The American shad is the largest member of the herring family. Adults commonly weigh four to eight pounds. Female shad are called “roes” while males are referred to as “bucks.”
American shad are highly respected among anglers and are often considered to be among the strongest and hardest-fighting of all freshwater fish.
American shad are anadromous; they begin their lives in freshwater rivers or creeks. After hatching in the spring, young shad grow rapidly, feeding on plankton and aquatic insects.
When water temperatures drop in the fall, young shad migrate to the ocean. Once in the ocean, shad migrate up and down the coast, from their winter range off the mid-Atlantic to their summer range in the Bay of Fundy, off Nova Scotia.
After three to five years at sea, American shad migrate in the spring to the river of their birth where they spawn, completing the lifecycle. Some shad die after spawning. Individuals that survive usually migrate back downstream after spawning.