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Shad Success - Finally!

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I am a shad addict. I have not really had a fish after fish white bass trip in the midwest. So shad is the migratory hard fighting species out this way that I look forward to catch in the spring. The last couple of years we have started the shad season with a fishing trip down to the Tar River in North Carolina. We would catch the big American or white shad. Then we would take a few trips if possible to the Susquehanna river and tributaries for hickory shad and possible river herring. 


Our first trip to Deer Creek. It's a 2 hour drive each way. So we didn't get up to the creek until about 10 to 10:30 am. The creek was low and clear. We started with fishing tandem shad dart with a flutter spoon about 14 to 16 inches behind the dart. Lots of casts but no bites. After about an hour the water started to rise. River herring came in and we thought that we would get some shad following with the increase in water depth. Fished for three more hours for shad. I lost one and Livie didn't get any love from the shad. With the clear water we did take advantage of the micros particularly the minnows and darters. We caught several micro species.

Banded Killifish

Banded Killifish - Deer Crk - 05Apr23.jpg

Tessellated darters

Tessellated Darter - Deer Crk - 05Apr23.jpg

Spottail shiners (Lifer for Livie)

Spottail Shiner - Deer Crk - 05Apr23.jpg

Livie caught this hybrid sunfish. I think that it is a green x pumpkinseed hybrid. Any thoughts on this sunfish hybrid would be appreciated.

Livie Hybrid sunfish - 05Apr23.jpg

So we left at 2:30 pm to go get lunch and then headed home. I got an update from Cole, a guy that I contact through INAT. He fished that same spot from 4:30 to 7:30. He was using a similar tandem dart/spoon combo in green/chartreuse dart and spoon similar to what I was using. That is because I told him what has worked for me in the past. He caught over 50 shad on that trip. He had not caught a hickory shad until this year.


Okay tried to get on the shad again. Went up on Easter Sunday trying to fish the afternoon since the afternoon bite seemed to be the ticket. We fished a small creek for dace and chubs. We caught only a couple of creek chubs. No love from the rosyside dace in the creek. We got to the shad creek about 4:45 and the water was dropping. Only a few people fishing. Sue was with us and we made cast after cast. Many times we got hung up on the rocks as the water was falling. Broke off many spoons and darts. We didn't know that they had shut of the water from the dam upstream from us. I lost one shad due to a knot slip which was infuriating. Livie was the star with actually hooking up and landing the only shad from our group.



Since the water was so low as the day went on, Livie was able to wade out and pick up a bunch of jigs, darts and spoons from the rocks. A couple of them were ours 😁 (white spoon, green/chart, and two red/white darts in the photo).

09Apr23 Jig and Dart Fest.jpg


Cole is a grad student and lives about 35 to 40 mins from Deer creek/Conowingo Dam. He found great success fishing just up at the dam in the evenings. I got out of work early on Friday afternoon. Livie and I ran up to the Conowingo dam on the Susquehanna. We were going to meet Cole at the fisherman's park pier. We got there about 4:50 pm. Cole was there about 40 mins before us and caught one shad. We fished the tandem dart/spoon combo again. The water was running about >5K CFU. So the strategy was to cast out and let baits work downstream of the pier.

Susquehanna Rvr Fishing - 14Apr23.jpg

We picked a spot along the rail and started to fish. I fished the yellow/white 1/4 oz dart that Livie found and a silver spoon. It didn't take long to feel that thump and it was fish on! Got slimed by the first hickory shad of the year!

Hickory Shad - Messy handling - Susquehanna Rvr - 14Apr23.jpg

Livie soon followed with her first of the night as well. On a white and green spoon.

Livie Hickory Shad - Susquehanna Rvr - 14Apr23.jpg

As it got later in the evening, the shad were turning on. We found how far we needed to cast and let out line such what we are in the spot when the line straightened out downstream. The fish didn't mind if you just let the baits work or if you pulled the baits upstream then let it flutter back downstream. You can feel the fish bump the baits. It seemed like you would get two to three bumps and then a solid hit. I landed about 10 to 12 on the silver spoon then switched to a yellow/orange spoon. That was the ticket for way more bites. I even had a few doubles (like the following) which the heavy current felt like you had a five pound fish on the line.

Hickory Shad - Double Dealing 1- Susquehanna Rvr - 14Apr23.jpg

Hickory Shad - Double Dealing 2 - Susquehanna Rvr - 14Apr23.jpg

From 7:15 to 8 pm it was lights out. Cole, Livie and I were catching fish after fish.


Cole T Hickory Shad - Susquehanna Rvr - 14Apr23.jpg

Livie anthr Hickory Shad - Susquehanna Rvr - 14Apr23.jpg

My largest hickory shad ever. A roe shad that was almost 19 inches and felt close to 3 lbs.

Hickory Shad lgst- Susquehanna Rvr - 14Apr23.jpg

I caught 45 hickory shad. The second best landing for me was a surprise American shad! These are not common in this river. So super excited catching one.

American Shad - Susquehanna Rvr - 14Apr23.jpg

We had a great time! I hope that we can get back up there again before the run comes to an end. If not, it was a memorable season from the lows to the highs!


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1 hour ago, Terrierman said:

What do you do with the shad you catch?

Rick in Maryland it is catch and release. In Delaware's Indian river inlet and inshore areas you can keep up to 10. Lots of guys then use them as bait for bluefish, stripers, and catfish. I believe that these fish are not on a spawning run which is why they are not protected. They enter the bays with the tide and feed in the bay then head back out to the ocean. There is a river that empties in the Chesapeake bay, runs through Maryland and down from Delware where the shad are catch and release.

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3 minutes ago, JestersHK said:

Nice catching there you guys.  Some big shad there for sure. 

I would be up there as many evenings as Sue would let me if I didn't have to work 🙄.

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