Freshwater Fish - Species

Gizzard Shad - Click to enlarge photo

Species Specific Regulations

Gizzard shad

Freshwater Fishing License required.

Complete fishing regulations

Guide to Freshwater Fishes

Guide to Freshwater Fishes
(Adobe PDF - 3MB)

Gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) - Native

Description: (Anatomy of a Fish)

The gizzard shad has a body that is silvery in color with a bluish-gray back with a large purple-blue spot on the upper side of the body just beyond the operculum or gill flap.  The snout, with its downward pointing mouth, is distinctly blunt.  There is also a distinguishingly long dorsal fin ray at the back of the dorsal fin. 

Range:  Statewide, except small streams and foothills streams

Average Length:  10-12 inches

Average Size:  2 pounds

Life Expectancy: Approximately 10 years

Preferred Habitat

Gizzard shad inhabit large rivers, reservoirs, lakes, ponds, pool and sluggish backwaters. 

Food Habits

  • Microscopic plants and animals by filter feeding with their gill rakers (which function like a strainer catching food). 


  • Gizzard shad are prolific spawners from March through August.  Females release 400,000 sticky eggs that adhere to shallow water substrates until they hatch.  The young grow rapidly during their first year, making them available prey for a short period of time. 


Gizzard shad get their name from their heavy and muscular stomachs that resemble the gizzard of a chicken.  The gizzard shad occurs in large numbers in the state’s more productive reservoirs.  Here, the shad school in shoreline and open water areas.  Gizzard shad are an important prey species for many game fish from hatching through adulthood.  However, at full size, they are too large for all but the biggest striped bass, largemouth bass and catfish to consume.  Massive die-offs occur in extreme cold weather.  They are commonly used as a baitfish. 

Commonly Mistaken Species

One species of fish that is commonly mistaken for this species is:

Literature Cited

Rohde, Fred C, Arndt, Rudolf G., Foltz, Jeffery W., Quattro, Joseph M. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 2009. South Carolina Guide to Freshwater Fishes.

Fish Illustration by Duane Raver.