Hickory Shad

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Hickory Shad

by Geoffrey English

Hickory Shad: a.k.a. Alosa Mediocre
Hickory Shad, or Alosa Mediocre, are known for packing a big fight in their small bodies. They aren’t much of a commercial fish, and people do desire them for food.  But, it’s because of the fight that the Hickory Shad has quickly become a highly desired recreational fish.  This desire has only happened in recent years, but it was enough to get the fish into sport fishing magazines across the nation.

The body of the Hickory Shad is grayish green in color, with a dark spot right above its head.  It looks almost like it has an under bite, with a large protruding lower jaw.  The lower jaw is curved up towards the top of the fish’s head. The sides of the body are usually shiny and silver, flowing all the way down to the belly. They only grow up to 2 feet long, but their small size does not reflect the fight.

Hickory Shad normally feast on small fish, crustaceans, squid, and the occasional fish egg. They lay their own eggs between February and June over gravel bars in a moderate climate.  Females are known to be repeat spawners, laying eggs more than once before they die. Once the eggs are laid, they harden and float along the sea bottom. Most of them become sexually mature between the ages of two and four years old. They are migratory fish, moving into bays to spawn and then swimming away when they’re done. Once the eggs hatch, the young swim out to the ocean, as well.

These fish are found primarily in the Western Atlantic coast. Many of them can be found in the Chesapeake Bay area where they commonly lay their eggs, although they do range from Maine to Florida. Obviously, they are mainly found in tidal waters during the spring and summer as that is when their spawning season is. Not too much is known about their movements in the open ocean waters, but they are watched heavily when they begin their migration inland.

A Hickory Shad caught on a fly.
Hickory Shad can be caught through a variety of different methods, the quickest growing and most challenging is fly fishing.  They are most easily caught during the spawning season when they are more active and more visible. They respond well to flies, artificial lures, and small spoons. They are most abundant when the waters are around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can be found at most any temperature.  All an angler needs is light trout or largemouth bass fishing gear to catch a Hickory Shad, but it’s still important to note that they can put up quite the fight when they need to.  They can be a whole lot of fun to fish for, and most any recreational fishermen would appreciate this small little fish’s bite.

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