Hickory Shad

Alosa mediocris

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Lives in coastal ocean waters and spawns in freshwater rivers.

  • Range

    Visits the Chesapeake Bay each spring to spawn in freshwater rivers, including the James, Potomac and Susquehanna. Move downstream after spawning and leave the Bay by summer.

  • Diet

    Feeds on small fish, fish eggs and crustaceans

  • Lifespan

    6 to 10 years

  • Status

    Stable

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

The hickory shad has a thin, grayish-green body with an iridescent silver belly and sides. It has a dark spot on its shoulder followed by several fainter spots. Its large, easily-shed scales come together at the belly to form a saw-toothed edge. It has a strongly projecting lower jaw.

Feeding

Shad feed on small fish, fish eggs and crustaceans.

Predators

Larger predatory fish such as bluefish and striped bass prey on shad.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Shad are anadromous, meaning they live in the ocean and spawn in freshwater rivers. From May to early June, they migrate to the tidal freshwater rivers where they were born to spawn. Spawning takes place between dusk and midnight. After spawning, adults either die or return to the ocean. Once they hatch, young grow rapidly as they gradually move downstream. In autumn, most young leave the Bay for the ocean. Hickory shad live 6 to 10 years.

Did You Know?

  • The hickory shad 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

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Lives in coastal ocean waters and spawns in freshwater rivers.

  • Range

    Visits the Chesapeake Bay each spring to spawn in freshwater rivers, including the James, Potomac and Susquehanna. Move downstream after spawning and leave the Bay by summer.

  • Diet

    Feeds on small fish, fish eggs and crustaceans

  • Lifespan

    6 to 10 years

  • Status

    Stable