The Hickory Shad is gray-green on its back and upper sides, fading to silver. A spot behind the gill plate may be followed by a row of faint spots, often apparent as dark smudges or thumbprint-like marks.
The lower jaw juts out further than the upper jaw, a key identifying feature. The lower jaw can be darkly colored.
They have a deeply forked tail.
Hickory Shad are more slender than an American Shad.