Tag Archives: shad

Mother’s Day Shad

Those of you who have followed this blog for a few years will recall that hooking a Shad on the fly has been one of my goals for a few years. Rewinding to 2014, I missed some Hickory Shad on the fly but was unable to land one. I did not attempt to shad fish in 2015 or 2016 due to time constraints and/or work commitments along with the low water levels that made for a poor season. Early 2017 has progressed and the drought has lifted from the Delaware River watershed. This weekend after having Mother’s Day events with the family, I found some time to check the Shad Reports. It was clear to me based on the reports that I should go out and try for some shad on the fly.

My first American Shad and first Shad Fly Fishing!

Fly Gear

I had previously acquired the proper gear for Shad Fly Fishing prior to my earlier Fly Fishing adventures therefore, I had all the necessary equipment and some flies tied up on deck ready to go. I used my St. Croix 7WT Bankrobber Streamer Rod strung up with Rio Sink Tip line and a 8LB test Bass tippet material. As for a fly, I used something called Al’s Shad Fly #4. This consists of a size four or six hook, dumbbell eyes, yellow hackle, yellow hackle tail, yellow yarn and silver tinsel. I also tried out some others but this seemed to get the most attention.

My version of Al’s Shad Fly #4

Where to Look

Using the Fly Rod puts you at a slight disadvantage to a spin fisherman when seeking Shad. On the Delaware, through Warren County, where I typically fish for Smallmouth in the summer there are no major dams for the Shad to “stack up” like they do in Deer Creek, Maryland. Therefore, you must seek out pools downstream of major runs or those created by tributaries. Swinging the fly into slower water pools on the side of fast water or before a major obstacle in the river should yield results.

With some luck, they will still be in the river next weekend an I’ll find some time to target the Shad in between the guide trips I will be running.

The Shad Run

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.

Mark pulled this beauty out just before we headed to the hotel.
Mark pulled this beauty out just before we headed to the hotel.

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.

Just enjoying some quality time with the Shad.
Just enjoying some quality time with the Shad.

Sport Fishing

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.

Shad have sharp underbelly fins, be careful how you hold them prior to release.
Shad have sharp underbelly fins, be careful how you hold them prior to release.

Water Temperature

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.

Hickory Shad grow to around two pounds, American Shad grow to four. This is a larger Hickory Shad.
Hickory Shad grow to around two pounds, American Shad grow to four. This is a larger Hickory Shad.

Location

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.

Shad put up a serious battle, getting them to stay still for a second to get the hook out is a challenge.
Shad put up a serious battle, getting them to stay still for a second to get the hook out is a challenge.

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.