International Game Fish Association

Shad, American

(Alosa sapidissima)

(Wilson, 1811); CLUPEIDAE FAMILY; also called common shad, Atlantic shad, Connecticut River shad, North River shad, Potomac shad, Susquehanna shad, white shad, Delaware shad, alose

The American shad occurs natively east of the Appalachians along the Atlantic coast of North America from Sand Hill River, Labrador to the St. John's River, Florida. Also, in the St. Lawrence River to Lakes Huron and Erie. Between 1871 and 1881 it was introduced into the Sacramento River, California and is today up and down the Pacific coast as far south as Bahia de Todos Santos in upper Baja California, Mexico and as far north as Alaska and the Kamchatka Peninsula, on the Asiatic side. Like the salmons, the American shad is an anadromous fish that ascends coastal rivers to spawn.

This is a silvery fish with a single dorsal fin in the middle of the back. There is a large black spot directly behind the top of the gill cover, followed by 4 27 spots, which are generally smaller than the first. Sometimes there may be a second row of spots below the first, and more rarely, a third row below the second.

They closely resemble the hickory shad, Alosa mediocris. The most important physical distinction is in the lower jaw. In the American shad this jaw fits easily into a deep notch under the upper jaw, whereas, in the hickory shad the lower jaw protrudes noticeably beyond the upper jaw. Also, the American shad grows cnsiderably larger. Both occur up and down the coasts, but the American shad is predominant in more northerly climates and the hickory shad is predominant in southern climates.

The American shad is highly regarded by some as a game fish and its white, flaky flesh supports a considerable commercial fishery. The roe is esteemed by some as a substitute caviar

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Current All Tackle Record

11 lbs. 4 ounces.

Similar Species


Shad, hickory