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American Shad

American shad (Alosa sapidissima) is a migratory species that has a long history in the Hudson River. Native and colonial Americans fished for shad for sustenance often smoking the flesh and consuming the roe (i.e. eggs) as a delicacy. American shad continued to be an important recreational and commercial fishery throughout the 20th century. However, the Hudson stock has declined in recent years, and as a result, all recreational and commercial fisheries for American shad were closed in 2010.

Current Fishery

  • Recreational and commercial fishing for American shad is prohibited in the Hudson River and the Marine District of New York and any American shad should be immediately released back into the water if they are caught incidentally
  • Consult the Freshwater Fishing Regulation Guide (PDF) for Recreational Delaware River Fishing Regulations (Delaware River and West Branch Delaware River)

Management

an American shad

American shad are managed through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Due to significant declines in coastal landings of American shad, ASMFC recommended a closure of all ocean fishing in 2005. Shortly after, the 2007 ASMFC stock assessment indicated the Hudson River American shad population was severely depleted prompting a complete closure of recreational and commercial fishing in the Hudson River in 2010. Since the closure, the Hudson River population remains depleted based on findings from the most recent 2020 ASMFC benchmark stock assessment (PDF, leaves DEC website). Staff are revising the Hudson River American Shad Recovery Plan, which will define the population goals required to reopen a Hudson River fishery.

The 2020 ASMFC benchmark stock assessment (PDF, leaves DEC website) found the adult mortality for the Delaware River population to be unsustainable. Commercial and recreational fishing in the Delaware River Basin remains open, but requires an ASMFC approved Sustainable Fishing Plan every five years. The current Delaware River Sustainable Fishing Plan for American Shad (PDF, leaves DEC website) will soon be revised by NYSDEC staff and other members of the Delaware Basin Fish and Wildlife Cooperative (Delaware Coop) for 2022-2026.

Long-term Monitoring Programs

Hudson River Fisheries Unit staff pulling a beach seine

NYSDEC maintains three long-term monitoring programs for American shad:

Hudson River Spawning Stock Survey

Since 1985, a 500 foot haul seine and an electrofishing boat are used from April though June to catch spawning American shad. Length, weight, and sex information is recorded and scale samples for aging are collected from the fish before being tagged and returned to the river.

Hudson River Young of Year Survey

Since 1980, a 100 foot seine is used from June through October to catch newly hatched young of year American shad. The fish are counted and measured and average catch rates are calculated. View a graph of the Hudson River young of year abundance index.

Non-tidal Delaware River Young of Year Survey

Since 1988, a 200 foot seine is used from August through October to collect newly hatched young of year American shad in the non-tidal portion of the Delaware River. Sampling is managed jointly with the Delaware Coop. View a graph of the non-tidal Delaware River young of year abundance index.

Additional Research

Acoustic Tagging

Biologist holding a Hudson River American shad

From 2009-2012, the NYSDEC acoustically tagged 174 adult American shad to better understand in-river movements and the location of spawning sites. The majority of tagged fish exhibited oscillated upstream and downstream movement patterns during the spawning run which may be related to spawning ground selection, batch spawning, foraging, or physiological tolerances.

Genetics

In collaboration with Cornell University, we are sequencing the genome of various Atlantic coast stocks of American shad to identify areas of polymorphism that may be indicative of stock of origin. This research will aid in the develop a genetic baseline for coast wide stocks to help estimate the harvest of Hudson River American shad from various fisheries in federal waters off the Mid-Atlantic and New England Coast.


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