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American Shad

Alosa sapidissima


Illustration of an american shad
  • Green or greenish-blue back with a metallic luster
  • Silvery sides and white belly (colors darken when fish enters freshwater)
  • Belly with scutes (bone-like projections)
  • One or more dark spots in a row behind operculum
  • Lower jaw with pointed tip that fits into v-shaped notch in upper jaw

Similar Species: Other herrings (menhaden, which are often referred to as “shad,” have a rounder lower jaw tip; American shad is an east coast species)

Size: Up to 20 inches (12 pounds)


Occur from rivers to offshore waters


Enter freshwater to spawn; young remain in freshwater, then move out to sea with age; feed on plankton; important baitfish

Additional Information

State Record:  This species is not currently eligible for a state record.

Fishing Tips and Facts: Plankton feeders, but will strike small, bright spoons or flies. Their roe (as many as 30,000 in a single female) is prized and their flesh is full of fork bones.


Image Credit: © Diane Rome Peebles