Alosa sapidissima
Alosa sapidissima
(American Shad)
Native Transplant
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Alosa sapidissima (Wilson, 1811)

Common name: American Shad

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Smith (1985); Whitehead (1985); Page and Burr (1991); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994).

Size: 75 cm.

Native Range: Atlantic Coast from the Sand Hill River, Labrador, to the St. Johns River, Florida; ascends coastal rivers to spawn (Page and Burr 1991).

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Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: American Shad were first transported to the west coast when the U.S. Fish Commission relocated the species from the Hudson River in New York to the Sacramento River in California in 1871. By 1891, the species had expanded its range along the coast as far north as Alaska (Smith 1896; Skinner 1962; Moyle 1976a; Wydoski and Whitney 1979; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.). Shad were stocked in the Alabama and Cahaba rivers, Alabama (Baird 1878; Bowers 1904). During the late 1800s, American Shad were stocked extensively throughout the western states. Close to three million fish were planted in the Colorado River in Arizona between 1884 and 1886 (Smith 1896), but failed to establish a reproducing population. They were also stocked in the White River, Arkansas, in the 1870s (Baird 1878). American Shad now occur in California as a result of dispersal from initial stockings in the late 1800s (Baird 1874a, 1878; Shebley 1917; Moyle 1976a; Dill and Cordone 1997; Tilmant 1999; Sommer et al. 2001; Matern et al. 2002). They were first stocked in Colorado in 1872 in the Platte River near Denver (Baird 1878; Wiltzius 1985). In the 1870s, shad were stocked in several drainages in Florida including the Aucilla, Chattahoochee, New River in Ft. Lauderdale, Ochlockonee, Suwannee, and St. Lucie (Bowers 1901, 1904). During the 1870s and 1880s, they were also placed in the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers in Georgia (Smiley 1885a; Bowers 1901, 1905). They were stocked in the Bear River, Idaho, several times between 1871 and 1892 with no success (Smith 1896; Popov and Low 1953; Linder 1963; Sigler and Miller 1963; Simpson and Wallace 1978). The Snake River in Idaho now has an established population that is extending its range upstream to Lewiston as impoundments are completed (Simpson and Wallace 1978; Idaho Fish and Game 1990). No date was found to indicate when American Shad were introduced to this river. Two hundred shad from the Hudson River were stocked in Lake Michigan at Chicago, Illinois, in 1871 (a joint venture between the New York and California Fish Commissions) (Smith 1896). Many thousands more were stocked in the following few years (Milner 1874a; Baird 1878). Shad were stocked in the Wabash River, Indiana (Milner 1874a). Shad were found in the Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky in the late 1800s (Baird 1878; Clay 1975). American Shad were stocked in Kansas in the 1880s but did not survive (Miller and Robison 1973). Hartel (1992) reported that shad had been transplanted to nonnative areas of Massachusetts. Shad were stocked in Michigan tributaries to lakes Michigan, Erie, and Huron in the 1870s (Milner 1874a; Baird 1878).  This species is reported in Lake Huron (Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman 2000).  The Pearl and Yazoo rivers in Mississippi were stocked in the mid 1870s (Baird 1878). They were stocked in the Missouri, Black, Chariton, Meramec, and Kaw rivers in Missouri in 1872-1884 (Baird 1878; Pflieger 1971). American Shad were stocked in 1872 into the Mississippi River at St. Paul, Minnesota (Baird 1878; Becker 1983). This species was part of an 1873 shipment of East Coast fishes sent to the West Coast for stocking. The shipment was lost in the Elkhorn River near Omaha, Nebraska, as the result of a railroad bridge collapse (Smith 1896; Morris et al. 1974). Shad were stocked unsuccessfully in the Colorado River, Nevada, in 1884-1886 and in 1946 (Miller and Alcorn 1946; Courtenay 1970; Deacon and Williams 1984). Christie (1972) cites Dymond et al. (1929) in stating the shad were introduced into Lake Ontario, New York, in the 1800s. Smith (1970) reports that 80,000 fry were stocked in Lake Ontario from 1870-1872. Smith (1985) only says that early records from Lake Ontario may represent stocked fish. The last shad was collected in 1931 (Smith 1985). They were stocked in the Allegheny River, New York, in 1872 (Baird 1878). In 1871, 200 were stocked in Lake Erie, Ohio (by the New York and California Fish Commissions). The population did not persist (Smith 1896). Many thousands of shad were stocked in Lake Erie and Ohio River tributaries in the 1870s (Milner 1874a; Baird 1878; Jordan 1882). Between 1870 and 1900, hundreds of thousands of American Shad were stocked in Ohio with no success (Jordan 1882; Trautman 1981). Shad from Maryland were planted in the Willamette River, Oregon, in 1886. The Columbia River also was stocked several times in the late 1800s (Smith 1896, Linder 1963; Wydoski and Whitney 1979). Shad are now established along the whole coast of Oregon (Chapman 1942; Moyle 1976). Shad also were stocked, unsuccessfully, in the Youghiogheny River, Pennsylvania (Baird 1878; Hendricks et al. 1979). The Cumberland, Holston, Eastanalbee, Tennessee, and Forked Deer rivers in Tennessee were stocked in the 1870s (Baird 1878). Texas was stocked repeatedly in the late 1800s without success (Baird 1878; Bean 1882; Baughman 1950; Howells 1992a). The New York and California Fish Commissions formed an alliance through which stock was obtained from the Hudson River and planted in the Bear River, Jordan River, Weber River, Bear Lake and Utah Lake, Utah, several times between 1871 and 1892. This effort was unsuccessful (Baird 1878; Smith 1896; Popov and Low 1953; Linder 1963; Sigler and Miller 1963; Simpson and Wallace 1978). Stocked in the Lake Champlain system, Vermont, in the late 1800s (Milner 1874a; Baird 1878). Shad have been stocked outside of their native range in Virginia in the New (Ohio basin) drainage (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994). American Shad are found in Washington as a result of spread from the introductions into California and stocking in the Columbia River (Smith 1896; Linder 1963; Moyle 1976a; Wydoski and Whitney 1979; Chapman 1942; Cohen 2004). Shad were stocked into the Greenbrier River in West Virginia in the late 1800s, but now are extirpated (Baird 1878; Clay 1975; Stauffer et al. 1995). Shad were introduced twice in the late 1800s into Wisconsin. They were introduced in 1872 into the Mississippi River at St. Paul, Minnesota, and again in 1873, into the Fox River at Appleton (Milner 1874a; Baird 1878; Becker 1983).

