Shad on the Forth?

Shad Seen off the North East Coast and in the Forth Estuary, are They Back?


Just joined a Facebook group Fish of the Firth of Forth and noticed a post about shad being caught off the coast in the Forth estauary. This coincided with having a conversation just a couple of days ago with someone from the North East of England who mentioned that lots of shad were being seen off the Tyne and Wear coastal area. This is good news as at present they are only being recorded on the Wye, Usk and Severn.

Shad are members of the Culpeidae family, herring. There are 2 species, Allis and Twaite shad, the Allis being the bigger with the UK record being 4lbs 12ozs while the Twaite record is 2lb 12ozs.

Shad, like salmon and sea trout, are anadromous which means part of there life cycle is in freshwater. Known as the May fish they spawn in fresh water. Needing clean water shad are also an indicator of good water quality when present.

This improvement in numbers could be attributed to considerable improvements in the Forth, Wear, Tyne and Tees and their trinutaries as well as other rivers such as the Tamar. Shad are no "Salar the Leaper", dams and weirs stop them dead. Luckily, at the same time as our rivers are cleaned up the old industrial weirs are being washed away or even deliberatley ripped out. Two significant changes that bode well for shad in the future.

So what you might ask? In North West France shad are abundant and, not unexpectedly for the French, considered to be a good bit of grub. They also have great potential as a sports fish as they, unlike salmon, continue to feed when they enter freshwater and will readily take the fly or a spinner. They are also known as the freshwater tarpon in the US, they fight like stink!

Please note that if you are fishing and catch a shad in freshwater or at sea they must be returned unharmed. It is illegal to target or take them (Section 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

Lets leave em be for now and in a few years and hope that stocks will reach a number sufficient for them to be of interest to migratory fish anglers.

Please let me know through our Facebook page if you have encountered any shad. One member of the Fish of the Firth of Forth group, Andy Brown, told me his sister caught a 3lb fish 15 years ago on the Forth near Kildean Cattle Market and sent it to Stirling University for verification. One fish doesn't make a bonanza but with the closure of Longannet Power station the Forth has improved greatly. Maybe we will hear more about the shad in years to come and not just on the Forth.

Photo of the Shad Attribution: By © Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 4.0,