Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The American Shad Spawning Run on the Delaware River

American Shad    -   via Wikimedia

Along with the migration of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs converging on Delaware Bay in spring, another spring migration is that of the American shad up the Delaware River.

American shad, part of the herring family, migrate up the Delaware River to spawn. The numbers and timing of the "shad run" vary year to year depending on river levels, rains, drought and temperature.

Shad are primarily saltwater fish, but they swim up freshwater rivers to spawn in the spring. Unlike some other fish species, many shad survive the spawning and swim back to the Atlantic Ocean. Shad are found in all areas of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as several seas across the world.

The first shad of the 2017 season was already caught in the Delaware on March 26 in the northern Delaware Bay near Mad Horse Creek. It was a female shad that weighed in around 5 pounds.

Shad - Lambertville, NJ  - via Flickr
Low water and warm temperatures usually mean an earlier shad run in the Delaware River. The warm water effluent of the power plant in Trenton usually attracts shad and anglers who get early catches.

On the river, there are some seining (netting) activities which harken back to the Lenni Lenape Indians of our area who used that method long before colonists appeared.

It is another encouraging sign that the once very polluted Delaware River has recovered enough that shad have returned to using the deeper waters of the Delaware River as a spawning ground.

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