How to identify an American Shad
This is a silvery fish with a single dorsal fin in the middle of the back. There is a large black spot directly behind the top of the gill cover, followed by 4-27 spots, which are generally smaller than the first. Sometimes there may be a second row of spots below the first, and more rarely, a third row below the second.They closely resemble the hickory shad. The most important physical distinction is in the lower jaw. In the American shad this jaw fits easily into a deep notch under the upper jaw, whereas, in hickory shad the lower jaw protrudes noticeably beyond the upper jaw. Also, the American shad grows considerably larger. Both occur up and down the coasts, but the American shad is predominantly in southern climates.
Where to catch American Shad
The American shad occurs natively east of the Appalachians along the Atlantic coast of North America from Sand Hill River, Labrador to the St. Johns River, Florida. Also, in St. Lawrence River to Lakes Huron and Erie. Between 1871 and 1881 it was introduced into the Sacramento River, California and is today up and down the Pacific coast as far south as Bahia de Todos Santos in upper Baja California, Mexico and as far north as Alaska and the Kamchatka Peninsula, on the Asiatic side. Like the salmons, the American shad is an anadromous fish that ascends coastal rivers to spawn. The following list includes additional details on where to catch this fish: