|American Shad Quick Facts|
|Scientific Name:||Alosa sapidissima|
|Origin||Native to Atlantic Coast|
|Colors||Blue and metallic|
|Shapes||Compressed, 76 cm long|
|Flesh colors||Raw: Grayish; Cooked: Pinkish beige to deep brown|
|Major nutrients||Selenium (122.55%)
Vitamin B3 (96.92%)
American shad has silver underbelly, dark blue to green above and paler sides. There is a large dusky spot behind the upper edge of its gill cover which is followed by various small, less distinct and dusky sports. It has laterally compressed body with deeply forked tail fin. The midline of its belly is sharp and saw edged and its scales are large. It has only one anal fin and one dorsal fin. These are the largest members of true herring family and could measure 30 inches long weighing over 9 pounds.
Its predators are birds, bears and large fish such as smallmouth bass, striped bass, blue fish and channel catfish.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
American shad are anadromous i.e. it lives in ocean but spawns in freshwater rivers or streams. Adults migrate to waterway in spring in which they were born to spawn. Female could lay 1, 00,000 to 6, 00,000 eggs. Eggs drift downstream & hatch in 7 to 10 days. Adults die or return to the ocean after spawning. Juveniles stay in nursery areas feeding on terrestrial insects and zooplankton. It has the lifespan of 6 to 10 years.
American shad live in schools near shorelines. The populations which spawn on Eastern Coast assemble off Maine, Massachusetts and in the Bay of Fundy in summer and off Virginia, North Carolina and Florida in winter.
American shad can live from 6 to 10 years in the wild and 9 years average. Migration (from rivers to the sea) places a heavy toll on their bodies and increased migration promotes mortality. Migrating females have 60 % as an average mortality rate during seasons in which they migrate. American shad are anticipated to live 4 to 7 years (average 6 years) in captivity.
Juveniles are omnivores and its diet consists of insect larvae and zooplankton especially copepods and mysids. Once juveniles left spawning areas, they eat more once. As it gets older, American shad broadens diet including small fish, plankton, crustaceans, worms and fish eggs. During migration (in the late months of winter), shad consumes very little food. Thus, as the water temperatures increases in spring, its diet returns to normal.
Native Americans captured shad as a predominant food and European colonists used to keep barrels of salted shad in their homes. Shad were considered the savior fish during Revolutionary War which fed George Washington’s troops after the harsh winter of 1778. The harvest of other herring and shad from Potomac River added income Washington made on the plantation of Mount Vernon.
Over 19th century, fishermen congregated to region’s river for spring shad spawning runs. Often the fish were prepared though planking method (tacking fish to wooden boards and smoking them to an open fire). This tradition is honored by some communities that continue to hold festivals.
How to Eat
- Shad is used fresh, smoked or salted.
- Roe is consumed broiled, fried and baked.
- It is boiled, filleted & fried in butter and baked.
- Usually fillets are baked or broiled.
- Shad roe is sautéed in butter or cooked in white wine.
- They are the largest member of herring fish family.
- The term sapidissima refers most savory and most delicious.
- It is found along east coast of North America from Newfoundland to Florida and is most abundant from Connecticut to North Carolina.
- Most of the time, they lives in coastal ocean waters but they migrate back to rivers every year where they hatched to spawn.
- During its lifetime, shad swim over 12000 miles.
- The recorded largest American shad is about 2 feet and 6 inches long.
- In Maryland, an oldest American shad recorded was 11 years old.
- In Chesapeake Bay region, shad roe is regarded as delicacy.