Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The New Jersey Spring Shad Run

There are many signs of spring in New Jersey including the migration of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs converging on Delaware Bay. There is also a spring migration in the water as American shad move into the Delaware River to spawn. This is no modern ritual and seining (netting) activities with shad go back to the Lenni Lenape Indians of our area who used that method long before colonists appeared.

How many shad will be seen and when the "shad run" occurs at different times each year because they vary depending on water temperature and conditions.

The American shad is the largest member of the herring family. They are found on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to the St. John's River in Florida. They spend three to six years in the ocean and then return to freshwater in the spring to spawn.

Adults usually weigh from four to eight pounds, but New Jersey State and International Game Fish Association record shad are more than 11 pounds.

Anglers know them for their strength and fighting ability.

The Lewis Fishery Report for the Delaware River for 4/15/19 says that "The river was about 4.58' when we would have been trying to make a haul tonight. Too high to fish. Forecast for the crest at Lambertville is for 7.2' now. With a lot of luck we might be able to get back at it Thursday or Friday."

Fishing for shad on the Delaware River usually begins around the end of March. The warm water discharged from a power plant in Trenton warms that section of water.

Low water and warm temperatures will mean an earlier shad run in the Delaware.

As the water warms to 50° F, and the population migrates upstream, shad will be caught all the way up river to the New York state line and beyond through the end of May and into June.

This video shows a couple clips of herring and hickory shad spawning in a Maryland tributary on April 13, 2015. Shad and herring are anadromous fish, meaning they migrate from the ocean to freshwater streams each spring to spawn.

Shad are primarily saltwater fish, but they swim up freshwater rivers to spawn in the spring, and in June 2017 American Shad were documented in the Musconetcong River in Hunterdon and Warren counties after an absence of at least a century.

Unlike some other fish species, many shad survive the spawning and swim back to the Atlantic Ocean.

NJDEP Delaware River Shad Fishing Reports
Delaware River Shad Fishermen's Association

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