Bob Gregorski September 1, 2007
Poor Man’s Tarpon

“Fish on!” I shouted to fishing partner Frank
McDonald. “Look at it break water like a small tarpon.” The 17-inch silvery colored fish leaped several more times out of the water before I landed it. During the next two hours we released at least 25 shad measuring up to 18 inches.

We were fly casting for bass, blues or shad in the Niantic River while standing in McDonald’s “Green Fishing Machine” (GFM). It was about dusk and the tide was moving pods of bait fish from Niantic Bay into the river. A good time to connect with fish. It wasn’t long after we launched the GFM that we spotted fish breaking on the surface. Hickory shad were actively feeding, but the bass and blues weren’t. The “little tarpon” saved us from being “skunked” that evening.

Last week I gave an introduction to fishing for hickory shad. Here’s more biological and angling information about this exciting game fish.

They are lots of fun to catch, particularly when bass and blues are not in the area you are fishing. Many anglers fish Catch & Release for hickories. Some anglers target hickory shad for sport or to use them as bait for large stripers. I’ve caught hickories that members of several age classes; they ranged from 10” to 17” however, most were 12”-15” long and weighed 1.0 to 1.5 pounds. The Connecticut record weighed 3.25 pounds. These “mini, tarpon-like fish” hit and fight hard, breaking water many times. Anglers loose some shad due to them having tender mouths which do not hold a hook well.

Here’s a brief description of the shad. Alosa mediocris: Bluish-green above; sides whitish-silver; dark spot at the shoulder; bottom lip protrudes beyond upper lip. Note: The lips are even for
American shad. Like all members of the herring family, they spawn in freshwater and live mostly in
saltwater. Range from Nova Scotia to northern Florida. Adults weigh up to 3 pounds. They are a


Poor Man’s Tarpon Continued

good food value, but are bony and difficult to fillet.

They are available in Connecticut waters from mid-April through early December. My logbook shows the earliest and latest catches to be April 14 and December 7.

Use light spin or fly tackle. Spinning line 4 or 6 pound test with willow leaf with split shot up ahead or small jig head (1/8-1/16 ounce) with plastic curly tails or bucktail jigs will catch lots of shad. Fly rodders use 5 wt. to 7 wt. outfits, 6-pound tippets and small bucktails or streamers. White and chartreuse are favorable colors. Many anglers use freshwater outfits when fishing for hickory shad. Remember to wash all fishing gear with warm soapy freshwater after each saltwater excursion.

Technique; In waters that are moving, cast directly across and let the lure or fly drift or use a slow retrieve. In quiet water, cast and retrieve fast in warm water and more slowly in colder water.

Taking youngsters fishing for hickory shad is a lot more exciting for them than fishing for snapper blues. Both species fight hard, but the shad are much larger and do aerial displays, which every one likes to see, and the larger ones will make your reel drag sing.

Locations: Schools of hickory shad have been caught in the lower sections of the Connecticut, Mystic, Niantic, Lieutenant, Black Hall, Back, Pawcatuck, Saugatuck, Hammonaset, Mianus and Housatonic Rivers and various beaches, bays and estuaries. In Rhode Island, have been present in the larger salt ponds and their breach ways (Ninnigret, Quonny, Weekapaug and Point Judith), Narrow River and areas in Narragansett Bay.


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