Keeping Shad Alive After you catch then can be challenging.
Little have been published on the care of Gizzard and Threadfin Shad in captivity.
Christopher Scharpf North American Fishes Association wrote that open
water, schooling fish like the shad are poor subjects for captivity since
they're accustomed to swimming unimpeded over large areas of water. Life in
the confines of a tank is simply too confining. Shad are extremely nervous
unless they are kept in large schools, and overly sensitive to vibrations
and environmental changes.
So with the above in mind, the below is some of my observations along the trail of keeping shad
alive that I'd like to share.
Temperature and dissolved oxygen are the two most influential criteria in determining survival of shad populations.
Aeration - Circulation - Filtration - Temperature
To start with use a round or oval tank with a pump to circulate the water.
Circulation helps the shad pull oxygen through their gills. Keep the water flow slow, In some cases, excess water flow will force the baits to swim too hard and consume even more oxygen.
Cool bait is better bait!
Using ice reduces metabolism and oxygen consumption of fish
and increases the amount of oxygen that can be dissolved in the water.
Bad word: "Ammonia" Ammonia is produced by the shad when they deposit their "waste" in you bait tank. Water changes will help prevent this build up. If you can't change the water, pet shops sell a product called "ammonia-sorb". It helps the bait by absorbing some of the ammonia out of the water that would otherwise build up in your tank. It looks like little white gravel chips. I put a scoop of it in a cloth bag and rinse it in the lake a dip or two to remove the powder that covers it. The bag I use is made is made of mom's old panty hose.
Foam on the surface
If your tank is foaming it is a sign your bait water is
out of Balance.
Adding salt to the water will help by hardening the scales on the
These few little "tricks" will help you keep your bait frisky. You want the best bait that you can get hanging on that hook you put down. A half dead shad just will not do it. You want to have healthy, happy, shad in your tank which in turn will result in great fishing!
Stressed shad don't act normal.
Once you've gained experience with shad you'll learn how healthy shad act. Stress is a condition that causes physical or mental
discomfort that results in the release
of stress-related hormones or results in specific physiological responses.
For example, stressful events will cause an increase in heart rate,
blood pressure, increased blood sugar, and the release of cortisol.
Symptoms that Shad are Stressed:
Common causes of stress include:
Elevated ammonia, nitrite,
and nitrate all create deterioration in shad due to stress.
pH levels that change abruptly cause acute stress and continually elevated or lowered pH levels can cause chronic stress. Chronic stress is often not visible. It can take weeks and months to develop. Shad can adapt to long-term changes, but there are limits. PH changes of more than 1.5 points below or above recommended levels are going to have a negative effect over time and should never be considered acceptable.
Temperature fluctuations are a much underappreciated stressor of fish. Shad do not tolerate temperature changes very well. You should never change water temperature by more than 10 degrees. Preferably 5 degrees. A 10 degree temperature rise roughly doubles the rate or speeds of many chemical reactions in the water environment. Cooling a system down by 10 degrees slows down the rates of such reactions by a similar factor.
Shad live within very specific salinity levels (levels of salt in the water). Their bodies work hard to maintain the absorption of Water and Electrolytes between themselves and their environment. If their environmental salinity is not specific to their needs and is not held at a steady level, they have to work harder to maintain their absorption of Water and Electrolytes, which generates chronic stress.
Oxygen levels that are below recommended levels can cause fish to 'breathe' faster than optimum and this can result in chronic stress. Obviously, very low oxygen levels can lead to severe short-term stress and death.
Overstocking of the tank
is a problem that contributes to a lot of stress, from water pollution to
If you add water condition or medications, make sure you know you are using the correct chemicals and the correct amount.
How you eliminate stress in Shad
Stress is one of the most critical factors in shad keeping. Only by understanding the effects that stress have on shad, as well as being able to identify and prevent common stresses, can we eliminate and treat the stress problem. While it is impossible to eliminate all stress, fortunately we have the ability to limit or prevent many of the causes.