Means of Introduction: This species was stocked intentionally in California starting in 1871 (Dill and Cordone 1997), and then spread to Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. It was intentionally stocked in many other areas as well, for forage, food, sport, and commercial fishing. It was accidentally stocked in Nebraska (Smith 1896).

Status: Established in coastal states, including; Alaska, California, Idaho (Snake River), Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. Stocked but extirpated in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho (Bear Lake and Bear River), Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Large spawning runs observed in Oregon and Washington as early as 1876 (Smith 1896; Moyle 1976; Wydoski and Whitney 1979).

Impact of Introduction: A study of A. sapidissima in the Umpqua and Willamette rivers in Oregon revealed that they were infected by the nematode Anisakis simplex, which could pose a health risk to native wildlife and even human consumers if they are undercooked (Shields et al. 2002).

American Shad were introduced into the Columbia River over a century ago and now maintain the largest population known to exist in the world. The presence of so many American Shad likely result in competitive pressures against native salmonids, although no studies have been conducted to quantify those effects (Sanderson et al. 2009). Shad may also compete with other native fishes for space, and could cause migratory delays in salmonids and other anadromous fishes (Hasselman et al. 2012b).

Haskell et al. (2006) studied the zooplankton in the Columbia River during the outmigration of subyearling American Shad and Chinook Salmon. They found that shad eat Daphnia as a major food item. At times the Daphnia disappear from John Day Reservoir. Subyearling Chinook also depend on Daphnia. Because of the large increase in abundance of shad from 1980 to 1994, and the pressure they put on the Daphnia population, they reasoned that the salmon may be affected by these Daphnia declines.

Remarks: Intensive stocking took place in the 1800s in eastern coastal states where populations had declined from overharvesting (Ferguson 1876; Baird 1878; Morse 1905). One such example is the Delaware River, Pennsylvania, which was stocked to help the overfished population recover (Morse 1905). Dill and Cordone (1997) provided a detailed account of shad introductions in California. A small commercial fishery exists for them in the Columbia River. Hasselman et al. (2012a) reviewed the introduction of Americ an Shad to the Pacific Northwest, and some of the factors thought to have enhanced the success of introduction and disperal in this region. Hinrichsen et al. (2013) analyzed the effects of habitat disturbances on the abundance of American Shad in the Columbia River basin, suggesting that dam/reservoir construction (and their associated changes in thermal and water flow patterns) has enhanced American Shad distribution and abundance in the region.

References: (click for full references)

Baughman, J. L. 1950. Random notes on Texas fishes. Texas Journal of Science 2:117-138.

Chapman, W.M. 1942. Alien fishes in the waters of the Pacific Northwest. California Fish and Game. 28(1): 9-15.

Cudmore-Vokey, B. and E.J. Crossman. 2000. Checklists of the fish fauna of the Laurentian Great Lakes and their connecting channels. Can. MS Rpt. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2500: v + 39p.

Deacon, J. E., and J. E. Williams. 1984. Annotated list of the fishes of Nevada. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97(1):103-118.

