a hickory shad
Fishing for shad and herring is a spring ritual for river anglers from New England to the Carolinas. Several species are targeted by anglers, including American shad, hickory shad, blueback herring, alewives and other species. Most recreational fishing for shad and river herring occurs in the spring.
Anglers often report that runs of shad and river herring coincide with other signs of spring. For example, in some areas, plants are said to indicate spring runs. These include the "shad bush", dogwood, and other plant life. In many areas where shad congregate, lily pads leaves reach the water's surface about the same time that shad and herring begin to arrive.
Both shad and herring seek out shallow creeks or pools with areas of gravel or hard sandy bottoms. They are associated with flowing water and can sometimes be caught in areas where creeks are restricted and flows accelerate. Sharp bends in creeks, log jams, bridges and other structures are all worth scouting out as possible fishing areas. Perhaps the most famous areas for catching shad and herring are pools below dams, where fish sometimes congregate in large numbers.
Many of these areas offer access from the shoreline for fishing. In some locations shad anglers must use waders to reach productive spots. Other areas can be productive, but can only be reached by boat. Due to shallow depths and the abundance of obstructions, many of these small creeks and streams can only be navigated by canoe, kayak or row boat.
The best shad and river herring fishing often occurs at dawn or dusk although good fishing has been known to occur during mid-day. Anglers fish for shad and river herring using shad darts, small jigs, small spoons, sabiki type rigs or other bright lures. Some anglers prefer to use fly fishing outfits and small, bright or flashy flies when fishing for shad and herring.
Anglers entice strikes using a variety of fishing techniques. Some anglers prefer to cast, using a slow sweeping motion on the retrieve. Other herring and shad specialists prefer to find a vantage point and jig vertically, especially when fishing shad darts. Depending on personal preference and local waterways, anglers may cast a single jig or fish tandem or even triple jigs.
After spring spawning, hickory shad are sometimes caught by anglers around coastal inlets, jetties and other structures. In some cases, shad are seen breaking water in these areas and can be caught using many of the same lures and techniques that are popular in the spring fishery. Along jetties, fly fishermen often enjoy good catches of these acrobatic fish, even at after dark.
Shad and herring regulations are often complicated, partially due to the difficulty in distinguishing the various species shad and herring. American and hickory shad are listed as endangered or threatened in some areas. In many areas only catch and release fishing is allowed.