Ever since I planned my recent trip to Maryland this late in April, I have been researching about trying to go after the shad that run the rivers throughout the state. Maryland has both American and Hickory shad. When I lived in PA back in college, I never once headed to the Delaware river to fish for shad. It was often a rite of spring in that part of PA with many folks more excited about shad than the trout opener. In those days I knew about using shad darts, even had a few in the day, but never fished them. I researched some spots, read articles, watched videos, and picked up some darts that appealed to me. I asked around at work when I got back in Maryland and read fishing reports. I decided on trying out the confluence of Deer Creek and the Susquehanna river with access in Susquehanna State park in Cecil county Maryland. I drove up to the park on Saturday. I knew going in that this would not be a trip of solitude fishing. If there were no fisherman then there were likely no fish in that area. As I was driving along sight of the river there were cars parked in all of the parking areas. A good sign. I kept driving past the confluence to check out the creek and get a feel for the water. What was apparent that the shad had not gone too far up the creek and that the spot to fish would be the confluence area. As I pulled into the parking area, I saw a couple of bent rods and watched shad being landed.
I started with a tandem rig with a 1/4 oz lower dart and a 1/8 oz upper shad dart. The lower one was white with a red tip and the upper dart was a green head with chartreuse body. I could reach a spot with a decent current run and got hung on the bottom on my second cast. I lost both darts. It took losing a few more darts before I got a feel for the rocks and bottom structure. The guy up at the actual confluence gave up and headed off to breakfast. I moved to his spot and got the two dart tandem rig set up. I went with two 1/8 oz green/chartreuse darts. I could see guys on the other side of the creek catching shad. I was watching their cadence and retrieve speed. I tried to emulate that and I got a hard bite. What a fight. This is one feisty fish species. I horsed the fish and pulled the hook. Second cast and same thing. Hard fight and pulled hook. After several casts I had a third hard bite. With this fish, I had to channel Phil Lilly and opted to back reel instead of relying on the drag system. I was able to keep good pressure on the fish, which jumped a couple of times before I finally landed my first hickory shad !
Even with landing only a single fish, I could start to see why people get excited about catching them. What a sleek and gorgeous looking fish. They are a powerful fighter. I couldn't wait to catch another. I switched up colors and I hooked and lost a couple of fish after counting down the rig before reeling it in. What I didn't notice was I was pulling off a scale or two from the hooks. Then I hooked a strong fish and noticed that it fought differently than the previous fish. I also saw that It also was not a silver fish but was golden brown. I was thinking of a carp, but ended up landing my first ever shorthead redhorse sucker!
A couple of cast later, I figured out just what I was hooking into when I snagged this gizzard shad with the lower dart. I ended up with five gizzard shad at this location.
I watched a guy next to me begin catching several hickories with the majority of them being caught on a #13 silver and green Tony Accetta PET spoon. Another guy down stream was also catching shad on spoons as well. I finally hooked and landed my second hickory of the day on my darts. It was a female loaded with eggs.
It was after noon and I was getting hangry. I had a couple of guys move in on me. I had enough and went to get something to eat. I left the river with a few folks still fishing.
I learned a lot and had ideas on what I might need if I were to get back and fish this area again. I dropped by the Bass Pro shop in Baltimore on the way back to the hotel to pick up some spoons and a few more darts. I also picked up a medium weight rod to have a second rod for Sunday, but that's another story !