Hickory Shad by Bob Gregorski
Having any luck catching snappers (bluefish),
I shouted across the narrow river to the angler on the other
side. No., he responded. If you want to
catch hickory shad, put on a small silver lure or a jighead,
I suggested. The angler tied on a small silver lure and
in the next hour I saw him land three shad. That scenario
took place last week at the SSS River (the name is fictitious
and represents good fishing for Shad, Stripers and Snappers)
During the two hours I fished there the last week, I released
one striper, several snapper blues and at least a score
of hickory shad. That was my first Triple Specie Saltwater
catch of the season.
When there are schools of stripers and shad or snappers
available at the SSS River and lower Connecticut River,
I often will fish with a medium weight spinning outfit using
8 pound test monofilament line and jighead dressed with
a curly tail and a willow leaf shad lure tied about 18 inches
above the jighead. My first introduction to using Willow
Leaf lures was on the lower Farmington River in Windsor
back in the 50s. The current in that section of the
river was moderate and gave the lure great action. It was
used during the spring run of American shad. But later I
found that the hickory shad loved it. I use white or chartreuse
jighead/curly tail and a silver/chartreuse or silver/pink
willow leaf. I need to use 8 pound test because fishing
at my favorite two locations means lifting fish about six
feet out of the water, otherwise six pound test would do.
I look forward to fishing for hickory shad called Poor
Mans Tarpon and heres another scenario that
shows why. Fish on! I shouted to fishing partner
Frank McDonald. Look, it breaks water like a small
tarpon. The 17-inch silvery colored fish leaped several
more times out of the water before I landed and released
it. During the next two hours we released at least 25 shad
measuring up to 18 inches.
We were fly casting for bass, blues or shad in the Niantic
River while standing in McDonalds Green Fishing
Machine (GFM). It was about dusk and the tide was
moving pods of bait fish from Niantic Bay into the river.
A good time to connect with fish. It wasnt long after
we launched the GFM that we spotted fish breaking on the
surface. Hickory shad were actively feeding, but the bass
and blues werent. The little tarpon saved
us from being skunked that evening.
Hockories are lots of fun to catch, particularly when bass
and blues are not in the area you are fishing. Many anglers
fish Catch & Release for hickories. Some anglers target
hickory shad for sport or to use them as bait for large
stripersThe Connecticut record weighed 3.25 pounds. These
mini, tarpon-like fish hit and fight hard, breaking
water many times. Anglers loose some shad due to them having
soft, tender mouths which do not hold a hook well.
Heres a brief description of the shad. Alosa mediocris:
Bluish-green above; sides whitish-silver; dark spot at the
shoulder; bottom lip protrudes beyond upper lip. Note: The
lips are even for American shad. Like all members of the
herring family, they spawn in freshwater and live mostly
in saltwater. Range from Nova Scotia to northern Florida.
Adults weigh up to 3 pounds. They are a good food value,
but are bony and difficult to fillet. They are available
in Connecticut waters from mid-April through early December.
My logbook shows the earliest and latest catches to be April
14 and December 7.
Use light spin or fly tackle. Spinning line 4 or 6 pound
test with willow leaf with split shot up ahead or small
jig head (1/8-1/16 ounce) with plastic curly tails or bucktail
jigs will catch lots of shad. Fly rodders use 5 wt. to 7
wt. outfits, 6-pound tippets and small bucktails or streamers.
White and chartreuse are favorable colors. Many anglers
use freshwater outfits when fishing for hickory shad. Technique:
In waters that are moving, cast directly across and let
the lure or fly drift or use a slow retrieve. In quiet water,
cast and retrieve fast in warm water and more slowly in
Taking youngsters fishing for hickory shad is a lot more
exciting for them than fishing for snapper blues. Both species
fight hard, but the shad are much larger and do aerial displays,
which every one likes to see, and the larger ones will make
your reel drag sing.
HICKORY SHAD Locations: hickory shad have been caught in
the lower sections of the Connecticut River at the Baldwin
Bridge State Boat Launch/Fishing Pier and the DEP Marine
Headquarters Fishing Pier and in the Mystic, Niantic, Lieutenant,
Black Hall, Back, Pawcatuck, Saugatuck, Hammonaset, Mianus
and Housatonic rivers and various beaches, bays and estuaries.
In Rhode Island, have been present in the larger salt ponds
and their breach ways (Ninnigret, Quonny, Weekapaug and
Point Judith), Narrow River and areas in Narragansett Bay.
Fish That Climb Ladders Bob Gregorski
The DEP Fishways 2010 report received recently indicated
that all activity has ceased at small coastal fishways
and most have closed and fish counters pulled. These fishways
have also passed trout, suckers, bass, carp and other species.
The following was edited from the four page Fishways 2010
Report and contains the significant information in the report.
CONNECTICUT RIVER LOCATIONS
Notes: Atlantic SalmonThe total return is 50 includes
one at Leesville and 4 at West Springfield. Ten were released
above Holyoke; two made to the Wilder on the CT River in
Vermont; one of those made to Townshend Dam (West- VT).
Rainbow Fishway (Farmington) -- 4 salmon, 560 American
Shad, 8 Alewife, 15 Blueback Herring, 3,100 Sea Lamprey,
3 Sea Run Trout and 171 American Eel
Holyoke Fish Lift -- 41 Salmon, 163,491 American Shad,
76 Blueback Herring, 353 Gizzard Shad, 293 Striped Bass,
39,782 Sea Lamprey. The totals last year were 74 Atlantic
Salmon and 161,095 American Shad and 21,403 Sea Lamprey.
OTHER LOCATIONS WITHIN CONNECTICUT
Greeneville (Shetucket R., Norwich) -- American Shad 2,461,
Alewife 156, Gizzard Shad 859 and Striped Bass 1.
Kinneytown as of 6/22 (Naugatuck R., Seymour) -- American
Shad 3, Gizzard Shad 38, Sea Lamprey 4, Sea Run Trout 30
and American Eel 652.
River Herring-- Moulson Pond ( Eightmile River) had the
greatest number this spring: Alewife 10,000s and 488 Sea
The highest five river herring runs of ten fishways are:
Brides Brook (Brides Brook, East .Lyme) Alewife 164,149
Capello Pond (East River, Guilford) Alewife 32,651
Branford Supply Pond Dam (Queach Brook., Branford) Alewife
50,668 (season over)
Bunnells Pond (Peqonnock R., Bridgeport) Alewife 1000s
Mianus River Pond (Mianus R., Greenwich) Alewife 93,077
and Blueback Her 7,028
This is a report generated by the Connecticut Department
of Environmental Protection/ Inland Fisheries Division-
Diadromous Program. For more information, contact Steve
Gephard, 860/447-4316. For more information about fish runs
on the Connecticut River call the USFWS Hotline at 413/548-9628
or visit the USFWS website at www.fws.gov/r5crc. For more
information about Atlantic salmon, visit the Connecticut
River Salmon Association at www.ctriversalmon.org.