return to the ocean. The current carries the fertilized, transparent eggs downstream. The larvae will hatch in 3 to 10 days.

Food Usage/Selection
American shad are primarily plankton feeders. Depending upon the geographical region, their diet will vary. Copepods, amphipods, shrimp, zooplankton, and other small fish are common food sources.

Sporting Qualities
Sport fishing for American shad is on the rise. They are strong fighting and hard running fish. They can be caught in route to their spawning grounds by use of dip nets, if legal in that body of water, or by angling with artificial lures or bait. Many anglers have more success by offering bright and flashy lures. American shad can be found in large numbers in areas that temporarily or permanently obstruct their run upstream, such as below a shallow riffle, falls or a dam. They can also be found in areas with a deep bend pool and a moderate current.



6/4/2007 9:32:46 PM
Mandy said:

This is good information, but I would like a visual. I am trying to identify a fish that I caught in a freshwater pond. It is small, about four to five inches long and about one and a half inches in body depth. It is flat and all silver. It's fins are a yellowish tint. It only has one fin on it's back and it starts about 1/2 way down it's back. I don't know if maybe this is only a large minnow that was released on someones fishing expedition. I couldn't tell you.


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