Shad Returning in the River

by Laurel | May 7th, 2010

American Shad

American Shad

May 7, 1899

Crowds Fishing and Catching More than for Years.

The River is alive with fish this spring. From Northampton and Springfield, where the flooded meadows have yielded great hauls more of less illegally, to Hartford, the Wethersfield meadows and Saybrook, come reports of an unusual run of fish. Not for years say the old fishermen, have there been so many fish ascending the river to spawn. Best of all, the shad, which have been getting scarcer and scarcer in recent years are coming up stream in larger numbers this month. They are being netted with scoop nets from Enfield dam to Windsor Locks and the catching is might interesting to watch as well as great fun to participate in.

It is told that shad fishing with flies used to be good in June in the rapids below the Holyoke dam and under the South Hadley Falls bridge. Shad will not bite at this time of year, but in June and just before the shad go down river they will take flies. Fishermen used to sit on the bridge and send their flies down stream with the current. When the shad took the fly the fisherman would pay it up to the bridge and then it would be scooped up by a net let down from the bridge. It was next to impossible to haul a shad up to the bridge by a line and hook. The shad’s mouth is tender and the fish weighs considerable. There used to be shad fishing from boats in the rapids under the bridge. A boat would be anchored and the fisherman would let his fly run down stream with the current. The shad would rise to the fly and be drawn to the boat. Two Springfield men who have fished for shad in this way tell different stories of the gaminess of the fish. One says shad were fighters and it was hard work getting them. The other says that usually he could not tell whether he had a shad or an old boot on his line until he got the hook to the boat. Sometimes, this man says, he would let out a line with several flies and bring in three or four shad. They were not always hooked in the mouth, but often a hook would catch a fin and bring the fish to the boat.

It is odd that the ocean habitat of the shad has never been discovered. The shad comes to the mouth of the river and up as far as he can get every spring. The fish stays here until the last of June or early in July and then goes no one knows where. But when the shad bushes begin to blossom and the south wind blows, the return of the fish is certain, unless the dams and the chemicals in the river turn the shad away from the Connecticut River some year forever.

From The Springfield Republican.

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