Fun Shad Facts For Kids

Georgia Stone
Aug 31, 2023 By Georgia Stone
Originally Published on Oct 14, 2021
Shad facts include that the American shad is known for being an important source of food in North America are interesting.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.9 Min

An American shad is a type of herring fish in the family Clupeidae. There are a lot of different species of shad. Some of the commonly known species are the American shad, the Threadfin shad, and Skipjack shad.

While there are species of American shad that are only found in freshwater, most species of shad are anadromous. This means that most species of shad spawn in rivers.

After they hatch, they swim to the ocean (primarily, the Atlantic Ocean) and live in the Atlantic until they become adults. When it is spawning season, which is the time to lay eggs, they swim back to the rivers.

This yearly migration for spawning happens in spring every year, but the exact dates are determined by the water temperatures. This tendency of spawning in freshwater rivers and a deeper dark body is what differentiates the shad from other herring fish.

Having been around for a long time, the shad fish have played an important role in the diet of many cultures. In America, they fed the indigenous peoples and the settlers after that. In fact, the American shad, Alosa sapidissima, is known for feeding the founding fathers of the country.

You may also check out the fact files on sucker fish and milkfish from Kidadl.

Shad Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a shad?

Under the family Clupeidae, the American shad is a type of anadromous herring fish.

What class of animal does a shad belong to?

They are a type of fish classified under the class name Actinopterygii.

How many shads are there in the world?

As all species of shad fish including American shad have the conservation status of Least Concern, the numbers of these fish are not actively monitored. The population numbers of all shad species have been observed to be stable. In the Connecticut River in the United States, about 351,000 American shad were recorded in 2004.

Where does a shad live?

There are a lot of species of shad fish, which are found in a variety of habitats. The anadromous species move from freshwater rivers to the saltwater of the sea. They move up to the rivers to spawn like the American shad.

The American shad is found along the North American Atlantic Coast, from Canada to Florida in the USA. These fish are also found on the Northwest Pacific coast of Russia. These fish were also introduced to the west coast of the USA, starting with San Francisco Bay.

There are many species of shad on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. But there are species of shad that are found in freshwater that is landlocked.

They yearly migrate for spawning which happens in spring every year, but the exact dates are determined by the water temperatures. There are also species of shad found in the brackish water of the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.

They tend to remain close to the water’s surface. But in the winter, just before spawning season, they swim deeper where they later spawn.

What is a shad's habitat?

Most shad fish like the American shad live in freshwater rivers when they are juveniles. Then these fish swim to the Atlantic Ocean, where they live in saltwater until they become adults and can return to their rivers to spawn. This migration happens in the spring.

Who do shads live with?

All shad, including American shad, are schooling fish. This means that all species of shad fish live with others of their own kind in groups called schools. They stick together for safety and generally swim together. During spawning season, they can’t school together in the rivers, but they all travel at the same time.

How long does a shad live?

If you want to know how the shad fish spawn, it's interesting to know that the male shad fish mature earlier than the females. They also tend to die soon after spawning.

Since the average shad fish takes about three years to mature before it can spawn, the average age of male shad is around three to four years.

On the other hand, female shad fish are known to return four to five times to the rivers to spawn. The oldest recorded lifespan of shad is up to 10 years, but this is rare in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

Shad fish have a reproductive process similar to Pacific salmon. After they mature in the sea, when they’re about three to four years old, these fish swim back to the rivers they were born in for the spawning season.

This process happens in spring, though the exact date in spring depends on the temperature of the water. They prefer temperatures between 50-55 F (10-12.7 C).

In the case of the American shad, the fish start to migrate earlier along the south coast. They start in January in the southern states of the USA.

In the northern USA, the spawning dates for American shad vary between April to June to between May and June in the rivers and streams from Delaware to Canada. In places like St. John’s River, Florida, the fish swim very far upstream. Because of this, all these areas are prime American shad fishing areas.

The females and males swim up to the shallows of the rivers or streams and lay eggs in the sandy or pebbly areas. The eggs hatch after around 10 days of being fertilized by the male.

The baby fish stay in the streams and rivers till that fall, feeding on larvae and plankton. Once fall arrives, they migrate to the ocean.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of all species of shad fish, including American shad, is currently Least Concern. However, there are some worrying trends in the numbers because of habitat loss, damming of spawning rivers, and overfishing.

Shad Fun Facts

What do shads look like?

There are a lot of different species of shad, so they all look a bit different. Broadly the tops of their heads and their backs are darker colored. They have silver scales with violet, green, or blue tints to them. Their tails are deeply forked, which means that they have very evidently ‘V’ shaped tails.

They also have a small dorsal fin. Their bodies are also deeper compared to other herring fish. The American shad, Alosa sapidissima, has sharp scales on its belly called scutes.

There are a lot of species of shad in the world, but most of them have silver scales that are tinted blue, green, or violet!

How cute are they?

