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Alan Fong
Fisherman's Warehouse
(916) 362-1200

Spring:  Shad

Each year following the Striper run the Shad start to make their journey up the Sacramento River, Feather River and the American River to their spawning grounds. On a normal year the run usually starts in May and runs through June.     Shad are probably one of the most fun fish to catch with light tackle.  Shad are in the Tarpon family and are very hard fighters. When you are in a school of Shad, it is very normal to catch one after another until your arms are hurting. Most fisherman can catch twenty to thirty shad in a morning outing.   Shad have a lot of bones and oil in them, which make them real good to smoke. Most anglers catch and release them. These fish average around two to five pounds and are very hard fighters. If you have never tried eating these fish smoked, your missing out. If you smoke Salmon, try smoking some Shad I think you will be surprised how good they taste.   When fishing for Shad, use light tackle like you would use for trout. A seven foot rod with a line rating of 6-10 pound test and a small reel that holds about 110-150 yards of six pound test line. Shad have soft mouths, so take your time when fighting them or you will tear the lure right out of there mouths. Lure selection is quite simple when fishing for Shad. Shad darts are pretty popular and small one inch plastic grubs in chartreuse or pink. Put the little grub on a 1/32 oz painted jig head, and a weight three feet in front of the jig.   Shad travel in large schools and are not always on the bottom. Try using different size weights to get the right depth in which the Shad are traveling. Once you find the right combination of weight and lure color you will catch one after another.   Most anglers will fish for Shad off the shore. If you want to fish out of a boat, it is best to anchor up. Put a weight on the bottom of your line, and go up a foot and tie a small pink grub. Then go up another foot and tie another chartreuse grub. You have to try different size weights until you are in the right depth. Once you find the correct depth its unbelievable!    A lot of fisherman go after Shad with fly rods. I will go to the American river every day before work and fly fish for Shad. Use a 6-7 weight fly rod with a shooting head line, this combination usually works the best. Bug eye  shad darts seemed to work the best for me. Keep switching colors until you find the one that works the best. I have found that one day to the next the Shad like different colors.
     Get out your shad equipment and get ready. Fisherman’s Warehouse has a
lot of lures in stock for you shad fisherman. So go give these fish a try and you will be impressed how hard of a fighter these Shad really are. If you have any questions, come on in to the Warehouse and we will help you get equipped.

Part II

Small schools of Shad are filtering their way thru.  Fishermen are starting to catch a few around the Freeport Bridge area. The male Shad will start their journey up the Sacramento River first, and then the larger females will follow. You can catch Shad for over a month in this area.   There are different groups of Shad that travel up the Sacramento River.  Shad are like Salmon; they will go back to the same river they were born in.  Around in this area you have Shad that return to three different river systems: The Sacramento River, Feather River and the American River.
    Most anglers fish for Shad from off the bank. On the Sacramento River near Freeport, shad darts in red/white or chart/white seem to work the best.  Put a ½ to ¾ oz sliding sinker to a barrel swivel then a three-foot leader to the shad dart. Make your cast straight out from the bank and let it drift for a few seconds then start to retrieve slowly. Keep changing your reel retrieve speed until you start to get some hits. Shad travel at different depths, but most of the time they are close to the bottom. Once you find the right reel retrieve and depth, you can catch one after another.    If you are fishing from a boat I use a different method, first anchor your boat. I use a one-inch grub on a 1/16 oz jig head. The best colors
are chartreuse, pearl and champagne depending on the watercolor. Put a ½ to 2 oz
weight on the bottom depending on the current and what depth you want the lures to be in. Go up about one foot and tie the first jig on then go up another two feet and tie another jig on. This is kind of like a catfish or surf rig. Always keep count on the amount of line you have out behind the boat. Once you find the depth the Shad are traveling in, the action will be non-stop!

    When the Shad get in the American River and the Feather River I like
to fly fish for them. A 5-6-weight fly rod works great for Shad. I use a shooting head fly line so the shad dart is close to the bottom in the fast current. The Shad are a lot of fun to catch on a fly rod, they are real good fighters! Barrelhead shad flies in chartreuse or pink work real good. You don't need a tapered leader for shad; I just use 6 to 8 # mono for a
     Most anglers fish for Shad just for the action, because they are such hard fighters. Shad are a real bony and oily fish, which make them a real good fish to smoke. You can use the same recipe you use on Salmon. Try smoking some Shad I am sure you will like the flavor in which they have.

      Good Luck,     Alan Fong

         Practice catch and release!

You can contact "Alan":  Email  FISHFONG@aol.com

Fisherman's Warehouse
9035 Folsom Blvd.
Sacramento, Ca
(916) 362-1200



Check out some of "Alan Fong's" other articles:


1. Alan's Tip On Fall Delta Striper Fishing

 2. California Delta Large Mouth

 3. Using Fish Finder 

 4. Spring Run Striper

 5. Springtime Delta Bass

 6. Springtime Shad

 7. Frogging For Bass

 8.Delta Summer Fishing

9.Vertical Spooning For SALMON


11.Night Fishing For Salmon