American Shad

The American Shad is bluish-green in color along the top of its body, with silvery sides.

A dark spot is present at the top of the gill flap, which is usually followed by a row of smaller spots along the upper side of the body.

They have a tapering, blunt snout. The lower jaw has a pointed tip that fits into a v-shaped notch in its upper jaw.

American Shad Illustration by Duane Raver, Jr.
Season Ocean/Delaware Bay and Tributaries/Delaware River and Tributaries/Inland Bays:
Open Year-Round

Nanticoke River/Tributaries:
CLOSED – Both commercial and recreational American Shad are CLOSED to harvest on the Nanticoke River and its tributaries
Size Limit No Size Limit
Daily Limit / Person 2
Delaware Range Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay, Delaware River and tributaries, Nanticoke River and tributaries
Abundance in Delaware Waters Abundant
General Habitat and Food Preferences The American Shad spends most of its life at sea, but swims up freshwater rivers to spawn in the spring.

They are primarily a plankton feeder, but will eat small shrimp, and fish eggs.
Did You Know? American Shad are great fighters when hooked, often making long runs with aerial acrobatics. Because of this, the American Shad is known as the “poor man’s Tarpon".

They are the largest of all the shads.
Common Lures and Baits Sinking artificial flies, small jigs, and shad darts are a favorite among American Shad fisherman.
Typical Sizes Caught American Shad are commonly caught in the range of 15 to 20 inches in length by Delaware anglers.
Citation Minimum Length and Weight Live Release Award
Adult: 23 inches minimum
Youth (age 15 and under): 18 inches minimum

Sport Fishing Tournament Award
Adult: 5 pounds minimum
Youth (age 15 and under): 3.5 pounds minimum
Delaware State Record 6 pounds 12 ounces
Bayard Conaway