American shad is the Connecticut state fish. Like the American salmon, shad are anadromous fish, which means they begin their life in fresh water rivers, travel through the Long Island Sound and then migrate out to the Atlantic Ocean where they spend most of their adult life in the open ocean before returning to the fresh water rivers to spawn.
The life cycle of the shad begins in the freshwater where the mature adult female shad spawns 100, 000 to 600,000 eggs which are fertilized by several adult males. The larvae eggs develop and infant shad hatch between 4 to14 days after being fertilized. At this stage, the shad are zooplankton drifting with the current. After hatching, the juveniles spend their first summer in freshwater rivers of Connecticut. During the fall, shad gather in schools and begin swimming to the ocean. Like salmon, shad spend three to six years in the ocean and then return to spawn as mature adults in the rivers of their birth.
The number of shad returning to the Connecticut River to spawn has greatly diminished over the years. This has been attributed to land development and the use of dams to control water flow. These dams have blocked access to returning fish thus obstructing entry and routes to their spawning grounds.