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Hickory Shad

Alosa mediocris

The hickory shad is a river herring with a thin, grayish-green body and several spots on the shoulder. (Ellen Edmonson and Hugh Chrisp, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)
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The hickory shad is a river herring with a thin, grayish-green body and several spots on the shoulder. (Ellen Edmonson and Hugh Chrisp, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

The hickory shad is a river herring with a thin, grayish-green body and several spots on the shoulder. It visits the Chesapeake Bay each spring to spawn in freshwater rivers.

Appearance:

  • Thin, grayish-green body
  • Iridescent silver sides and belly
  • Dark shoulder spot followed by several fainter spots
  • Large, easily shed scales that come together at the belly to form a saw-toothed edge
  • Strongly projecting lower jaw
  • Can grow to 2 feet long

Habitat:

  • Lives in coastal ocean waters
  • Spawns in freshwater rivers

Range:

  • Visits the Chesapeake Bay each spring to spawn in freshwater rivers, including the James, Potomac and Susquehanna
  • After spawning, shad move downstream. They leave the Bay by summer.

Feeding:

  • Feeds on small fish, fish eggs and crustaceans

Predators:

  • Larger predatory fish such as bluefish and striped bass

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Shad are anadromous, meaning they live in the ocean and spawn in freshwater rivers
  • From May-early June, migrates to the tidal freshwater river where it was born to spawn
  • Spawning takes place between dusk and midnight
  • After spawning, adults either die or return to the ocean
  • Once they hatch, young of the year grow rapidly as they gradually move downstream
  • In autumn, most young leave the Bay for the ocean
  • Lives 6-10 years

Other Facts:

  • Can be confused with American shad and other alosids. You can distinguish a hickory shad by its strongly projecting lower jaw.
  • Hickory shad have probably never been abundant in the Bay because the Chesapeake is near the fish’s northern limit

Sources and Additional Information:




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