The Twaite Shad
Have you heard of the Twaite Shad? No – then allow me to introduce you to this remarkable fish.
This is a salt water fish – silvery with dark spots that go from dark round the gills to paler along its back – on average about 30cm long.
It is a very smart fish indeed. They live out at sea but return to their birth river to spawn, often making migrations of hundreds of miles across the sea. Once in the river their metabolism has to adapt from salt to fresh water, and whilst in the river they do not feed – although for some reason it is perfectly possible to catch one on a fly in the river. However, let it be known that these rare and endangered fish are protected, and must not be fished or if accidentally caught, carefully returned. Unlike the Salmon which has a similar life story and is much better known and documented, the Shad cannot jump or leap weirs and other man made obstacles that stop its migration to their breeding grounds – and this has contributed to their decline.
I have been lucky enough to have seen a shoal of Shad all the way up the River Wye at Boughrood – in the evening light ‘cutting their reds’ (a term given to the fish as they make nests using their tails in the gravel in the centre of the river) before laying their eggs and covering them over. It is a humbling experience to watch these beautiful fish, hard at work in the evening light, knowing how far they have travelled and the perils they have encountered in the river to finally get to their ‘nesting’ grounds. It is so easy to disturb these precious nests by getting out of canoes which have got stuck or striding across a low river, or simply enjoying a ‘wild swim’ but watch out, you could be walking straight through or stepping on a fish nest. Look carefully – you can see them – where the gravel has been turned over, it will appear paler than its surroundings. Many types of our most spectacular fish make these nests ‘reds’ – shad, salmon, grayling, barbel, chub, and many more I have not listed. Other fish such as minnow, dace, rudd, silverfish and gudgeon may lay their eggs in the reeds, so even the reeds should be avoided at this time of the year, when these – our most beautiful native fish are starting to breed. Their world is underwater, ours is above and if we share their world – use it with care