Shad - The Boistrous Alosine ?!?
by Tackle Cove
Ok guys put your books away, take out your pencils and get ready for your weekly Pop Quiz: What fights super hard on ultra-light tackle, only shows up for a couple months in the Spring, making an epic journey up the Chesapeake from the Atlantic to spawn? Hickory Shad, of course. Though you’d also get credit if you said American Shad, their bigger cousins that should be here in reliable numbers very soon.
Also called Tailor Jacks, and sometimes described as a poor man’s Tarpon because of the fish’s propensity for acrobatic leaps when hooked, these anadromous fish spawn in the Chesapeake tributaries with a peak run usually early April through mid-May. Which means the Shad run is on now. These boisterous alosines are a fun fish to catch, pulsing with energy, with flanks that shine like crushed diamonds plucked from deep space. Here are some tips to catch them if you can.
Gear Up & How To Fish Them
A spin outfit in the four-to-eight pound test range works great, so that makes Tackle Cove’s “Little Big Stick” ideal. Match the rod with a reel in the 1000-2000 class—Shimano’s Sedona 1000 or Penn’s Sargus 2000 are two of our favorites. Either braid or monofilament is fine. Occasionally a fluorocarbon leader in 10-pound test is useful.
For lures, you can’t go wrong with a classic 1/8- to 1/4-oz. shad dart (we like combo colors in red, white, pink and orange) paired with Bett’s mini-tube jigs (chartreuse and red, 1/32-oz.) on a three-way swivel. Flutter spoons (like a Tony #12) are also shad killers when used as the trailing lure - that’s meant metaphorically, of course, since in Maryland both shad species are strictly C&R gamefish since the moratorium was enacted in 1980. Some fishermen also cast small, metallic diving plugs (hooks removed) with shad darts, fluttering spoons or curly grub trailers. When using a three-way rig, the heavier dart should be on the shorter (12” to 18”) shot of leader, and the lighter lure on a 24” leader. Use barbless or mash down the barbs for easier release.
Shad are light sensitive so they usually bite better on overcast days. Also, they like to hang in the seams where the current bumps up against the eddies. Cast upriver and retrieve your lure, paying close attention so that you don’t let any slack in your line. Slowly retrieve your lure, ensuring that you cover different parts of the water column. Once you find the right combo of retrieve speed and depth, stick with it till the bite slows. And then change tactics to find out what they want.
WHERE TO GO: Fletcher’s Cove, Potomac River. Deer Creek & Octoraro Creek, Susquehanna River. Upper Gunpowder River. Patuxent, Choptank and Nanticoke rivers.
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