Here is the Biggest reason for stressed Shad:
Nothing stresses shad more than transporting from the wild. In just a few hours, the shad will be netted, sorted, netted, held,
transported, netted and so on
through the catch and final release to your holding tank.
Acute stress is more obvious and needs to be addressed very quickly.
Chronic stress is often not visible, It can take days to develop. If your shad appear to be doing fine, until one day they die there is probably a source of stress that needs to be identified and remedied.
Temperature of natural waters is an important factor for aquatic life. Each creature is adapted to particular temperatures since fish and other aquatic life have no control over their body temperatures. Water temperature of 95F is considered the maximum for most aquatic life.
Trees and brush provide shade for natural waters such as creeks, ponds, and lakes. When these areas are cleared for construction, the temperature of the water may be raised due to the increase in sunlight on the once shaded area. Changes in water temperature can affect aquatic habitats. This may result in the death of many aquatic creatures.
An important gas in water is oxygen.It is referred to as dissolved oxygen or DO. Oxygen is necessary for aquatic life. DO is found in cold water at higher levels than warm waters because oxygen is more soluble in cold waters. Cold waters have a DO measurement of 5.0 mg/L or higher.Oxygen is found in warm water at not less than 4.0 mg/L. Different organisms require different water temperatures and DO amounts. Some examples include carp, which is a warm water fish and lives in water with as little as 3 ppm of oxygen, while largemouth bass require 5 to 8 ppm.
The pH indicates the amount of hydrogen ion concentration.
Nitrogen (nitrates) are found naturally in bodies of water
at low levels. It is essential for plant growth.
Phosphorus (phosphates) is found naturally in bodies of
Copper salts enter natural waters from industrial waste.
Shad feed primarily on zooplankton, Plankton feeders can be tricky to feed, the key thing being that they need multiple small meals per day to do well. Shad are the classic example of plankton-feeding fish.
I have used PhytoPlex Phytoplankton from Kent Marine
Shad can be fed live baby brine shrimp. As they grow they
can sometimes be weaned over to fine grain foods, but small live foods, such
as adult brine shrimp, should always be part of their diet.
According to fisheries ecologist Karin E. Limburg, laboratory experiments on Shad metabolic rates in response to schooling density show that a good rule for keeping shad is definitely "the more, the merrier" (K. E. Limburg, pers. comm.).
The more shad that were in a tank, the lower their metabolic rates. "I'm sure there's a break-point where oxygen stress and the buildup of ammonia would counteract the benefits of schooling with large numbers of other shad," Dr. Limburg adds, "but we certainly did not reach that threshold."
Finally, Dr. Limburg advises that sea salt is a great aid in
times of stress.
Tanks should be as large as possible, with a large, open swimming area and efficient (but gentle) wet/dry filtration.
Also consider a circular rank; shad swim constantly and tend to accumulate in the corners of a rectangular tank.
Since shad are constantly swimming, feed a high-energy diet of small krill in the morning and Tetramin flakes throughout the day with the use of an automatic feeder.
Once shad are settled scale loss is minimal.
In one laboratory experiment,
Threadfin Shad were maintained in 40-gallon tanks on a diet of live daphnia, chironomid larvae (bloodworms), and tubifex worms.
A key to Shad survival in captivity it seems, is light handling and quick transport from the field.
Native fish enthusiast Michael Hissom dip nets Threadfin
Shad as they congregate at the bottom of a lake spillway. Here the fish are
easy to catch -- which reduces handling-related stress and loss of their
deciduous (easily shed) scales .
Gizzard Shad are displayed at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, but even here aquarists admit that the fish are delicate and that few of the shad they catch -- about one in 200 -- survive the journey from stocking ponds to the aquarium.
The few that do survive, however, readily accept prepared
food and live a long time (R. Weitzell, pers. comm.).
By Ben Sanders