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Monday, April 12, 2010

2010 Delaware River American Shad Forecast

After several years of decline, the 2010 Delaware river shad run looks like it's going to one of the better ones in recent history.

Reports of 20+ fish days are common throughout the river up to the Delaware Water Gap. This past week the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission electrofished a stretch of river near Raubsville, PA and averaged 39 fish per hour, a very high number according to fisheries biologists.

Hopefully the shad run will continue to be strong.  Recent years have seen a marked decline in the fishery that prompted a decrease in the recreational harvest in an effort to allow more fish to spawn once they enter the river.  The American shad fishery in the Hudson River was closed this season due to the perilous condition of the Hudson River shad stocks.

Shad are a popular hard fighting sport fish on conventional tackle where they're caught using various jigs, shad darts and spoons.  They are also a lot of fun on a fly rod where they take wet flies, steamers, dry flies and specialized shad fly patterns.  By the time mid to late May arrive, these fish will have reached the upper stretches of the Delaware into the East Branch and even the Beaverkill system. 

To the trout fisherman they can be a nuisance or a delight.  Some fisherman dislike it when a shad takes his dry fly that's been carefully presented to what was thought to be a large trout feeding on mayflies.  Other fly fisherman purposefully go out to catch these annual visitors enjoying the excitement and variety they provide.

I'm glad the shad run is showing signs of recovery. The American shad is a true native to the river and has a lot of history behind it. An excellent book, The Founding Fish by John McPhee does a wonderful job covering this important fish and is very much worth reading.

If you'd like to give fly fishing American Shad a try visit FlyFishTheDelaware.com