Alabama Shad (Alosa alabamae)


This member of the Clupeidae family of herring and shad is an anadromous species virtually ignored by anglers. It does have some commercial significance, however.

Identification

A silvery fish like its other relatives, the Alabama shad has a large terminal mouth, with upper and lower jaws of almost equal length. Its tongue has a single median row of small teeth, there is no lateral line, the posterior of the dorsal fin lacks an elongated slender filament, and there are 18 or fewer anal rays. In general, it is nearly identical to the larger-growing American shad, but an adult fish has 42 to 48 gill rakers on the lower limb of the first gill arch.

Size

The Alabama shad can grow to just over 20 inches but is usually under 15 inches long.

Food/Angling

The feeding habits of this species at sea are unknown but are presumably similar to those of hickory and American shad. The Alabama shad is anadromous and only a potential angling target during upriver spawning migrations, during which time it does not feed. This smallish shad is a largely incidental catch and a rare deliberate angling target.

Other Names

Gulf shad, Ohio shad.

Distribution

This species occurs in the northern Gulf of Mexico, from the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana eastward to the Choctawhatchee River in Florida; it also occurs in rivers from Iowa to Arkansas and across West Virginia.

Habitat/Life history

The Alabama shad is a schooling species that spends most of its life in the ocean; when mature, it returns from early spring through summer to rivers and streams to spawn, inhabiting open water of medium to large rivers. Young shad descend rivers in autumn.
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