70 years of helping people to care for our ocean

Shad Season OPENS 1 December

By: Dr Judy Mann

Shad, also known as elf, are one of South Africa’s most popular angling fish and they are pursued by hundreds of thousands of anglers every year.  Their streamlined bodies are perfectly shaped for speed through the water and their silvery coloration, light beneath and metallic green or blue above, helps them to blend in with the ocean.

Shad are widely distributed in the warm temperate coastal waters of the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The South African stock is, however, distinct which means that we alone have the responsibility to look after the shad along our coast.  Shad are found in sandy and rocky areas from the shore down to depths of 100m.

There are a limited number of shad in the ocean.  If anglers catch more than can be replaced by their breeding, over-fishing results.  This results in fewer shad being caught and their average size becoming smaller.  To prevent this, there are fishing regulations in place to control the number of shad that are caught.  These regulations ensure that everyone catches their fair share and that shad can continue to be caught in the future.

Obey the fishing regulations 

  • Minimum size limits give fish a chance to breed at least once before they are caught and protects the fish when they are growing at their fastest. The minimum size limit for shad is  30 cm total length.
  • Bag limits restrict daily catches so that there will be enough fish for everyone.  Scientists work out how many fish can be harvested safely.  This information is used to set a bag limit that restricts the number of fish that can be caught per angler per day.  This prevents more successful anglers from catching great numbers of fish, especially when the fish are ‘on the bite’, so leaving some behind for less successful anglers. The bag limit for shad is 4 per person per day.
  • Closed seasons protect fish during vulnerable stages in their life cycles.  The shad closed season protects the fish at the peak of their breeding season. The closed season for shad is 1 October to 30 November. 
  • Although shad may be harvested and sold commercially in the Cape provinces you may not sell shad caught in KZN. The reason for this regulation is to help protect adult shad that migrate to KZN each year to breed.