Conservation Minded Virginians Call for Hickory Shad Protections

UPDATE 3/12/24: CCA Virginia’s request for conserving hickory shad was referred directly to the VMRC rulemaking process and will be considered by the Finfish Management Advisory Committee (FMAC) at its March 28 online meeting. CCA Virginia will present the conservation need, recommended solution including harvest limits and fishing gear restrictions, and prospective benefits. The public will have an opportunity to provide comment. Instructions for logging into the meeting which begins at 5 p.m. are posted here The meeting outcome will determine the next step…. please stand by for more updates.


UPDATE: 2/14/24 – CCA Virginia has been notified that the VMRC will likely expedite the consideration of regulatory changes through the March Fin fish Management Advisory Committee.   At this meeting, CCA Virginia leaders will provide a presentation to the committee which will then discuss and consider comment on the matter.  The public will have an opportunity to provide comment at this meeting.  Beyond this meeting, each step in the process will determine the next…. please stand by for more updates. 


CCA Virginia volunteers initiate a petition to VMRC to set consistent creel limits for hickory shad. 

Click here to view the petition submission

Contact: Wayne Young, CCA Virginia volunteer : (703)216-2648

Overview: Hickory shad is an anadromous fish that spends most of its life in the Atlantic ocean and returns each spring to spawn in the Chesapeake Bay’s coastal rivers and streams. Along with American shad, they were once an abundant and important recreational and commercial species that spawned in virtually every river and tributary along the Atlantic coast. Today, both shad species are listed as depleted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

As one of the first migrating game fish available to Chesapeake sport anglers in the early spring, hickory and American shads are important to and valued by the Bay’s recreational fishing community.

A hickory shad with a shad dart in it’s mouth. These small jigs are a common lure used to entice a strike from passing shad.

The Problem: Unlike American shad, currently there are no conservation protections in place for hickory shad in Chesapeake Bay waters and tributaries in Virginia. There are no limits on the size or number of fish an angler can keep. There are no restrictions on the type of gear one can use to catch them. Hickory shad, however, are fully protected in Maryland and DC waters and there is a ten-fish daily bag limit in North Carolina (though no size limit) and selected Virginia rivers beyond the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Over the past decade, Coastal Conservation Association Virginia (CCA Virginia) members have observed large quantities of hickory shad taken in certain coastal rivers with cast nets, dip nets, hook-and-line and other means. American shad, which are also severely depleted yet fully protected, are often taken as by-catch. This is concerning because unrestricted catches in Virginia’s coastal rivers threaten progress made to protect and restore both shad species, which are also forage for stripers and other Bay game fish.

The Solution: The “fix” is straightforward and reasonable: Designate hickory shad a “rod-and-reel” recreational fishery with a limited daily creel limit. In February 2024, CCA Virginia submitted a formal petition for rule making to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) via the state’s Regulatory Town Hall website to request consideration of these reasonable fishery management adjustments. Doing so would help ensure a quality recreational fishery and streamline VMRC’s regulatory oversight burden and be more consistent with shad and herring restoration plans.

How You Can Help: COMING SOON!:  Sign the petition when it is open for comments at the “Petitions for Rule making” Tab on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall webpage. CCA Virginia will send out an “Action Alert ” email and post on social media asking the public to support our “Conserve Hickory Shad” campaign. Attend the public meeting if one is scheduled and contact the VMRC directly to urge them to support reasonable updates to hickory shad management rules. We’ve also enlisted the help of our partners in conservation – including several fishing clubs and conservation groups.


Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with the latest updates & events