Bob Gregorski June 2007
Peak Shad Fishing
The shadbush was in bloom, so it was shad fishing time! During a mid-May
trip to the lower Connecticut River, I lucked out with landing my
first shad of the season. It was a good catch. The 3.0-pound shad
looked beautiful; its brightly colored, silvery iridescent colored
body glistened in the daylight. It grabbed a bucktail fly that I was
using as a dropper. When I released it, I thanked it for its entertaining
battle. The next few weeks will be the peak of the shad-fishing season
Here’s what the quarry is like. The Anadromous
American shad adults average 18”-23” and weigh 3 to 6
pounds. These adult fish spend most of their lives in ocean waters
and migrate into freshwater to spawn in the spring. They are the largest
of the herring family to migrate into Connecticut waters. They have
a dark spot aft of their gill plates followed by a series of smaller
dots. They do not feed while in the up-river spawning migration. Some
research indicates that they strike at something in their path, particularly
brightly colored lures and flies instinctively to move them out of
the way of their journey. Most of the time their diet is small aquatic
creatures that include: shrimp, insects, small fish and zooplankton.
American shad provide important commercial fisheries
in some major rivers and recreational fisheries in many east coast
rivers including the Hudson, Delaware, Connecticut, Thames and Housatonic.
They range from Nova Scotia to the St. Johns River in Florida. “Freshwater
Tarpon” is one nickname for Alosa sapidissima because of the
aerial acrobatics it can perform. The hen shad (A.K.A. roe shad) are
filled with eggs and weigh an average 4 to 6 and the male (A.K.A.
buck shad) weigh 3 to 5 pounds. The sweet shad meat is considered
a delicacy as is the shad eggs (roe). Alosa sapidissima means "pleasantly
flavorful shad." This time of year fresh shad and roe may be
found on restraunt menus. The short season is late April to mid-June.
There are several fraternities of shad aficionados.
The largest group uses spinning or bait casting outfits; smaller tribes
fly fish, troll, drift or still fish with lures from anchored boats.
My own experiences include all of those except trolling and drifting.
Spin casting and fly-fishing are my favorites. Fly-fishing from shore
is limited to few locations in Connecticut. Contempory shad anglers
use brightly colored shad darts, spoons, willow leaf blades or flies.
Most use medium-to-light rods with 6 or 8 pound test leader/line.
During my early years, we tied a gold or silver colored
bare hook onto a one-foot leader, added six colored plastic beads
and a clinch-on sinker. Each angler had his own combination and permutation
of colors. The set-ups were pre-made before one went shad fishing.
The strength of the leader was a few pounds less than the main line.
Typically, one would lose a dozen rigs in a few hours of fishing.
The largest shad I caught about an 8 pounds hen;
it was unusual to land a large shad in the fast currents where I fished.
The Connecticut state record shad weighed 9.25 pounds and was caught
in the Connecticut River by Edward Cypus in 1981. The World Record
American Shad Reflection
It was shad time on the Connecticut River. I was a 13 year-old, experienced
shad angler that morning in mid-May. Full of energy and expectation
of catch 3 to 6 pound shad