It Is May 2, 2018, and the Shad Run Is On!

The frequently rainy spring bedeviled shad fishermen. Heavy rains fall, then the shad are un-catchable for four or five days.

My previous trips inevitably brought shad, but it was hit or miss. This morn began the same way: three shad in the first 10 casts (7:45am) followed by 30 minutes of futility, one shad, then 20 minutes of futility. Come 10am, I had all of 10 shad in 2+ hours.

Then the tide really started to flow out, and the run was on. I bagged 40 or so fish in the next two hours, most of which were caught on the simplest rig: a silver or brass spoon at the end and a couple of big splitshot sinkers a couple feet up the line. Cast long, count to two as it falls, and reel back and medium speed. Neither the color nor the size of the spoon made a difference—the shad pounced. My rod hand actually got a blister from the friction as I hauled out one fighting shad after another. And my left hand is all scraped up from grabbing shad so that I could remove the hook. Beat-up paws and sore forearm muscles—these are signs of a very good day of shad fishing!

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Hickory Shad: Win Some Lose Some

Spring has come, and the shad are running up the rivers and waterways of the east coast. Here in Washington, DC, shad come in from the ocean, through the Chesapeake Bay, and up the Potomac River. (Map here.) They make the journey from salty to fresh water to spawn.

Conveniently, the Potomac narrows in northwest DC, and angler flock to Fletcher’s Cove in mid-March and April to catch some of the bazillions of shad that stack up.

This spring has been rainy, which swells the river and makes it cloudy. It is tough to catch shad when they cannot see the darts and spoons, and a swollen river is a dangerous river. (See the rig below.)

I have been out to catch shad four times so far (March 27, and April 11, 15, and 24), and yet to be skunked. Despite the river being muddy from the heavy rains a week ago, I bagged about a dozen shad in less than two hours. Finding the level where the shad are racing by is key. To move the lures lower in the water, one adds splitshot about the swivel. Start it one and add additional splitshots. Also, give the lure longer to sink. I start with a three count (splash, 1, 2, 3, reel) and then increase that count as high as ten. (Do keep the bail closed—otherwise more line will spool out and you can end up with a tangled rig.)

Today I had an unusual experience: a massive shad hit broke my 10-pound line. Many folks who fish for shad use 8- or 6-pound line. I use 10 because shad are so wild and thrash so much. Still, as the video above shows, the stronger line was not able to withstand the hit. Whether it was one huge roe-laden shad or two shads hanging on the dart and the spoon I will never know.
Kosar Shad 04-11-2018
Kosar dart spoon shad rig 04-24-2018

Catching Bluegill and Sunfish with Shrimp


Earthworms are terrific for catching panfish. But what to do when you do not have a bait shop nearby and can’t dig any up (maybe you live in an apartment)?

Sure, I have heard folks sing the praises of boxed mashed potatoes. They have not worked for me—the potato tends to fall apart when the hook hits the water. I have reworked the consistency a bunch of time—and I’m done with that.

My new go-to bait is shrimp. I buy frozen, peeled shrimp—a container of 36 ran about $10. Each shrimp can be lopped into maybe a dozen tiny pieces that fit snugly on little size 8 snelled hooks.

Here’s the math for the value proposition: $10 / 36*12=432 pieces of bait = 2.3 cents per piece of bait. Bargain!

I only need to thaw three or four shrimp at a time—which can easily be done by soaking them in warm water for 10 minutes.

Shrimp also endures the nibbling by small panfish very well.

What more can you ask? Shrimp is cheap, you can have it on hand year round, and it work ridiculously well. Give it a shot.

Places to fish for trout near Washington, DC: A list in progress

Kosar wild torut caught 03-24-2017aI acquired my first fly rod recently and fly fished for the first time a year ago at the Omni Homestead in Hot Spring, Virginia. (Read about my experience.)

