Transporting live shad.


This article is intended to be a General Guide for Transporting live Shad.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2018, it is illegal to use any live baitfish, including crayfish, in Arkansas unless:It was: Caught within the same body of water where it is being used. Caught in a tributary entering upstream of the waterbody where it is being used. Or purchased from a licensed dealer selling only certified farm-raised baitfish. No baitfish is allowed to move upstream past a dam or barrier that prohibits the normal passage of fish.
Always check your states laws on the transportation of live bait.

Many factors have to be weighed in your decision to catch and haul shad.

Results depend on many factors:

  • The size and type of tank used in transporting.
  • Netting and handling of shad.
  • Number and size of the shad.
  • Time of day, the time of year and current weather conditions.
  • Water Quality and temperature in body of water where you catch shad as well as water condition and temp. in travel tank.

Most fish losses from hauling are the result of the activation of latent disease organisms or osmoregulatory problems. Poor water quality, overcrowding and improper tempering cause serious fish losses. The ultimate goal is to provide healthy fish that survive after moving.

Water quality during transportation:
Fish health and loading densities are affected by water quality parameters in the tanks during the transportation process. The parameters to be considered are temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, carbon dioxide, ammonia and the salt balance of the fish's blood. The rate of change of each parameter is affected by the weight and size of fish to be transported, size of tank and the duration of transport.

Water quality is an important factor to manage while fish are crowded and stressed in hauling. The major parameters that limit the loading density of fish are adequate oxygen levels and buildup of toxic waste products such as ammonia and carbon dioxide. Temperature, pH, loading density and trip duration affect the severity of these problems. A suitable water supply is needed for short-term holding and hauling. Cool, uncontaminated well water is preferred. Oxygenate well water thoroughly before it is used in the transport tank to remove carbon dioxide and add dissolved oxygen. Beware of high levels of ammonia and iron that can occur in well water. Ammonia can be removed by aging water in a tank, and iron can be removed by aerating water before use. Pond water is less desirable because it often has a heavy algae bloom and other organisms that remove oxygen from the water and produce ammonia as a waste product. Pond water also is more likely to have harmful fish pathogens than well or spring water. Clear pond water without a heavy algae bloom can be used for short trips. Special care is needed when any surface water is used to make sure that no harmful contaminants are present.

Dissolved Oxygen
The most important single factor in transporting fish is adequate concentrations of dissolved oxygen (DO). The importance of supplying adequate levels of DO cannot be overemphasized.
Failure to do so results in severe stress which may kill quickly and / or contribute to killing fish two to three days after they have been put in home tanks.

The amount of oxygen that can be dissolved in fresh water is based primarily on water temperature. The water is referred to as 100 percent saturated when the upper saturation level is reached. DO saturation is higher for cool water than for warm water. For example, at sea level DO saturation of 45 degrees F water is 12.1 parts per million (ppm) but at 60 degrees F, saturation is 10.0 ppm. By using pure oxygen during transport, DO levels in the water will be better saturated and the low oxygen levels usually will not be a problem.

The quantity of hydrogen ions (H+) in the water will determine if it is acidic or basic. The scale for measuring the degree of acidity is called the pH scale, which ranges from 1 to 14. A value of 7 is considered neutral, neither acidic nor basic; values below 7 are considered acidic; above 7 basic. The acceptable range for fish growth is between pH 6.5 and 9.0. The pH of water will be influenced by the alkalinity (buffering capacity) and the amount of free carbon dioxide. The pH of the transport water will also affect the toxicity of ammonia. Even in well-buffered transport water the pH will sometimes decrease by one pH unit.

Ammonia build up occurs in transport water as a result of fish metabolism and, to a lesser extent, bacterial action on fish waste excreted into the water. Two forms of ammonia occur in transport water: ionized (NH4+), and un-ionized (NH3). Unlike the ionized form, the un-ionized form of ammonia is extremely toxic at concentrations as low as 0.2 ppm. In tests for ammonia, both forms are grouped together as "total ammonia nitrogen" (TAN). The percent of ammonia that is un-ionized will depend on both temperature and pH.

Total ammonia concentrations may reach more than 14 ppm during transport. The easiest way to reduce toxic ammonia buildup in transport water is to lower the temperature of the transport water.

Fish are cold-blooded, so the metabolic rate of fish is affected by the temperature of the environment. The metabolic rate of fish will double for each 18 degree F increase in temperatures and be reduced by half for each 18 degree F decrease in temperature.

A reduced metabolic rate will decrease the oxygen consumption, ammonia production and carbon dioxide production. Therefore a cooler tank is a better tank. While it is not always possible, transport fish in as low of a temperature as possible. Shad do best being transported in 60 to 75 degree water. The warmer the water the more critical dissolved oxygen becomes.

Carbon dioxide:
As fish respire they produce carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Carbon dioxide reacts with water to form a weak acid. This weak acid will in turn decrease the pH of the water. High levels of carbon dioxide (greater than 20 ppm) will interfere with the oxygen uptake in the fish's blood. High levels of carbon dioxide sometimes are found in well water. Excess carbon dioxide in well water can be reduced by mechanical aeration or by passing the water through a degassing column.

Chemical additives:
Numerous chemical additives can be added to the transport water to alleviate several problems associated with transporting fish. Overdoses of chemical can cause death, care must be taken when measuring the dosage of each chemical. It is essential to double check every calculation and to use an accurate balance when weighing chemicals of your choice.

The most common chemical added to transport water is salt (NaCl). Salt is used to relieve stress associated with maintaining a water balance in the fish. Freshwater fish have a blood salt concentration higher than the salts of the transport water. As a result, the fish are continually losing salts to the surrounding water.

Salt concentrations of 0.1 to 0.3 percent (1,000 to 3,000 ppm, or 3.8g to 11.4g / per gal) is generally used in transporting shad. Use non-iodized salt that contain no anti-caking compounds.

If the alkalinity of the transport water is less than 100 ppm, some type of buffering compound should be added to the water. Properly buffered water will help remove freed carbon dioxide which causes drops in pH. Sodium bicarbonate (Na2CO3) is one of the fastest reacting buffers and should be added at a rate of 1g ( 0.035273oz) per gallon of water.

The fish will suffer stress because they are being netted and transported usually in crowded conditions. Sometimes a chemical anesthetic may be beneficial by producing a light sedation. The only anesthetic approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food fish is Finquel (tricaine methanesulfonate). Finquel may be used at a rate of 0.06 to 0.25 g per gallon. of water.  Research has shown that anesthetics can produce the same stress response as handling. However, anesthetics are beneficial for calming excitable fish that might injure themselves in transit.

Carrying capacity:
The carrying capacity depends on the water temperature, air temperature, water condition  where shad were caught and type of handling from netting to transportation tank, duration of haul,  type of transportation tank water conditions in tank and fish size.

References: Dupree, H.K. and J.V. Huner, 1984. Third Report to Fish Farmers. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C.

Piper, R. G., I.B. McElwain, L.E. Orme, J.P. McCraren, L.G. Fowler, and J.R. Leonard, 1982. Fish Hatchery Management. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. 517 pp.

S.K. Johnson, 1988. Transport of Fish and Crustaceans in Sealed Containers. Inland Aquaculture Handbook. Texas Aquaculture Association, College Station, TX. A1504-A1509.

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