Connecticut State Fish
Atlantic Shad (common name)
Alosa sapidissima (scientific name)
The American shad, a relative of the herring, is silver in color with a blue-green iridescent sheen on its back and a horizontal row of spots on its flank. Shad spawn in freshwater rivers. Juveniles will remain in the freshwater spawning grounds until autumn before moving out to sea, where they will stay until it is time to spawn (at four years of age). Unlike salmon, most shad survive the spawning migration. In southern rivers, however, some fish swim as far as 375 miles inland, and most of these shad die after spawning.
At sea, shad congregate in large schools. In winter they live at greater depths, but from spring to autumn they can be observed by the thousands close to the surface. Shad meat is eaten fresh, salted, and smoked, and their roe is also consumed. The fish were a very important commercial fish for early American settlers. Damming, however, cut off many spawning grounds. The number of shad caught in the Merrimack River in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, for example, declined from 900,000 in 1789 to zero by 1889. Dams, pollution, over-fishing, and the introduction of invasive species have caused a dramatic decline in the fish’s population in its native range along the Atlantic coast. However, the Atlantic shad was successfully introduced to the Pacific Ocean in the 1800s.
Length: Up to 30 in (76 cm); average of 24 in (60 cm)
Weight: Up to 15 lbs (6.8 kg); average of 3 lbs (1.2 kg)
Up to 13 years
Temperate oceans and the rivers that drain into them.
Range: The Atlantic coast from the Bay of Fundy in Newfoundland to northern Florida and the Pacific Coast; from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia to Baja California in Mexico.
Water type: Saltwater, brackish, freshwater
Water temp: 40–63°F (4–17°C)
Elevation: Found at depths of up to 825 feet (250 m) and in inland lakes at elevations of 100 ft (30 m).
Conservation Status: Vulnerable along its native range on the Atlantic coast
Plankton, fish eggs, insect larvae, shrimp, and (very occasionally) small fish.
Spawning frequency: Shad start spawning in January in Georgia, April in Maryland, and June in Canada.
Mating behavior: Group
Egg laying: Females select shallow areas with sand or gravel bottoms to deposit multiple batches of their eggs, usually at night. Females produce 30,000 to 150,000 eggs per batch for a total of as many as 600,000 eggs per female. Eggs are semi-buoyant and not sticky, so they float freely along river bottoms with the current. Several hovering males will fertilize the eggs, which hatch one to two weeks later depending on water temperature.
Sport fish, commercial fish, roe harvesting
Common shad, Connecticut River shad, Potomac shad, white shad, herring jack, American herring
Click to enlarge an image
Raw Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press