Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Alosa sapidissima, American Shad

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dark shoulder spot
lower jaw not projecting, its top edge not rising steeply within mouth
jaw teeth minute/absent
gill rakers 59-73

Alosa sapidissima (Wilson, 1811)

American Shad

Deep bodied, moderately compressed; upper jaw with a distinct central notch into which the lower jaw fits; upper edge of lower jaw not rising steeply within mouth; lower jaw not projecting when mouth is closed; no or minute teeth at front of jaws; 59-73 slender lower gill rakers, upper rakers long, folding down over lower ones; gill rakers on rear surface of upper part of 3rd gill arch; dorsal fin at about mid-body; pelvic fins (i, 8) below dorsal fin; anal fin short and well behind dorsal fin base; a forked tail fin; all of centerline of belly with keel of scutes (hard, spiny scales); no scutes before dorsal fin; scales smooth, well attached.

Upper back blue-green with a metallic lustre, shading to silvery below; a dark spot behind gill cover of adults, sometimes followed by other spots or a second row of spots along side; fins pale green; tail tips sometimes dark.

Reaches 76 cm; IGFA record 5.1 kg.

Coastal pelagic, enters freshwater and brackishwater to spawn.

Depth range: 0-100 m.

Canada to Florida.

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  • Brackish
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Mid Water
  • Near Surface
  • Surface
  • Water column only
  • Water column
  • Estuary
  • Freshwater
FishBase Habitat
  • Pelagic
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Omnivore
  • Data
  • Zooplankton
  • Bony fishes
  • Insects
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
  • Octopus/squid/cuttlefish
Egg Type
  • Benthic
  • Data
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Continent
  • Continent only
  • Extends North of GC
  • GC non-endemic
  • All species
  • Vagrant
Climate Zone
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Temperate (>35N)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 76
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Depth Range Max
  • 100