The Gizzard shad is one of the primary baitfish that Striped Bass feed on in the Tennessee, Cumberland and Ohio rivers in Western Kentucky.
Statement: I am just a fisherman, not a fisheries biologist, or scientist. The information here is what I have gathered from observations on the water, researching any and all books, magazines, and website's I could find. The information may not be 100% accurate but is only meant to give you a good understanding of this species of baitfish.
Nicknames : bluetail, shad, nanny shad, stink shad, slime ball, hickory shad, mud shad, hairy back, golden eyes, slicks, jack shad, saw belly.
Characteristics: bright silvery blue-green on back, silvery sides and dull white belly; wide body that is more of a stocky nature than most herring. Shad make great bait for catching catfish also!
Fish Facts: Highly susceptible to sudden changes in water temperature. Shad commonly reach 4 inches in length during the first year of life.
Habitat: Preferring low gradient waters with an abundance of phytoplankton.
Typical Size: . 625 pounds to 10 pounds.
The gizzard shad is common in most Western Kentucky rivers and lakes.
Gizzard shad exhibit the typical herring body shape with a wide body that is stocky in nature. Color ranges from bright silvery blue-green on the back, silvery sides and a dull white belly. A dark shoulder spot is common on younger fish but may be absent from adults. The front of the head is rounded with a subterminal mouth.Bottom jaw or lip is not very strong. Teeth are absent. There are about 190 rakers on the lower limb of the first gill arch. The eyes have adipose eyelids with vertical slits. Body scales are cycloid with no lateral line present. The ventral scales are keeled. Dorsal fin rays number 10 to 12 with the last ray elongated into a thin whiplike filament. This fin is inserted slightly behind the pelvic fin. An auxiliary process is present at the base of the pelvic fin. The anal fin has 27 to 34 rays, and the caudal fin is deeply forked.
Gizzard shad prefer sluggish rivers and soft-bottomed lakes. The fish is synonymous with mud. It is found most commonly in open water near the surface. The fish are random, nocturnal group spawners in shallow bays, coves, or sloughs with no care given to the young. Eggs are released near the surface of the water from late April or early May to early August at 50 to 70 degrees F. The eggs are adhesive and sink. The females are prolific, producing up to 400,000 eggs that are about .03 inch in diameter.
The species is an omnivorous filter feeder taking both phytoplankton and zoo plankton, which are then ground in the gizzard section of the gut. Some bottom material is often ingested while feeding; hence, the name mud shad or mud feeder. Shad are intermediate hosts for several species of the glochidiad stages of mussels and in that respect have economic importance in the perpetuation of freshwater mussels with commercial value.
Gizzard shad have little value as a food-fish and are seldom taken by hook-and-line. Its flesh or sides as commonly reffered to, and particularly the gizzard or gut are great catfish bait. Dense shad populations provide considerable forage as young for other predatory fishes, and their schooling behavior during the first year make them easy prey for larger fish. Some controversy surrounds this forage value, however, as shad quickly outgrow the vulnerable forage size and rapidly assume pest levels in some closed watersheds or when predator populations are insufficient to control their numbers. One reason that states such as Kentucky stock Striped Bass is to help control the overpopulation of large gizzard shad. Evidence is quite strong that shad compete with young bluegill for food items, and when populations reach very dense levels, bluegill survival is inevitably lowered. Massive dieoffs of young and yearling shad are commonly reported after spring ice-out as a result of their susceptibility to fluctuating water temperatures.
Shad Catching Tips:Use a dip net or cast net to catch them for bait according to state and local laws. Use a net sized so that your shad will not hang in the mesh, this can bruise or knock off their scales. Gizzard shad will not take a baited hook.
Water: Should be kept moving and changed often in bait holding devices in boats. Baitfish forced to swim will absorb more oxygen due to water flowing accross thier gills.
Aerator: This mixes the water and adds oxygen. Paddle aerators work well but can beat the scales off the bait.
Temperatures: Kept between 50-62 degrees are best. Check with the bait man and try to get within a few degrees to keep from shocking the bait during transfer. Warm water means lower oxygen levels. Cool your water by adding ice, but do it slowly, rapid temperature change can result in shock or death. 3 degrees per minute is a good guideline. Buy an inexpensive temperature gauge. This can be a valuable tool to have.
Chemicals: Salt is the most important ingredient (use rock salt; never iodized) 10 gallons- 2/3 cup 20 gallons- 1 1/2 cups 30 gallons- 2 cups 40 gallons- 2 2/3 cups. hardens and bonds scales to Shad. Replaces valuable electrolytes lost due to stress. Should always be used in holding tanks. Chlorine: If you are using city water or ice, use a chlorine killer. Most bait dealers can order this or will have some form of chlorine killer. It's cheap, and it kills the chlorine before you put the shad in the tank, not after.
Ammonia : Caused by waste products from stressed shad resulting in red nose shad, loss of scales, loss of color, dead shad, and dirty, foamy water.Change or clean water regularly or filter with cotton and charcoal.
Foam: Caused by ammonia and dirty water. Foam on the water cuts down on the oxygen level. Non dairy coffee creamer works well. Using defoamers allows proper oxygen transfer add one or two drops until foam disappears.
Bait Saver: 1 teaspoon per 25 gallons helps coat scale damaged areas eliminates chlorine and trace metals
Red Nosed Shad: If you experience this you are doing something wrong. Caused by stress , over crowding or using a none oval tank .
Filtration: Can be done through a developed system in the tank or changing water. If you change the water watch your temperature rise and fall.
Amount: I shad per gallon of water. Adjust this formula with the season. The hotter the weather, the less shad in the tank.
Guidelines:The effort you put forth in caring for bait will greatly enhance your ability to catch fish. It is always best to mix a fresh tank of water. Match tank size and air to load requirements. Keep temperature steady and in desired range and mix in proper chemicals. Your bait will stay livelier and help you catch more fish.