Ferguson, T. B. 1876. Report of the Commissioners of Fisheries of Maryland to the General Assembly. 1 January 1876. John F. Wiley, Annapolis, MD.

Hartel, K. E. 1992. Non-native fishes known from Massachusetts freshwaters. Occasional Reports of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Fish Department, Cambridge, MA. 2. September. pp. 1-9.

Haskell, C.A., K.F. Tiffan, and D.W. Rondorf. 2006. Food habits of juvenile American shad and dynamics of zooplankton in the lower Columbia River. Northwest Science 80(1):47-64.

Hasselman, D.J., R.A. Hinrichsen, B.A. Shields, and C.C. Ebbesmeyer. 2012a. The rapid establishment, dispersal, and increased abundance of invasive American shad in the Pacific Northwest. Fisheries 37(3):103-114.

Hasselman, D.J., R.A. Hinrichsen, B.A. Shields, and C.C. Ebbesmeyer. 2012b. American shad of the Pacific coast: a harmful invasive species or benign introduction. Fisheries 37(3):115-122.

Hendricks, M. L., J. R. Stauffer, Jr., C. H. Hocutt, and C. R. Gilbert. 1979. A preliminary checklist of the fishes of the Youghiogheny River. Chicago Academy of Sciences, Natural History Miscellanea 203:1-15.

Hinrichsen, R.A., D.J. Hasselman, C.C. Ebbesmeyer, and B.A. Shields. 2013. The role of impoundments, temperature, and discharge on colonization of the Columbia River basin, USA, by nonindigenous American Shad. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 142(4):887-900.

Howells, R. G. 1992a. Annotated list of introduced non-native fishes, mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic plants in Texas waters. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Management Data Series 78, Austin, TX. 19 pp.

Idaho Fish and Game. 1990. Fisheries Management Plan 1991-1995. Appendix I: A list of Idaho fishes and their distribution by drainage. Idaho Fish and Game.

Jenkins, R. E., and N. M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Jordan, D. S. 1882. Report on the fishes of Ohio. Report of the Geological Survey of Ohio 4(1):735-1002.

Linder, A. D. 1963. Idaho's alien fishes. Tebiwa 6(2):12-15.

Matern, S.A., P.B. Moyle, and L.C. Pierce. 2002. Native and alien fishes in a California estuarine marsh: twenty-one years of changing assemblages. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 131: 797-816.

Menhinick, E. F. 1991. The freshwater fishes of North Carolina. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. 227 pp.

Morris, J., L. Morris, and L. Witt. 1974. The fishes of Nebraska. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, NE. 98 pp.

Morse, S. R. 1905. Fresh and salt water fish found in the waters of New Jersey, part I. Annual Report of the New Jersey State Museum. MacCrellish and Quigley, State Province, Trenton, NJ.

Moyle, P. B. 1976a. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Popov, B. H., and J. B. Low. 1953. Game, fur animal, and fish introductions into Utah. Utah State Department of Fish and Game Publication 4, pp. 1-85.

Sanderson, B.L., K.A. Barnas, and A.M.W. Rub. 2009. Nonindigenous species of the Pacific northwest: an overlooked risk to endangered salmon? BioScience 59(3): 245-256.

Shields, B.A., P. Bird, W.J. Liss, K.L. Groves, R. Olson, and P.A. Rossignol. 2002. The nematode Anisakis simplex in American shad (Alosa sapidissima) in two Oregon Rivers. The Journal of Parasitology 88(5): 1033-1035.

Sigler, F. F., and R. R. Miller. 1963. Fishes of Utah. Utah Department of Fish and Game, Salt Lake City, UT. 203 pp.

Simpson, J., and R. Wallace. 1978. Fishes of Idaho. University of Idaho Press, Moscow, ID.

Skinner, J. E. 1962. An historical overview of the fish and wildlife resources of the San Francisco Bay area. California Fish and Game Water Projects Branch Report. 1:225 pp.

Smith, C. L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York state. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY. 522 pp.

Smith, H. M. 1896. A review of the history and results of the attempts to acclimatize fish and other water animals in the Pacific states. Bulletin of the U.S. Fish Commission 15: 379-472.

Sommer, T, B. Harrell, M. Nobriga, R. Brown, P. Moyle, W. Kimmerer, and L. Schemel. 2001. California's Yolo Bypass: Evidence that flood control can be compatible with fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, and agriculture. Fisheries. American Fisheries Society. 26 (8): 6-16.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

Trautman, M. B. 1981. The fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH.

Wiltzius, W. J. 1985. Fish culture and stocking in Colorado, 1872-1978. Division Report 12. Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Wydoski, R.S., and R.R. Whitney. 1979. Inland fishes of Washington. University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 11/4/2013

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2018, Alosa sapidissima (Wilson, 1811): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 11/4/2013, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 1/19/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [1/19/2018].

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