Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
 
Photo of American shad viewed through a window at the Holyoke Dam - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo of American shad viewed through a window at the Holyoke Dam - Credit: USFWS

The population of American shad, like Atlantic salmon, was depressed in the early 1800s and for many of the same reasons. The native shad stock was never lost, however, because shad are far less particular about where they spawn and grow. If conditions in the mainstem Connecticut River are adequate, shad will successfully spawn there, and so they have through time, though at numbers which correspond to the amount of available habitat.

Since the amount of available habitat plays a direct role in the sustainability of the shad population, shad have driven the requirements for much of the fish passage in this basin – at least in the mainstem as far north as Bellows Falls, VT. Shad passage has also been key to plans for the restoration of the Ashuelot (NH), Westfield (MA), and Farmington (CT) Rivers.

With good management, shad continue, to this day, to support a commercial shad fishery in Connecticut and a recreational fishery that extends from Long Island Sound into Vermont and New Hampshire in the Connecticut River.

Accomplishments

Research

Dr. Alex Haro of the USGS-Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center worked with Salmonsoft, Inc. to evaluate Salmonsoft's Fish Tick/Fish Rev Digital Video Fish Counting System at the Cabot Fishway in Turners Falls, MA. The project was funded by USFWS, Northeast Generation Services and USGS. This software reduces the amount of video that has to be reviewed to establish fish counts making the counting process faster and potentially more accurate. The software is appropriate for smaller fishways.

In 2006, almost 155,000 shad were lifted at the Holyoke fishway. About 1,500 shad were observed to pass the Turners Falls dam. Research as described below is ongoing with work planned to improve the fishway entrance.

In 2005, over 116,000 American shad were passed upstream of the Holyoke dam. Only a fraction of those fish, about 1,500 fish, were counted over the dam in Turners Falls. While the latter number may increase when the videotapes are finally reviewed, it is clear, from the data that is available in this and past years, that shad have not been successfully making it over the second mainstem dam. As a result, biologists, managers and researchers from the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission Technical Committee, Northeast Generation Services Company and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center have been working together to learn why.

They have changed some things about the way the fish ladder looks and works and they have tested these changes on wild shad that are actually migrating upstream. Results show that the shad can climb the fish ladder but that the ladder seems to be too long. The fish seem to tire out and eventually give up. Though not successful yet, researchers continue to look for a solution that will enable shad to make it upstream on their own. They have recently developed a new fishway entrance that works for shad. That new design should be installed within a couple of years.

Shad Transfer and Assessment

Photo of scientists collecting data from shad - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo of scientists collecting data from shad. Credit: USFWS

Until researchers find a way to enable shad to make it over the dam in Turners Falls in significant numbers, the cooperating Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission agencies are trapping shad at the Holyoke fishlift and transporting them in tanks to historic habitat upstream in the mainstem Connecticut River and Ashuelot River. Subsequent monitoring for young-of-year shad, the progeny of the successfully transplanted adult population, in the Ashuelot River is ongoing.

In 2006, a total of 1,464 American shad were transferred from the Holyoke fishlift. Of these 74% were intrabasin and 26% were interbasin transfers. The USFWS Connecticut River Coordinator's Office, CTDEP and MEDMR transferred a total of 695 shad to the Vernon pool. The CTDEP moved a total of 391 shad including 67 shad to the Eightmile River and 58 shad to the Farmington River. The NHFG moved 267 shad to the Ashuelot River. The Maine DMR moved 18 shad to the Waldboro State Hatchery.

In 2005, a total of 1,481 American shad were transferred within the Connecticut River basin. The Connecticut River Coordinator’s Office, CTDEP and USGS transferred 596 shad from the Holyoke dam to the Vernon pool. The NHFG moved 721 shad to the Ashuelot River. The CTDEP moved 84 shad to the Farmington River and 80 shad to the Eightmile River. The CTDEP moved another 63 shad out of basin to the Quinebaug River. This year, the NHFG was assisted in their efforts by the loan of a shad transport truck from the USFWS.

Photo of scientists collecting fish using an electrofishing boat - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo of scientists collecting data from shad. Credit: USFWS

Management Plan

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has a fishery management plan for American shad. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader software to open this document. If you do not have this software, you may obtain it free of charge by following this link.

 

 
Last updated: September 1, 2010
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