American Shad: 1600s and 1700s

Early European colonists were impressed with the sheer number of fish involved in shad migrations, as evidenced by Alexander Whitaker writing in 1613: “The rivers abound with fish both small and great. The sea-fish come into our rivers in March… great schools of herring come in first; shads of a great bigness follow them.”

As the Europeans pushed westward, they continued to marvel at the abundance of fish that appeared each spring. Robert Beverley, a historian, wrote in 1705: “In the spring of the year, herrings come up in such abundance… to spawn, that it is almost impossible to ride through, without treading on them.”
European colonists depended on Indigenous Peoples to teach them how to catch and preserve shad, often hiring them to catch massive quantities of fish, which the colonists would salt and store.

  • March 31, 2022