Gizzard Shad

Dorosoma cepedianum


Gizzard Shad
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission.

Clupeidae (herrings) in the order Clupeiformes (herrings and anchovies)


Silvery, moderately deep-bodied fish with a large lustrous purple spot (may be faint in adults) just behind the upper end of the gill cover. Deeply forked tail, keel-shaped belly. Last ray of the dorsal (top) fin is prolonged into a long, slender filament.


Total length: 9 to 14 inches.

Gizzard shad bait.jpg

Gizzard shad bait
A gizzard shad is being used as live bait
Habitat and conservation

A variety of quiet-water habitats including natural lowland lakes and ponds, pools and backwaters of streams and rivers, and artificial impoundments. Most active dusk and night. The gizzard shad travels in large, constantly moving schools near the water’s surface and frequently leaps clear of the water or skips along the surface on its side, earning it the common name "skipjack."


Omnivorous, feeding on plankton, algae, small aquatic insect larvae and detritus.

image of Gizzard Shad Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Occurs at least occasionally in every major stream system. Is most abundant in reservoirs and large rivers.

Life cycle

Gizzard shad can live 6 to 10 years.

Human connections

Some specialists have pointed out that although shad bear numerous young that can be preyed upon, the growth is rapid and adults are too big to be eaten by game fish. Also, they may compete for resources with game fish. But it seems this shad's "good points" outweigh its "nuisance" qualities.

Ecosystem connections

Shad form a short, efficient link in the food chain between the tiniest organisms (such as algae and zooplankton) and large fish like white bass, crappies and largemouth bass. The well-being of those fish depends a great deal on the numbers of gizzard shad.