Now I am compiling a list of places to fly fish for trout in the DC/Virginia/Maryland/Pennsylvania/West Virginia area. My hope is to compile, hopefully with some reader help, good trout-chasing venues with 6 hours of Washington, DC. This is a work in progress, so please share with me any places you know!

Omni Homestead
7696 Sam Snead Highway
Hot Springs, VA 24445

I was here in 2016. There is a small trout pond with free cane poles right near the hotel, along with Orvis guided trips to two nearby trout streams….(Read more) Continue reading

Fish history: The federal government used to farm fish near the Washington Monument

Fish Washington Monument

Who knew?!

“Starting around 1879, such species as carp, bass and shad were bred by the U.S. Fish Commission in large ponds just west of the Washington Monument….”

“In the summer of 1879, ponds started to be carved out in the area then known as the Potomac Flats. The ponds were the idea of Spencer F. Baird, a former Smithsonian curator — and future Smithsonian secretary — who had been tapped by President Ulysses S. Grant to head the U.S. Fisheries Commission. Baird noted the decrease in fish harvests across the country — due, he believed, to overfishing — and thought a breeding program could help replenish stocks. Such wild species as shad, bass and crappie would eventually be raised in the Washington Monument ponds, but the early attention was focused on a foreign fish: the carp.”

“Floods swamped the ponds in June 1889, sweeping no fewer than 4,000,000 baby fish into the raging waters of the Potomac….”

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-world-according-to-carp-answer-man-visits-the-fish-ponds-on-the-mall/2017/11/18/93965c98-caf0-11e7-aa96-54417592cf72_story.html?utm_term=.dcff9ce11f2e

Yes, big catfish come out in autumn in Washington, DC. I think.

IMG_20171104_081514539On October 1, I wondered aloud on this blog if big catfish come out in cool weather. Last year, I had my personal best on a sunny October day: a 37-pound catfish.

The answer is “yes,” although it is complicated by an additional variable. In the past 6 weeks, I have caught catfish weighing 40 pounds, 21 pounds, and I don’t know how many in the 10- to 15-pound range.

Case proven, right? Well, yes, but I also switched from fishing in the morning to fishing in the evening, usually between 8pm and 11am, although I did stay out until 1am one night. Catfish feed at all times of the day, but especially at night. And, it might also be the case that large catfish feed nocturnally more often. Regardless, for sure autumn is not a time to put away your catfishing rods.

All these big beasts were blue catfish, not channels, and they hit on both my stink chicken bait and on cuts of blue catfish meat.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. Perhaps the weather will permit me to slip out in the morning and head to the river to chase a side dish!

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How to Make a Super Tough and Very Effective Santee Rig for Catfishing


Santee rigs are terrific for catching catfish. They keept the bait off the bottom, and when built with a swivel clip they permit the bait to move and turn gently in current. Retailers sell Santee rigs, and you can also make them with monofilament. Which is what I did for a while.

But making a Santee rig with steel wire offers serious advantages: (1) steel line is super strong; (2) the vinyl coating means it is easy to clean; and (3) steel line does not develop memory (twists/bends) or fray like monofilament, nor does it tangle around underwater structure (like branches).

I should add that using a heavy swivel at the end of this means you can easily swap out hooks, depending on the size of catfish you are chasing.

The components are very inexpensive and they all can be bought on Amazon:

As I note in the video, please watch a video on how to crimp properly if you are not experienced at crimping. It is easy to learn, but do it wrong and your crimp will fail—which means your rig will fail.

Once you get the handle of making one of these rigs, you can knock them out in 3 to 5 minutes. And if you want to pimp your rig a bit, consider adding plastic beads on both sides of the peg float. They can add a rattling sound that may draw more catfish.

By the way, if you are new to catfishing—yes, you DO need to use a weight to get this rig to the bottom. So, on your rod line attach a slider-clip above heavy swivel-clip (same as the one above). Clip a 2- or 3-ounce sinker (pyramid or disc) to the slider.

Voila—you are done. Bait the big hook with cut bluegill, shad, or blue catfish (the bloodier the better) or stinky chicken bait.