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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : News : DNREC’s Shad Hatchery aids restoration of species in Nanticoke River

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Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

DNREC’s Shad Hatchery aids restoration of species in Nanticoke River

DOVER (June 10, 2013) – DNREC’s Nanticoke Shad Hatchery produced and stocked approximately 558,000 American shad fry this spring, continuing to create momentum for a successful species restoration program, the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife announced today. Located on the banks of the Nanticoke River near the confluence with Broad Creek, the hatchery operates during the spring of the year to restore American shad numbers in the Nanticoke, Delaware’s primary tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

Working with local landowners who provided stream access, Division of Fish and Wildlife staff collected adult American shad from their spawning grounds on the Nanticoke River and Deep Creek. The fish were transported to the hatchery, where they were placed in a 4,000-gallon circular tank to spawn naturally. The eggs were collected and hatched, with the fry “marked" and then stocked at about three days of age. To preserve genetic integrity of the Nanticoke stock, the hatchery spawns adult American shad that are native to the Nanticoke River.

Predation by other fish species on shad eggs and newly-hatched fry occurs at high levels in the wild. By eliminating natural predation on the eggs and fry at this critical stage of their life cycle, the hatchery process provides protection and gives the shad a “jump start” which increases their rate of survival. Once spawning at the hatchery was completed, the adult shad were released back into the Nanticoke River to return another year to spawn.

American shad are valued as a food fish and were often consumed after being smoked. Female shad are prized for their roe (egg sacs), which are considered a delicacy by many. Shad are ecologically important and provide a forage base for many top predatory species such as striped bass and largemouth bass. American shad provide recreational fishing opportunities as well, and pound for pound will deliver a strong fight on hook-and-line. The shad fishery on the Nanticoke and its tributaries is currently closed to harvest as part of the restoration process, although catch-and-release fishing is permitted.

Since 2000, the shad hatchery has stocked more than 5,500,000 American shad in the Nanticoke River. Sampling of shad fry and returning adult shad in the river indicate that the shad population is starting to recover, with a substantial percentage of the fish originating from the hatchery. The goal is for the increasing numbers of returning shad to lessen the need for the hatchery by naturally producing a higher percentage of young and returning shad.

For more information about shad, please contact Mike Stangl, DNREC Fisheries Section, at 302-739-9914.

Vol. 43, No. 240

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