KIDS: Shad Restoration

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Shad Restoration

 Ongoing Efforts    Places to See Shad

What is Shad Restoration?

There used to be a lot more shad in Connecticut streams than there are now. One of the reasons the number of shad decreased is that we built dams on our rivers to provide power for mills, and these dams blocked the path of shad on their way to spawn. Some shad were able to spawn below these dams, but not as many as spawned when the rivers were wide open. The State of Connecticut (Department of Environmental Protection) is working to bring back more shad into more rivers in Connecticut. In the case of the Connecticut River, which flows through three other states, Connecticut is working closely with the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire and the federal government (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) to restore shad to the river.


How Do You Restore Shad Runs to a River?

First, if dams caused the shad to disappear, we have to solve that problem. It is best to remove the dams—most are not even used anymore. If a particular dam cannot be removed (maybe someone generates electricity at it), then a fishway (formerly referred to as a "fish ladder") is built around the dam.

 A fishway is a structure that passes a bit of water down in a manner that allows the fish to swim up. Often, fishways are a series of pools, each one foot higher than the previous one. Shad cannot jump over 10 or 20 foot high dams but they can jump over one foot drops. Other fishways are actually elevators. Shad crowd into a "bucket" at the bottom of the dam and the bucket is lifted over the dam and the fish are released above.

 Many fishways have been built for shad in Connecticut, such as the Rainbow Dam Fishway on the Farmington River and the Greeneville Dam Fishlift on the Shetucket River. More will be built in the future. These fishways allow fish to get back up to good spawning habitat farther up in the river. Young shad can hatch and grow in these areas before going out to sea.

{Kinneytown Fishway on the Naugatuck River in Seymour Connecticut}

Kinneytown Fishway on the Naugatuck River in Seymour, Connecticut

If a river is polluted, that pollution must be cleaned up before shad can be restored. In most cases, pollution did not cause the shad to disappear, but during the years that they have been gone, some rivers became polluted. Connecticut has been very successful in cleaning up its rivers, and most rivers where we are trying to restore shad are now clean.

Transplanting Shad

If we know that we are going to build a fishway at a dam but are unsure of how many shad remain below the dam, we can transplant shad from another river to start a new population. To do this, fish biologists visit the Holyoke Dam Fishlift on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts with a big truck with a large round water tank on the back. They remove 75 shad from the fishlift and put them in the tank. These fish have not spawned yet so they are full of eggs. The fish are then driven to the new stream and released above the dam in good spawning habitat. The fish swim away and spawn in the new river. The little fish memorize the odor of the water and in 4 to 5 years when they are adults and ready to spawn, they seek out the new river, based on their memory and sense of smell, and swim up it to spawn. A new shad run has been created. Rivers where this is currently being done include the Quinnipiac River in Meriden and the Quinebaug River in Jewett City.

Releasing Adult Shad

Ongoing Efforts

It is impossible to restore all the shad runs back to Connecticut and have as many shad as we did when Connecticut was first colonized. However, if we continue to keep our water clean, remove dams whenever possible, build fishways around important dams, and release shad into many streams, the public once again can enjoy shad runs throughout the state. Whether you like to catch them, eat them, or just watch them, shad can be a lot of fun, and can make Connecticut a better place to live.

Places to See Shad

There aren't many places where you can see shad. Most shad rivers are large and murky during the shad run and you can't just look down in the water and see them swimming by.

One way to see shad is to watch people catch them on rod and reel. The two best places for that are: (1) the fishing access area by the Enfield Dam on the Suffield side and (2) at "Bart's" food place near the Farmington River, where the river passes under Route 159 in Windsor.

To get to the Enfield Dam site, find the junction of Route 75 and Route 190. About 500 feet south of that intersection on the east side of Route 75 is Canal Road. Follow that road to the river and walk out by the old Enfield Dam (mostly gone). People fish for shad from shore and boat from April through early June.

At the Farmington River site, there is a grassy picnic area and you can watch people fish in the Farmington River.

{Adult Shad in Rainbow Dam Viewing Window}

Adult shad in the Rainbow Fishway Viewing Window

Perhaps the best places to see shad are the fishways where the shad struggle up to get around tall dams. The Rainbow Fishway is located in Windsor off Rainbow Road, near Bradley International Airport. It is open from May 15 to July 15, 9:00 am until dark. The best times are late May or the first Saturday in June when there is an Open House. Everyone is allowed to go downstairs to look through the underground window to watch fish swim by as they pass up the fishway. The other fishway is the Holyoke Dam Fishlift in Holyoke, Massachusetts, which has a visitors' window open to the public daily from mid-May to late June.

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Content Last Modified on 3/27/2015 2:29:20 PM