Shad Fishing On the Potomac River In Washington, DC, April 17, 2016

painted shad spoonThe sky was clear, the temperature was 50 degrees at 7:45 am and rose to 60+ by 11:45am.

I shore fished in the area a bit below where I previously used to shore fish for catfish. It was shady for most of the morning, and the water was mostly still. The tide was mostly in when I began and mostly out when I finished. It was pretty ideal—yet I caught just 1 fish. Why? Answer: I was rigged wrong, and had no spoons to try. One can never be certain what the shad will hit on. Different colored darts; different colored spoons—bring a variety.

Two experienced shad fishermen near me caught at least 6 shad each. The fish all were 9-12 inch American shad. They were using spoons on a rig like this:

Spoon————————long sinker—————–

There was maybe 2 feet of line between the spoon and the sinker. The guy nearest me used a long barrel sinker (I am assuming he had beads to keep it in place) and they were casting 30 to 60 feet. His spoon also was neon green. It looked from a distance a bit like this—although his seemed to have more spoon in the spoon-to-hook ratio.

I copied this style of rig and caught my shad on this:

Yellow bodied and red ended dart——round ends swivel–2 ¼ sinkers——


  1. Clip 2 feet of line, tie dart. Leave it.
  2. Then slide sinker on rod line, tie swivel to keep it from sliding off.
  3. Then tie rig line to the other end of the swivel.

I used one of the my girl’s little Zebco rods, which had 6 or 8 pound line on it. Light line is key as you have little weight for casting. (That said, some guys weightlessly fished for shad from boats—they were fly fishing them. Shore shad fishing is a cast and reel exercise.)

The re-rig worked—I got a nice shad, which I returned gently to the river. (Shad are catch and release.)

shad Potomac River

American shad caught from the shore of the Potomac River,


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