American Shad

Binomial Name: Alosa (Alosa) sapidissima
Family: Clupeidae
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Clupeiformes
Subfamily: Alosinae
Genus: Alosa
Subgenus: A. (Alosa)
Species: A. (A.) sapidissima

Common Names: American Shad. The name “shad” derives from the Old English sceadd, meaning “herring”; it is a cognate to Irish, Welsh, and Scottish Gaelic words for herring.

Habitat: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 is distributed on the North American coast of the North Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Florida, and as an introduced species on the North Pacific coast. The American shad is not closely related to the other North American shads. Rather, it seems to form a lineage that diverged from a common ancestor of the European taxa before these diversified.

Alosa sapidissima, commonly known as American shad, is an anadromous fish that belongs to Clupeidae family and Alosa genus. In North America, there other five species of shad yet Alosa sapidissima is closely associated to European than any of these. It is thought to have evolved from ancestor of European radiation. It spends most of its lives at sea consuming plankton and maturing in large schools. After 3 to 5 years, it makes a spring migration to spawn in their freshwater birth river. In North Carolina, most shad dies after spawning yet shad resides in more northern regions that migrates back to ocean and return in subsequent years to spawn. Historically, the native range of American shad includes river system from southern Labrador, Canada to Northern Florida, USA. This fish weighs 3 pounds (1.4 kg) and 8 pounds (3.6 kg) and possess a delicate flavor when it is cooked.

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.


The spawning fish select sandy or pebbly shallows and deposit their eggs primarily between sundown and midnight. Females release eggs in batches of about 30,000 eggs, though an estimated as many as 156,000 eggs are deposited by very large fish. Total annual egg production is 200,000–600,000 eggs per female with larger fish producing more. In rivers north of Cape Fear, the spent fish, now very emaciated, return to the sea immediately after spawning. In southern rivers, most shad die after spawning.

The eggs are transparent, pale pink, or amber, and being semibuoyant and not sticky like those of other herrings, they roll about on the bottom with the current. The eggs hatch in 12 to 15 days at 52 °F (11 °C), in six to eight days at 63 °F (17 °C), which covers the range characteristic of Maine and Bay of Fundy rivers during the season of incubation.

The fry are about 9 to 10 mm (0.35 to 0.39 in) long. Juvenile shad remain in the rivers until fall, when they move down to salt water; they are now 38 to 114 mm long, resembling their parents in appearance.

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.

Edible Uses:
American shad is eaten smoked, fried or cooked. The meat is very delicious. One of the best ways to deal with shad is to flake out the meat after poaching or smoking. With this method, you can make cold salads, fritters, or cakes out of them. Shad fish are so full-flavored that they play well with garlic, tomato sauce, and/or chili peppers. It is regarded to be flavorful enough that it does not require herbs, sauces and spices. It could be fried, boiled and filleted in butter or baked.

After deboning shad, you can also make fillets slathered in sweet butter and covered with seasoned breadcrumbs. Broil the fish until all components are browned nicely, and serve with a side of mashed potatoes, fries, or green vegetables. An alternative way of making the shad is to make thin cuts perpendicular to the spine, and dust the shad in tempura batter. Simply fry it, and you have a delicious fish. Keep in mind that with the fried method, the process is often time-consuming and requires a surgically sharp knife to perform the technique correctly.

Bony but Delicious:
Because shad fish are very bony, not many eat them. With a pressure cooker, however, you can easily soften up the fine bones so that the fish is edible. Some families even prefer shad to salmon, because the fish is tasty and the eggs are delicious—tasting like a meatball when cooked in some bacon fat.

From an eating standpoint, the American or white shad is a mixed blessing. Shad are richly flavored thanks to a good bit of omega-3 laden fat, but they are among the boniest fish in the world. An old Indian saying says that “A porcupine fled into the water and was turned inside out to become the shad.”

This makes eating a shad fillet something of a fussy business. You eat with one hand and pick away the bones with another. Many people don’t like this two-step, so they either bake the fish into oblivion, which dissolves the filament-like bones, or skip the fish altogether.


Nutritional Value & Health Benefits:
Fish, Shad, American, Cooked, Dry Heat with a serving size of 100 grams has a total of 252 calories with 17.65 grams of fat. The serving size is equivalent to 100 grams of food and contains 158.85 calories from fat. This item is classified as finfish and shellfish products foods.

This food is a good source of protein, selenium, niacin, tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, valine and histidine but is high in cholesterol. Fish, Shad, American, Cooked, Dry Heat is a high fat food because 63.04% of the total calories in this serving come from fat. Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only.


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