Let’s start off with story time. My brother and I chased a few shad the other day. Another fly fisherman covered with gear for any possible fishing scenario – for fresh water and salt. It’s good to be prepared – walked up and kindly asked, “So, what are the regs?” My brother and I looked quizzically at each other. Then I asked the gentleman, “You mean, like what size do they need to be in order to keep?” He nodded to clearly indicate, yes. I answered, “Dude, I have no idea. We don’t keep them.” My brother nodded in agreement. What a strange question…
In reality, it’s not a strange question at all. I guess it’s good to know the size and limit for certain fish. However, I don’t know it for the shad or striper. I did once, but forgot because it wasn’t important to me. You know, if the fish is really big, I guess I should get it out of there. Like, removing the bully. However, I’m sure the next guy will take care of it for me. It just struck me as interesting for a fully decked out fly fishingman to desire keeping these spawning species. #letemlive bro!
Since we’re on the subject, let’s dive into the regs. Man, this lead to opening one link after another, which turned into an extreme digression. But, I learned a lot and will now drop some knowledge. Here is a PDF form the Virginia Marine Resources Commission about the moratorium on American shad until 2017. Word definition: Moratorium, it means you can’t keep them. In relation to the hickory shad, I found that information harder to track. River Herring, which the hickory shad are of a close relation (?) have a page on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. So, you have to catch and release either American or hickory shad. Yeah, shad are river herring? Here is a some more on the hickory shad, and some more.
-Again, WordPress and I have yet to form a basic understanding over video editing. Full screen it!
Also, whether you’re wading, fishing from a boat, or the river bank, it’s nice to know the water level before you head out for a day. I use this site and you should too! The USGS’s site gives me an expectation before I even leave the comfort of my laptop… or cell phone. If you use the site correct, you will know which of your favorite fishing spots are accessible without wasting precious time driving or walking to a section that’s blown out. For example, I can fish my favorite shad spot if the discharge is 2,700 cubic feet per second or below. However, I cannot safely wade to my favorite striper spot when the river runs above 2,000 cubic feet per second. Getting to know your local rivers and streams discharge level really helps if you’re guiding or planning an outing with friends. Nothing sucks more than perfect weathers, the right gear, the right fish, and inaccessible high water.
Told you it was a long digression. But, I digress… Back to the shad fishing!
I hit the river around dusk and did well. More than a handful of hickory shad attacked my fly and I ended up with a few nice (or not as nice as I thought) fish-in-water photos. #keepemwet
It’s nice when you fish the shad run before it hits full swing. Usually, you have the entire river to yourself, minus the car traffic on the bridge, the numerous birds of prey, and occasional riverside viewers. The sunset is always great while waist deep in the Rapp. However, if dressed inappropriately, you get cold pretty quick. By now, 3-25-2016, multiple souls will be in the Rapp during the sunset for then next month (photo to come in next post shad-related post).
While fishing, I noticed a spin caster not too far away. We ended up in the parking lot at the same time and I asked how he did. To which he replied, “Not too bad. Right before finishing up I caught a thirty inch striper.” Damn, son! Stiper fever hit me hard. More to come on the striper subject in a later post.
To wrap up this post I want to mention Dan Dutton‘s presentation on Shad Biology, History, and Fishing in the Rappahannock River. The original plan for my Saturday included getting up and attending Dan’s on the water spey casting class. However, it was cold and I slept in… and I had a pretty solid hangover. So, much to my chagrin, I skipped the casting class and only caught the afternoon presentation. However, the presentation sufficed.
I learn about how the first colonial settlements ate shad. I now understand how the dams, human wastes, introduction of invasive species (especially blue cat fish) and lack of commercial fishing regulations drastically tolled the fish. I heard about shad fishing techniques and a few new locations to try. And finally, I learned how entertained I am by subjects relating to fly fishing, history, and marine biology.
A little more on blue cats. They are seventy percent or so of the biomass in the James river (need to fact check this). That’s crazy! Furthermore, the blue cats are crushing the shad and smallie populations on the James. Other rivers have their issues too, but the James seems to be taking the brunt of it right now. The blue cats were introduced here in the 1970s. They have few natural predators, other than bigger blue cats and they eat like monsters.
I should do a post on them as well. Serious thought: they scare me! With that amount of biomass in the James, which is known as one of the best smallie rivers in the state, will shad, herring, and smallmouth bass even be around for much longer on the James? It’s worth studying, and before I tell you catch, then kill, and/or eat all the blue cats you can, I need to do a little more research.
Back to Dan’s presentation, which didn’t focus on blue cats as much as I do here. One of the sources Dan used was this awesome book by John McPhee, The Founding Fish. Any Americana, colonial history loving fly fisherman (or fisherman in general) should give it a try. I will leave it at that because, I haven’t read it. However, it’s on my list. Add it to yours!