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New Jersey freshwater fish identification

SHAD and HERRING

Family Clupeidae

Most herrings and shads are marine, but a few species live only in fresh water, and some frequently enter fresh

water. These fish are strongly compressed, lack a lateral line and scales on the head; and have cycloid scales

on the body, 1 dorsal fin, a conspicuous adipose eyelid, abdominal pelvic fins, and no spines in the fins. The

belly has sharp pointed scales creating a saw-tooth edge. There are nearly 200 species of clupeids.

The adipose eyelid is a translucent tissue that partially covers the eyeball.


American shad (Alosa sapidissima) have dark spots behind the opercle, followed by smaller spots.

The cheek is deeper than long, and adults can reach around 30 inches.

NJ State Record by Charles Mower caught in the Delaware River in 1984 weighed in at 11 Lbs. 1 Oz.

Hickory shad (Alosa mediocris) grow to about 23 inches, and have a cheek that is longer than or equal

to its depth. Small teeth can be found on the protruding lower jaw. The fins are mostly clear, often with

some black edges. Spots behind the gills are less defined, and reach to below the dorsal fin.

Gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) can grow to over 20 inches, and have a long last dorsal ray.

The have a blunt snout, subterminal mouth, and a purple to blue shoulder spot. Uncommon in NJ waters.

Blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) can reach about 16 inches in length. They have an oblique mouth, with

the small toothed lower jaw equal to or projecting only slightly beyond the snout. They are blueish on the

top with silvery sides and 1 small blue-black spot near the upper edge of the gill opening. Adults have thin

dark stripes on the back and upper side with light green or yellow fins.

Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) can grow to 15 inches, but usually less than 10 inches. They are very similar

to the Blueback, but are more greenish on top, with larger eyes and a deeper body.


In NJ there is a 6 fish daily bag limit of any size for all shad. No closed season, but the run is seasonal.

No limit on herring.

questions about fish terminology? GO TO: FISH BODY CHARTS

GO TO NJ FRESHWATER FISH ID MAIN PAGE

GO TO NJ COMMON FRESHWATER FISH PAGE

GO TO NJ UNCOMMON FRESHWATER FISH PAGE

By Joe M. Cianci. See main page for list of sources. Send E mail to me at joecianci@comcast.net Comments welcome!

For more information on shad:

Shad Fishing Home Page

Fishing the Delaware River & Tributaries

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last update: 04/11/99