The State Fish
American Shad (Alosa sapidissima)
The American Shad was designated as the state fish by the General Assembly in 2003. It was selected because: 1) it is a native Connecticut fish; 2) it has great historical significance in that it provided food for Native Americans and colonists; 3) it was, and continues to be, of great commercial value to the State; and 4) because the hardiness of this migratory fish reflects the true Connecticut spirit as stated in our motto "Qui Transtulit Sustinet " (He Who Transplanted Still Sustains).
The American Shad is a member of the herring family which also includes alewives. It is an anadromous species, meaning that it lives most of its life in the ocean, but returns yearly to specific freshwater streams to spawn. In Connecticut, shad enter the Connecticut River from April to June, depending on the river water temperature.
The American Shad has a metallic blue/green back with silver sides and a white underneath. There are one or more dark spots along the sides. Fish of this species can reach up to 30 inches in length, and weigh an average 3 -5 pounds. The latin name Alosa sapidissima means "most delicious." Both the meat and roe are considered delicacies.
The fish is known for its bone structure. A Native American legends states that the shad originated as a porcupine that was continually complaining to the Great Spirit. As punishment, the Great Spirit turned the porcupine inside out, and threw it in the water. Shad boning is a difficult tasks that takes years to learn.
In Connecticut, shad are caught by anglers and commercial fisherman. Shad festivals and derbies are held in several Connecticut towns during the yearly shad run.
You can learn more about the shad on our Shad Pages.
American Shad picture used by permission of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the artist, Diane Peebles