Keeping Shad Alive After you catch then can be
day to get up to go Striper fishing, only to find that all those
that you caught the day before, are now spinning around belly up. Your fishing buddies are
on the way
and you have No live shad! Kind of gives you that "Why
did I get into this mess feeling".
Been there - wore that tee-shirt. I've killed shad every way known and
invented a few.
Little have been published on the care of Gizzard and
Threadfin Shads in captivity. I hope this Article will help.
Christopher Scharpf North American Fishes Association wrote that open
water, schooling fish like the shad are poor subjects for captitivty 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.
Turning lights on-and-off will send Frightened
shad bashing into the sides of a tank. Shad easily lose their loose-fitting
scales, which, for such delicate fish, is almost always fatal.
reasons, shad are best left in the wild.
Shad of all
ages are extremely fragile, and handling them or keeping them in captivity
is difficult even under the best of circumstances
consequently specific habitat requirements can only be assumed from
observations and trial and error.
(Shoemaker 1942; Bodola 1965; Reutter and Herdendorf 1974)
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.
Water quality must be managed when live bait is stressed
during capture and hauling and holding. Adequate water quality will make the
difference between healthy, active bait or heavy losses.
and dissolved oxygen appear to be the two most influential criteria in
determining survival of shad populations.
Aeration - Circulation - Filtration
To start with use a round or oval tank with a pump to circulate the
Water Quality -
Use a good water conditioner.
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.
(( Caution: Don't change water
temperature over 5° at a time)) .
Remember commercial ice has Chlorine, add "chlorine remover" to the water before
you add the ice.
Also you can take your own treated water, freeze it in
containers and drop in your
Another way to solve this is to forget the ice when your out on the lake.
Most lakes have
all the cool water you need right there for the taking.
It's about 15 to 35 feet below the
In the summer if I need cooler water for my tank I take along a garden hose that I
attach to a
12v pump that brings the water up from the thermocline.
No chlorine! No
ice! Just cool water that is right out of the lake anytime I want it.
Using a bait tank
that is insulated helps retain the temperature.
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
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
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.
The below methods are for short term help only.
Foam is normally caused by ammonia build up. You want the water in your tank to mix with the air above it.
If there is foam
floating on the top of the water it will prevent the air from transferring oxygen to the water. You
can use a powered dairy creamer if you must and there's also a product called "foam off". The best cure is changing about 1/2 of the water in you tank
and find out
Adding salt to the water will help by hardening the scales on the
Don't go crazy with it. Add about a cup to 25 to 30 gallons.
I've been buying
water softener salt in 50# bags from a farmers co-op, its cheap. Make sure the salt is not ionized or contains an anti caking chemical.
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
You want to have healthy, happy, shad in your tank which in turn will result in great
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.
Stress can be physical or environmental.
Stress can either be short and sudden, or long and chronic. long-term stress or severe, short-term stress contribute to death in
Symptoms that Shad are Stressed:
Excessive lose of scales
Visible spots, lesions, or white patches
Shad gasping at the surface of the water
Elevated ammonia, nitrite,
and nitrate all create deterioration in shad due to stress.
High levels can cause severe stress, whereas slightly elevated levels can
contribute to chronic 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
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
Do not overstock your tanks.
If you want to stress your fish, put too many in the tank and it will happen
A good number if your keeping shad in a storage tank is 1 shad to 3 gallons
With a good boat bait tank with proper environment a 1-1 ratio will work for
short periods of time.
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.
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.
Throughout this process they may be exposed to drastic changes in
temperature, ammonia, pH, salinity, medications etc.
If they are not handled carefully and are not placed in an optimum
environment, their stress is going to continue and they will die. The
majority of shad mortalities occur at or near the time of entering a new
tank and only through an appreciation of stress and its effect on them can
this problem be prevented.
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
Temperature of natural waters is an important factor for
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
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
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.
The acid, neutral, or alkaline nature of materials can be determined by
using a pH test.
Natural bodies of freshwater should have a pH of 5.0 to 8.5.
Seawater has a pH content of 8.1.
An acid level of less than 5.0 indicates that mine drainage or acid
industrial waste has polluted the water.
Industrial alkaline wastes are indicated when the pH is 8.5 to 9.0.
A neutral pH of 7.0 is considered best for human consumption.
Nitrogen (nitrates) are found naturally in bodies of water
at low levels. It is essential for plant growth.
Pollution is present when nitrates are found at excessive levels.
Nitrates are found in fertilizer, sewage, industrial, and livestock
High levels of nitrates when paired with phosphates can stimulate the
growth of algae causing fish kills.
A nitrate reading of 0.1 ppm is considered normal; however, it is possible
that due to the water source, or sensitivity of the test, a reading of zero
Phosphorus (phosphates) is found naturally in bodies of
It is a nutrient for aquatic plants and is generally found 0.1 ppm in
When phosphorus levels increase, it is a sign that agricultural wastes or
wastewater has polluted the body of water.
Several detergents include phosphates (dishwashing and clothes washing
The phosphorus increases algal growth which increases oxygen levels from
Several cloudy days in a row can result in the algae dying.
Oxygen is used in the decomposition of the algae resulting in fish kills due
to a lack of oxygen.
Copper salts enter natural waters from industrial waste.
These salts are used in electroplating, photography, textile manufacturing,
A concentration of 0.015 to 3.0 ppm can be harmful to aquatic life.
Copper salts destroy growths of algae which can deplete oxygen supplies.
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.
laboratory experiment, Threadfin Shad were maintained on a diet of live
daphnia, chironomid larvae (bloodworms), and tubifex worms.
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
Finally, Dr. Limburg advises that sea salt is a great aid in
times of stress.
She used a salt solution of 5 ppt when she transferred
fish, and found that larvae had the lowest mortality and best growth at 10
ppt (as opposed to 0 and 20 ppt).
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 .
(Adding some salt to the water also helps reduce stress.) Hissom keeps about
a dozen Threadfin Shad in a 125-gallon aquarium where they feed on
micro-pellets. McLane (1955) reports catching Threadfin Shad at night with a
flashlight; the fish were attracted to the beam and literally jumped out of
the water onto dry sand at McLane's feet.
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
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