American Shad

American Shad in the Susquehanna River Basin

It’s hard to imagine a time when the Susquehanna River was choked with fish during the perilous spring migration of the mature American shad, the largest herring in North America.

This native fish used to travel from the salty ocean to the Chesapeake Bay estuary and into the freshwater of the Susquehanna River to spawn in huge numbers and supported one of the largest fisheries along the coast. Richard Gerstell illustrates this incredible species and their perilous decline starting in the 19th Century due to dam construction in his book American Shad in the Susquehanna River Basin: A Three-Hundred-Year History.

Learn how the unassuming herring influenced the location of settlements, the tourism trade, some state election votes, and was even the reason for violent fights between fishermen. While published in 1998, Gerstell does describe early efforts for shad restoration in the Susquehanna River. To learn about current restoration efforts and see counts of migrating shad, click here.

 Enjoy a free preview of the book at Google Books.

Look for Gerstell’s book at your local library, bookstore, or local PA historical society near you. Alternatively, it is easily found online through a major retailer of your choice.