In a Perfect River: The Historical Contributions of River Herring and Shad to Commercial and Recreational Fisheries and the Culture in North Carolina

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 9:40 AM
Hoffman (The Marriott Little Rock)
Anthony S. Overton , Department of Biology, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Four anadromous species in the family Clupeidae blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis), alewife (A. pseudoharengus , American shad (A. sapidissima) and the hickory shad (A. mediocris)  have been in important part of North Carolina history.  During Thomas Harriot’s visit to North Carolina he noted that herring were important fare to the natives and he observed herrings “of eighteene, twentie inches, and some two foote in length and better”. There were even popular with the local wildlife as black bears were often seen streamside catching river herring to eat.  Four natural characteristics of Alosa account for the vitality as a major subsistence and trade resource: (1) predictability (in time and space), (2) availability (in massive spawning runs), (3) accessibility (ease of access and harvest with minimal effort), (4) storability (short-term and long-tern preservation by smoke-drying or salt-curing).  These Alosa species even played a vital role in the War Between the States.  Although the relative abundance of three of the Alosa species remains low, Hickory shad abundance and popularity continues to rise. As a result   well-established and popular recreational fishery exist.  Although the river herring fishery in long gone, river herring are still remembered and celebrated in  North Carolina through numerous statewide festivals.