A Reason to Be Glad: Springtime Means Shad!

By: Chris Lemieux, Manager of Education


Video of Shad running at Buzzard Point on March 28, 2017

As the Spring warm-up is well under-way, so is the annual run of the American Shad! The newly-minted “DC state fish” spends most of its life in the ocean, but as your garden is beginning to bloom, the shad make their way back up our local rivers to spawn.

Up until the late 1800’s this fish was a major part of colonial life and a huge component of a thriving native ecology as well as colonial-American industry. But Shad fell victim to the neglect and mistreatment of the Anacostia River, and the numbers of this fish dwindled from over-fishing, pollution, and loss of prime spawning habitat.


Students release shad fry into the Anacostia River.

These days, however, the Anacostia Watershed Society is working to bring this fish back to the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. We are working with more than thirty schools, and at the end, they will release tens of thousands of American shad fry into our local waters!


A student in our Shad Restoration program studies Shad Fry.

Teachers from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia are working with AWS staff to build classroom egg hatcheries and to educate their students on the restoration efforts around this fish. For one week, students are responsible for monitoring the water quality in their hatchery, and sorting out healthy eggs from the “duds” – the ones who didn’t get fertilized. At the end of “Shad Week” each class comes out to a site on the Anacostia River, where their very own baby shad are released into the wild. Once these fish are free, they will head back out to the ocean for several years until they are ready to make a spawning run of their own.


Students say goodbye to the fish they raised from eggs in their classroom!

Many thanks to our funders, including: the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in DC, the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. And a special thank you to our individual donors and members who have helped keep this program alive for 17 years!

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