Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Alosa Sapadissima—“shad most savory”
Torben Jenk, 2006.

Even without a rod or net you can enjoy a taste of American Shad this spring at home, restaurant or festival. Shad can be purchased locally at numerous markets including the Reading Terminal Market where whole roe shad sells for $4/pound, whole buck shad sells for $2/pound, shad fillets sell for $4/pound, boneless shad fillets sell for $8-10/pound and roe sets sell for $10. Much of this shad will likely be from southern rivers in Georgia and the Carolinas. Beware the bones.

“According to Micmac Indian legend, the shad was originally an unhappy porcupine who asked the Great Spirit Manitou to recreate it in another form. Manitou obliged by turning the porcupine inside out, dubbing it ‘shad’ and hurling it into the river. An icthyologist ...[count of its prickly bones]: 769!” —Jonathan Reynolds, New York Times

“There’s only one way to cook a shad. Take her squirming out of the water, run with her to an open fire, clean her quickly, nail her on a thick hickory board, stand her in front of a fire of a fierce blaze and continually baste her with the finest gilt-edge butter until she is golden brown color. That is the whole story; nothing remains but the eating.” —Louis N. Magargee, SEEN AND HEARD, 1901.

“When the Lord made shad,
The Devil was mad,
For it seemed such a feast of delight,
So to poison the scheme,
He jumped in the stream,
And stuck in the bones out of spite.”
—an old fisherman’s poem.


Lambertville, NJ. Celebrating a shad history dating back to 1771, the Lewis Fishery holds the only remaining commercial license to catch shad with nets. You can watch the crew row out and haul shad with seine nets between 1 and 2pm. Hundreds of people cross the wobbly pedestrian bridge to the tiny island fishery to watch this ancient technique and see the shad being drawn in to shore. These truly fresh shad are then offered for sale. Thousands of others visit Lambertville for the broader festivities including tastes of shad (planked, roe, etc), environmental programs, and art gallery-hopping with over-the-top shad themes.

Behtlehem, PA. Members of the Delaware River Sport Fishermen’s Association catch these shad on hook and line and offer traditional dinners of planked shad, some boneless and some shad roe. This is the largest fish bake in Pennsylvania and is accompanied by exhibits, demonstrations and activities for children. Call (610) 691-5300 for more info.


Mayfair Diner
, 7343-7373 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19136. (215) 624-4455. Offers fresh shad dinners in season. Call ahead to make sure it is on the menu that day.

Dill's Seafood, 13 Washington St, Bridgeton NJ 08302. (856) 451-1932. Praised for its shad and other fish caught in the Delaware Bay. It is claimed that their boning expert, Leona Marino Chinnici, can bone a shad in 37 seconds, 42 if someone watches.