Gone Fishing: The Shad Are Coming!

ShadddIn the latter half of May an annual migration of Gaspereaux (also called Alewife) and then American Shad takes place in the Saint John River system. These two fish are members of the herring family and are key members of the food chain for many other species in our rivers and oceans. Countless numbers of these silver fish will be able to be seen in many rivers and streams as they may their way upriver to spawn.     

 The American Shad is a fish enjoyed by many New Brunswickers. Weighing between 3 and 8 lbs they are very oily and bony with a delicate flavour when cooked. Today the roe harvested from female Shad is considered a delicacy in many high end kitchens.

  Fishing for Shad is an amazing experience, though with a bit of a learning curve. For their size the Shad put up an enormous fight when hooked, often jumping out of the water several times and can be a challenge to land. Shad have very soft mouths, so if an angler retrieves a hooked shad with too much force, the hook will tear through and the fish will be lost.

 To fish for Shad many people use lures called Shad darts, while others use a small colourful weighted jig head with a little soft plastic grub added to it. A third option is sinking Shad flies which are very popular in places like Salmon River up near Chipman. This year I have added a few new lures to my tackle box in hopes they turn into a new secret prized Shad lure! Like with any fishing, experimenting is not only key, but also helps in the enjoyment when you discover something that works!

 When you fish Shad, you want your lure to be down near the bottom of the river and you want to make it dance. The more movement you can put into your lure, the more likely a Shad will attack it. I have anchored my kayak above a school of Shad before in crystal clear water and watched as they swim by a lure that is still, but the moment it starts to move, their attention perks up! Cast your lure across the current of a river, and once it hits the bottom, start bouncing it along the rocks rapidly as you retrieve it.

 Once a Shad hits, make sure your drag is set to a light enough setting so that it can run but have to exert some energy to do so. After a few minutes retrieve the fish in if you can, and get a net ready. If you try to lift a Shad out with your line you may just lose the fish!