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-- Shad Index --

In May 2004, the Commission stocked hickory shad in Ridley and Pennypack Creeks and the Delaware River. This is the third year we have stocked hickory shad into Ridley creek and the first year for the other locations. Hickory shad do not grow as large as American shad but are well known for their fighting and leaping ability. The eggs obtained to rear these shad fry come from the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River and we culture them to four days of age at the Commission's Van Dyke facility in Juniata County.

While the Commission has been culturing American shad since 1976, our experimentation with hickory shad began in 2003. We have been engaged for years in restoration of American shad runs in the Susquehanna, Schuylkill and Lehigh Rivers, and have expanded our efforts on a much smaller scale with hickory shad. Historic records are spotty; but, we believe that runs of hickory shad at one time (prior to pollution problems and dam building) occurred in several suitable tributaries of the Delaware River in southeastern PA. The hickory shad is currently listed as a PA endangered species due to its documented absence in historic locations. Therefore, restoration of these runs would be quite an achievement.

As we are relatively new to the hickory shad "business" we have not created a lot of fanfare associated with these stockings. Over the next few years, we should know if our approach is successful and whether we are able to restore these lost runs. Visually, Pennypack Creek appears to contain suitable habitat for this species compared to other locations along the East Coast where they still occur. Ridley Creek contains some suitable habitat but dams blocking the runs may limit their success. Incidentally, we are working cooperatively with dam owners along both waterways to improve fish passage opportunities. Also, with these streams being located in urban settings and their typical water quality challenges, it remains to be seen how successful these stockings may be.

The Delaware River may offer the best opportunity for restoring a run. We would prefer to stock greater numbers there, however any work we do with hickory shad is really an add-on to meeting our American shad restoration goals and objectives. Since hickory shad spawn a little earlier in the spring than American shad we have a brief window of time at our hatchery to get the hickory shad eggs, hatch them and stock them before the first American shad egg shipments show up and begin to occupy the same tank space. Thus, hickory shad fry numbers available for stocking will always be rather limited.

The hickory shad may show up as adults in either year two or three (most likely) after stocking. Therefore, the first fish could show up in Ridley Creek as early as spring 2005. The first hickories would not be expected to show up at Pennypack or the Delaware River until 2006 or later. We have confirmed that hickory shad were caught in the lower Schuylkill River this year. This is the first documented records of them there in many years. The fry we stock contain chemical tags which allow us to identify them as hatchery produced when they are recaptured years later. A few hickories from the Schuylkill River caught in May 2004 were collected by biologists for analysis in the fall. It is unlikely, but possible that they are from the first Ridley Creek stocking. If not, they represent a new wild spawning run. Either way, it is exciting news which makes us optimistic about our chances for success with hickory shad. We are cautiously optimistic that in a few years we may once again see this unique species appearing in Southeastern PA.

2004 Hickory Shad Stockings
Date Number Location
5/3/04 1,066,809 Delaware River, Yardley
5/3/04 666,755 Pennypack Creek
5/3/04 266,702 Ridley Creek
5/5/04 748,891 Delaware River, Yardley
Totals: 2,749,157 Delaware River Basin

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