Shad is a type of fish with no particularly attractive or distinguishing features. They are definitely not the cutest fish in the ocean!

How do they communicate?

Shad fish tend to communicate with each other with their body language. Male shad fish may nudge the females to communicate with them during spawning. When it comes to predators and warning, these fish have evolved to hear sounds. This helps them avoid predators like dolphins which make high-pitched sounds.

How big is a shad?

Many species of shad are good game fish that have good length, including the adult American shad. But the average size based on length ranges between 12-30 in (30.4-76.2 cm) depending on the species.

On the other hand, salmon reach a length between 30-58 in (76.2-147.3 cm). This means that adult shad fish are two times smaller in size in length than salmon!

How fast can a shad swim?

The speeds of different species of shad fish are different. Adult American shad can swim speeds ranging between 0.2-2 mph (0.32-3.2 kph) when they migrate. Twaite shad can average swim speeds between 0.73-3.86 mph (1.1-6.2 kph).

How much does a shad weigh?

Since different species of shad fish come in all sizes and weight, the range of weight of shad fish range from 0.68-12 lb (0.30-5.44 kg). This is much smaller than salmon whose weight can range from 12-126 lb (5.4-57.1 kg)!

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male shad fish are known as bucks, while female shad fish are known as roe. The eggs inside the female are also known as roe.

What would you call a baby shad?

Depending on the stage of their growth, baby fish are known by different names. The shad fish babies are called by the same name as all baby fish. When they are newly hatched, baby fish are called fry. When they grow a little bit and start looking more like small versions of their parents, they are called fingerlings.

What do they eat?

Different species of shad fish eat different kinds of food. When they are babies, they mostly survive on larvae. As they grow older, the adult fish may feed on worms, plankton, small crustaceans, and even other small fish.

Are they eaten by humans?

Yes, shad fish are known for being an important food source for people. In fact, the American shad’s Latin name, Alosa sapidissima, means most delicious herring and is a delicacy. It is known for being the fish that fed the indigenous people, and then the founders of the United States of America.

A lot of fisheries to catch the American shad fish have been established along the coastal rivers and streams. Individuals, besides fisheries, may also choose to fish for shad using baits like flicker shad to reach the right depth in freshwater bodies.

In the northern USA, the spawning time for American shad is between April-June, which is when the fisheries are most active. After April-June, the juvenile fish swim to the ocean in the fall. 

Would they make a good pet?

Shad fish will not make good pets! They are part of the wildlife in the rivers and the ocean and have diets suited to their habitat.

Did you know...

There is a political event in Sussex County in the southern state of Virginia, called shad planking, when the American shad are smoked on wood planks on an open stove.

The serviceberry tree is known as the shad bush in Canada. When this tree blooms, the annual ‘shad run’ is said to have begun.

Do shads have teeth?

Shad fish have small teeth in their jaws. They lose these teeth as they grow, around the time they reach about 1 ft (30.5 cm) in size. The adults have no teeth at all, which is a significant difference from all the other types of herring fish.

Eating shad

The adult shad fish are known to taste very flavorful and are a part of the diet in a number of places, like Florida. The meat doesn’t need to be accompanied with a sauce to make it taste good!

They are also very healthy fish to eat.

They do have a lot of bones, and in some parts of the coast in Connecticut, the technique of removing the bones of the American shad was a closely guarded secret. In the culinary arts, the American shad’s eggs, called shad roe, are highly valued for their richness and delicacy of flavor.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these lake trout facts and red mullet facts for kids pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable icefishing coloring pages.


Second image from Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Shad Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Plankton, larvae, crustaceans, small fish

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?

Up to 600,000 eggs

How Much Did They Weigh?

0.68-12 lb (0.30-5.44 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

In freshwater streams as juveniles and deep saltwater as adults

Where Do They Live?

north america, western europe, caspian sea, mediterranean sea and black sea, balkans

How Long Were They?

19-30 in (48.2-76.2 cm)

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

American shad - Alosa sapidissima Allis shad - Alosa alosa Twait shad - Alosa fallax

What Do They Look Like?

Dark head, dark back, silver scales with blue, violet

Skin Type

Wet and slimy scales

What Are Their Main Threats?

overfishing, habitat destruction due to the construction of dams, pollution

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern
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Written by Georgia Stone

Bachelor of Arts specializing in French with Film Studies, Bachelor of Arts (Year Abroad) specializing in Literature, History, Language, Media, and Art

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Georgia StoneBachelor of Arts specializing in French with Film Studies, Bachelor of Arts (Year Abroad) specializing in Literature, History, Language, Media, and Art

Georgia is an experienced Content Manager with a degree in French and Film Studies from King's College London and Bachelors degree from Université Paris-Sorbonne. Her passion for exploring the world and experiencing different cultures was sparked during her childhood in Switzerland and her year abroad in Paris. In her spare time, Georgia enjoys using London's excellent travel connections to explore further afield.

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