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Colorado Fish Species

Arctic Char
Arctic Grayling
Bigmouth Buffalo
Black Bullhead
Black Crappie
Blue Catfish
Bluehead sucker
Bonytail Chub
Brook Trout
Brown Trout
Channel Catfish
Colorado Pikeminnow
Colorado River Cutthroat
Common Carp
Creek Chub
Cutbow Trout
Cutthroat Trout
Emerald Shiner
Flannelmouth Sucker
Flathead Catfish
Flathead Chub
Freshwater Drum
Gizzard Shad
Golden Shiner
Golden Trout
Grass Carp
Green Sunfish
Greenback Cutthroat
Hybrid Striped Bass(wiper/palmetto)
Lake Chub
Lake Trout
Largemouth Bass
Longnose Sucker
Mountain Whitefish
Northern Pike
Orangespotted Sunfish
Rainbow Trout
Redear Sunfish
River Carpsucker
Roundtail Chub
Sacramento Perch
Smallmouth Bass
Snake River Cutthroat
Spottail Shiner
Spotted Bass
Striped Bass
Sunfish (Bream)
Tiger Muskie
Tiger Trout
White Bass
White Crappie
White Sucker
Yellow Bullhead
Yellow Perch
Yellowstone Cutthroat

Gizzard Shad
The Gizzard Shad, a member of the herring family, is native to fresh and salt waters of eastern North America. Its natural range includes the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes and extends west into North Dakota. Gizzard shad are found as far south as eastern Mexico, and as far west as New Mexico. Its range has been greatly expanded through stockings throughout the west.  Preferred habitat is sluggish rivers and muddy bottomed lakes, avoiding fast waters.  Shad are pelagic and frequently feed near the surface. Gizzard shad are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and oxygen content, which can cause large-scale, unexpected die-offs.
Gizzards have a deep, oblong body. Free of markings, they are grayish or silvery blue on top transitioning to silver on the sides with a whitish belly. The dorsal fin has a long ray that extends beyond the rest of the fin. The tail fin is deeply forked. Their mouth is inferior, sub-terminal, and toothless. Gizzard shad produce excessive slime and have a noticeable strong “fishy” smell. 
Eight to fourteen inches is typical for gizzard shad, but can exceed 18 inches.
Gizzard shad spawn in the spring, when water temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Diverse habitats are utilized for spawning. Eggs and sperm are broadcast simultaneously near the surface.  The eggs sink to the bottom and adhere to submerged objects.  Reservoir populations often spawn in creeks tributary to the reservoir. Shad are prolific, producing up to 400,000 eggs.
This schooling, pelagic fish is primarily a plankton feeder. They ingest bottom mud and sand to assist grinding of phytoplankton and zooplankton in their thick walled gizzard like stomachs.

Gizzard Shad in Colorado

Description: A fish that is strongly compressed lateraly, body thin and deep; mouth small and subterminal, upper jaw with a deep notch at center, upper jaw extends past lower jaw; dorsal fin with 10-13 rays, last ray of dorsal fin modified into a long, thin filament; 29-35 rays in anal fin; more than 55 scales in lateral line. Adults are silver or silvery-blue on the back, fading to silver on the sides, with a whitish belly. Young have a large purple-silver spot on the sides behind the upper edge of the operculum. Mature fish range from 9-13.5 inches in length and weigh about 12 ounces. Specimens longer than 18 inches have been taken in eastern Colorado.
Range in Colorado: Gizzard shad in Colorado are restricted to reservoirs and mainstem river reaches in the Arkansas and South Platte drainages. Every life stage, from larvae to spawning adults, is found in many eastern plains reservoirs. Immature fish, to five inches in length, may be encountered in the mainstem South Platte River from Greeley upstream to the Saint Vrain River, and in the lower reaches of that tributary (Propst 1982). Wiltzius (1981) indicated that gizzard shad may be native to Colorado since specimens were collected in the Arkansas drainage prior to any known introductory plant of the species. Gizzard shad have been stocked in many eastern plains reservoirs as a forage species.

Habitat: Gizzard shad are found in many diverse Colorado waters, but principally in highly productive impoundments. Traveling in schools which generally are in continual motion, gizzard shad are found in areas of little or no current. This avoidance of current could explain the absence of mature shad in the mainstem South Platte River where low fall and winter flows leave few large pool areas.

Courtesy of NDIS Colorado Division of Wildlife
Most Recent Gizzard Shad Forum Posts
Holy shad 03.13.20 by Assassin
Catching Shad 03.24.17 by Topgun
Ref. catching Shad 02.22.17 by Topgun
Cast nets 02.29.16 by finsnfeathers
Shad fishing in CO? 05.10.15 by Ch00Chee
chatfield bow fishing 08.02.14 by fishhunter1214
Snagged two gizzard shad! 03.03.14 by Colorado Bass Man
Shad attack. 09.14.13 by All weather fisherman
Gizzard Shad 07.01.13 by Stockbronco
Grand Lake Fishing Help!!?? 07.12.11 by ErockFisher
Gizzard Shad Articles, Blogs, & Podcasts
Blog: Sheldon Lake Fish Situation 08.28.23 by Matt Snider
Blog: Visiting Old Friends 03.14.18 by David Coulson
Blog: Keeping track of natures cycles increase success 02.28.17 by David Coulson
Blog: Boomerang Tool Co. Grip 11.07.12 by Joshua Christensen
Blog: An Eye Opening Morning at Boyd 10.18.12 by David Coulson
Blog: 4 Apps Every Angler With A Smartphone Should Use 02.09.12 by Joshua Christensen
Blog: Clouser Pattern Detailed - New Article 12.16.11 by Matt Snider
Blog: Become a pro 09.30.11 by Joshua Christensen
Recent Colorado Gizzard Shad Photos by Fish Explorer Members
by anglerwannabe - As slow as I was reeling, no idea how I did this. by Flyrodn - Shad will nail flies in the spring at Jackson 2/19/17 by Flyrodn - Shad Jackson 2/19/17 by fargingicehole - Surprise catch on my Live Target swimbait. 02/13/17 by Sami - Took me forever to figure out what this dude was by All weather fisherman - Shad attack at the fairgrounds. by Flyrodn - Nice shad
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