Every year by the end of January, a silvery fish ranging from one to four pounds in size visits the St. Johns River until about the end of March. The fish is the American Shad, and they swim up the St. Johns with love on their minds. This year Charlie McCullough has already caught some.
Some years there are hardly any. Why they vary in number from year to year is somewhat of a mystery, but probably has to do with reproductive success of various year classes and the amount of predation they’ve been subject to.
While many anglers enjoy slow trolling for them with light spinning tackle, they are a superb fly rod fish. You’ll need a five- or six-weight outfit with a sinking line, a three to four foot, 10 pound test leader, and an assortment of small, brightly colored, weighted shad flies. If you don’t catch a mussel from time to time you’re probably not fishing deep enough.
Cast your line quartering upstream, using just enough retrieve to maintain contact with the fly. When your line is pointing directly downstream, strip the line in until you can lift it out of the water and repeat the process.
Where are the fish? That varies from year to year. Hatbill Park, Marina Isle, Lemon Bluff, Puzzle Lake, Mullet Lake, they might be in all, any, or none of those spots. One year we had excellent fishing from the banks of the river at the Morgan Alderman Ranch, just upstream of Lake Harney. The Fly Fisherman in Titusville (321.267.0348), Orlando Outfitters (407.896.8220), and Mosquito Creek Outdoors (407.464.2000) can all point you in the right direction. Or, you could ask me!
Shad fight hard, with frequent jumps. Most people catch and release them.
Do you like fishing for shad? Let us nw where and how you fish for them!
All content in this blog, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2012. All rights are reserved.