Shad Fishing Techniques

Gamefish for the anglers are ample, and one such typical fighter that exhibits incredible jumps and cartwheels while wandering in the body of water is the shad, a gamefish known as freshwater tarpon and very different from salmon. Shad fishing is no less than a blast, full of adventure and adrenaline rush, and you can try catching it both through spinning and fly-fishing methods.

Shad are found all over the USA, in most water bodies across the states, from coast to coast, west to east. Many might confuse shad as herring, and why not as shad is actually related to it, but what you should not do is consider it a herring because when the shad takes the bait and is trapped, the fight it puts into making you lose is one of a kind. It’s a tough fight to put and win. So, let’s discuss some of the things that you should know about shad and shad fishing.

Shad, The Anadromous Fish

Shad being part of the herring family makes it pretty much a known fact that it spends most of its life in the ocean when it’s no more a juvenile and comes to the freshwater only to spawn. So, adult shads live in the sea, and it breeds in Spring in the freshwater. Another interesting fact about shad is that it doesn’t die soon after spawning. Some of it does, but most don’t.

The Gamefish Fish That You Can Relish

Shad fishes are part of the herring family, so they look similar to herring but are not of the same size and are way bigger. It is not just a game fish that gives a tough fight to your tackle, but a fish that is tasty beyond imagination. Due to its thin bones and innumerable ones, some might not prefer eating it. However, when you know how to eat it and cook the bone soft and fish meat full of flavor, shad will be one of your favorite game fish to eat because it’s too savory not to try and relish.

Things You Need to Know About Shad Fishing


The Best Time to Shad Fishing

April and May are the two best months to catch shad. In these two months, they are in freshwater like rivers, ponds, lakes. Of course, after a long journey, from the sea to freshwater to spawn. Suppose you have somehow missed this period, no worries, as you can try shad fishing till mid-July. Coming to the seasons, Winter and Autumn are not the season’s best to catch shads. Your target must be mostly Spring and somewhat the Summer season. Target shad fishing when the day is about to start or about to be over.

Shad Fishing

Perhaps early in the morning, when the sun is about to rise and has risen, not too harsh. Or one hour before the sun is about to set. That is the best time when the shad is the most careless, hungry, and ready to eat whatever is served. Shad doesn’t take baits in the dark, neither when the water is too cold. In fact, temperatures any lower than 40 causes death for shads.

Where to Find Shad

We have again and again mentioned that shad are easier to pursue when they are spawning. And fishes mostly spawn in shallow places, beneath something, and mostly be lazy while spawning. So, search for the shad wherever you notice a strong current. Also, shad are known to stay in a pack, not a group per se, with a decent distance in a single file line. When you angle shad, there is no one shad. There will be plenty around. However, as they are not bunching up together, they go almost unnoticed. Unless you find the shad line, it’s hard to catch even one. But, if you have a good vision, are quick and efficient enough, you might get multiple to catch in the same spot.

Target the water body with bends, shallow bumps, around dead tree trunks, water not too deep nor too shallow, and if not too shallow, then shallow on hard surfaces. These are the places where you will find shad spawning, resting, and ready to take your bait. Try and try very hard to find the file line to save yourself from wasting a day and returning home without catching any shad. Once you found that line, cast your fishing rod again and again. As we said, when you see and catch one shad, the chances are more you will get multiple.

Shad, A Great Bait Fish

It’s a gamefish, it’s a savory dish, and it’s a baitfish too. The smaller shad works as an enticing bait for other fishes, bigger ones like the trout, striper, bass, and redfish. You can either use a net to catch small shad fishes at one go and use them to bait the trout’s, basses, and red fishes.

Make sure to use fishing nets with small mesh holes; otherwise, the small shad will easily escape through the clefts. Or you can use the jumbo shad you caught with your fishing rod, cut them into pieces and hook the meat piece to your fishing gear and entice the bigger water prey.

Fishing Rod

Shad Fishing Rod

Shad is not a big fish. Compared to its family, that is herring, it’s big, but most of the adult shads are no more than 3 kg. You can gauge its size and weight by knowing the fact that the biggest shad fish ever caught weighed a little more than 5 kg. So, fishing the shad needs a regular fishing rod, not too expensive. A 6 feet fishing rod, ultra-light or light at best, will be the best for catching shad.

Reel and Line

Although we have already mentioned both spinning and fly-fishing works in shad fishing, the purpose is always to keep things more manageable. We prefer a spinning reel with a braided fishing line, tied with a hard-to-break knot, monofilament line being the leader line on a fishing rod with an ultra-sensitive tip so that the moment it bites, you know you must act and continue casting for catching multiple shads.

Shad Fishing Reel and Line

We are emphasizing sensitive rod tips because shad fishes are not strong biters. They lightly bite the bait and quickly leave it too. Only a sensitive rod tip can promptly sign you that the light biter has finally bit the lure.


Shad must be one of those unwonted kinds of fishes that like the artificial lures more than the live baits. The more you move your jig, the better are the chances for the shads to get attracted to your lure. Again, comes the time to highlight spawning. While spawning fishes are in deep rest, no work period. They barely eat. The same applies to the shad. So more than trying to call those lazy shad towards your hook throw minnows, worms, and grubs, it’s better to attract them with the frantic movement of a colorful artificial lure from time to time.

Shad Fishing Lures

If somehow the shad gets a little curious due to that erratic movement and the color and reacts, it will be trapped. It’s better if it’s a female, as they hardly put-up fights and are easier to catch. Also, if a female takes the bait, there are chances to have multiple male shad roaming around it. So, you have chances of fishing multiple shad casting in the same spot again and again. Better you make it a team effort to catch as many male shad as possible, wandering near the female shad, if possible, all of them.

Best Lure

Shad dart is the best lure to catch shad. You will need a shad dart no more than 1/4-ounce. If not the shad darts, you can try the shad spoons in shad fishing. Darts and spoons are colorful, and when the sunlight hits them, they flash the light, which works magically to attract the spawning lazy shads. Shad fishes have a delicate, thin flesh around their mouth where the hook mostly strikes.

However, if you are using a light lure like the dart or the spoon, it will strike at the right spot of its jaw. So, there will be less chance for the shad to escape by injuring its thin flesh around the mouth.

Shad Fishing on A Boat

You can hold your fishing rod, sit on the bank or near the shore, and wait to find that crucial single file line of shad fishes. You can also arrange rod holders and set up multiple fishing rods for the fishes to find them out all by themselves and to catch multiple shad fishes at one go. However, the best is to hop on a boat and reach those specific areas like the shallow water on hard surfaces or in-betweens of the strong, fast current and the shore where the shad fishes are hiding and spawning or lazily roaming in a file line.

It doesn’t matter where you are fishing shad from, shore, or on a boat; make sure to cast straight, and your lure has reached deep. Take your time and take it slow. Let the current pull your bait downstream. Be quick the moment the fish has bitten the lure. Even then, you have to be careful and apply techniques. And the techniques we are talking about will come with your every shad fishing experience.

Final Words

There is no one way to shad angling. Neither is there a specific gear or lure to catch shad. The technique that works for you is always the best. The gear that got you your multiple shad fishes is the best equipment, no matter how regular or inexpensive they are. Make great use of your experience, along with a little bit of knowledge we shared, to make your shad fishing experience more fun and exciting.

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