A Patriotic Fish
Shad are an anadromous species of fish native to the east cost of the United States. In decline for most of the previous century, due to improvements in water quality, driven largely by a decrease in farming and industrial activity combined with the installation of fish ladders in the northeast United States, the Shad now return each year to their home rivers.
Long before the arrival of the British Colonists to North America Shad were important to the Native American Indians. After a long hard winter, the Shad returning to the rivers signaled the beginning of spring. The Indians built fish weirs across rivers in order to capture the Shad for food. In some places, remnants of these structures can be seen. The Shad were even a major source of food for the Continental Army in the Valley Forge area. So important were Shad that the story is told that the British ran a large seine net across the Schuylkill river to prevent the Shad from replenishing George Washington’s army.
Originally prized for their easy usage as an abundant food source and valued for the roe, Shad have morphed into a popular early spring sport fish. They can be obtained on a spin rod using brightly colored shad darts and properly weighted spoons. With the growing popularity of Fly Fishing anglers have figured out how capture the Shad on a fly. Sink tip line and brightly colored weighted flies tend to do the trick.
As an anadromous fish, similar to Salmon, Shad use certain indicators to enter the river. You will only find Shad in the river when the water temperature rises above 39 degrees; their peak movement into the mouth of the river corresponds with a temperature of 55 degrees. Peak movement for sport angling occurs between 62 and 71 degrees. There are various fishing reports available based on fish ladder data in the area that you will be fishing.
Shad will stack up at slack points in the river before a more challenging obstacle in the river. The best example is a pool or river mouth in front of a dam or fish ladder. They also congregate at the head or tail of deep pools, as they mill around you can attract their attention with the flash of a spoon. Other places to consider is mid river boulders and islands, the Shad will stack up in the slack water. The water temperature will determine their progress up the river.
If you have a moment in the next few weeks, you should step out and wet a line after some Shad. They put up quite a fight and often reward you with some aerial maneuvers.
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