This is what it is like during the shad run. Lots of bites and catches. In a 2.5 hour period I caught close to 50 fish, with instances where caught fish on 5 consecutive casts. Here you see me get multiple bites and 2 shad in five minutes.
Shad fishing is busy work; you cast and reel every 45 seconds or so. Continue reading
Folks can land shad various ways. Fly fisherman often feast on them. Standard rod users too. The trick is to put something small and flashy in front of these lust-crazed fish’s eyes. (Shad, you may know, are plankton eaters. They strike lures out of reaction not hunger.
Let me here address landing them on standard gear.
A rig of split-shot and a spoon or a shad dart and a spoon is very effective—from the shore and a boat. See here for more details. In simplest fashion, tie a shad/herring spoon at the end of your line. Then 18-24 inches above add weight, either in the form of splitshot sinkers) or a shad dart. Continue reading
I saw a post from uber angler Alex Binsted on Friday, April 15—he had caught a shad near Fletcher’s Cove. I contactd a fishy friend and learned that his son had been on with Binstead and also had bagged a shad. A check of the water temperature showed me the time had come—the Potomac was 50-51 degrees. That’s the temperature to start chucking for shad, and the perch who often can be found with them.
So there I was at 7:30am in the brisk morning air (mid-40s, 15mph cool wind), right after sunrise. It took half an hour, but then the hit came—a load on the big Nungesser spoon. It took maybe 30 seconds to get the fish in, who ran left and right and leapt out of the water. It was a beautiful fish, around 17 inches, and thick. I got the spoon hook out of the top of its mouth and soon it was rocketing back into the depths.
Midway through this season I took a tip from two old pro’s and switched my preferred shad rig to a shad spoon with a little split-shot a couple feet above it. Wow, whereas my darts got a little attention, the crazy fluttering spoon was hammered relentlessly. Both gold and nickel ones got equal love from the lust-crazed shad.
The first spoon I used was a Nungesser 20 (the one at the bottom of the photo above. The 20G-1 is gold and the 20N-1 is nickel. Click the links to buy them.) It worked great for a couple of weeks. Then it didn’t. I was baffled—donde est shad?
Frustrated, I swapped to a wee little spoon. (The one at the top of the photo.) WHAM! Suddenly the fish were hitting again. And these shad were much smaller than the hogs that had been hitting previously. So I learned something—the size of shad running can change, and one needs to adjust hook size accordingly. I also was delighted to find blueback herring hopping on these trim little shad spoons.
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!
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.)