The shads or river herrings (hilsa: India) comprise the genus Alosa, fish related to herring in the family Clupeidae. They are distinct from others in that family by having a deeper body and spawning in rivers. The several species frequent different areas on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea. The shad fry live for a year or two in fresh water.
The American or Atlantic shad (A. sapidissima) is a valued food fish. It was especially important in the 1700s; however, many of the rivers where it was common now suffer from pollution. Traditionally it was caught along with salmon in set nets which were suspended from poles driven into the river bed reasonably close to shore in tidal water. It weighs between 3 and 8 pounds and has a delicate flavour when cooked. It is considered flavourful enough to not require sauces, herbs or spices. It can be boiled, filleted and fried in butter or baked. Traditionally a little vinegar is sprinkled over it on the plate. In the eastern United States roe shad (females) are prized because the eggs are considered a delicacy.