American Shad Restoration

Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin

Mike Odom_USFWS

Mike Odom, USFWS, with one of the first American shad captured at Great Falls after the fishway was opened in 2000. Mike is standing on “Shad Rock,” so-named in the late 1800s.

The Potomac River American Shad Restoration Project is an excellent example of a successful restoration project. Sometimes a population needs a little help when it’s down. Until recently, American shad stocks have remained depressed in the Potomac River, despite significant improvements in water quality made over the last several decades and a river harvest moratorium that has been in effect since 1982. ICPRB spearheaded a collaborative effort to stock American shad that began in 1995 and was designed to imprint shad to the historic spawning and nursery waters and help rebuild Potomac River shad stocks.

Click here for the Final Report on the ICPRB American Shad Project. 

As a part of this project, ICPRB collected fertilized shad roe to be raised in fish hatcheries and classrooms, stocked hatchery fingerlings in historic spawning and nursery areas, and monitored survival of the year classes. Through this effort, shad populations have begun to recover in the Potomac River. Since 2002, the Potomac has been the egg source for all of Maryland’s streams that are being restored with shad, as well as for the Rappahannock River in Virginia, the Susquehanna River in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and some of Delaware’s rivers. The Potomac portion of the project was wrapped up in 2014.

Reports, Fact Sheets, and Videos

Final Report

Potomac River American Shad Status Report, as Presented to the Teachers (large file)

Potomac River American Shad Status Report as Presented  to the National Capitol Chapter of Trout Unlimited (large file). This is similar to the Teachers file above, but with additional information on Potomac’s environmental history.

An Historical Compilation about American Shad and the Potomac River

African American Watermen Heritage on the Potomac River

Let the River Run Silver Again! How One School Helped Return the American Shad to the Potomac River by Sandy Burk.

American Shad Restoration Project Fact Sheet

American Shad Planking with ICPRB [VIDEO]

Future Needs

The need to monitor and keep track of the restoration progress still remains. In addition, due to the long time that this fishery has been closed and changes in tastes since they were abundant, more education is necessary to restore public interest in this remarkable fish, not only as a delicious food and exciting gamefish, but also because of its importance in river and coastal ecosystems and its significance in the history of this country.