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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Catch and Release Shad Fishing

Catching fish and releasing rather than keeping them for food has been described as needlessly cruel. I don't have a good counter argument for this point of view even though most of the fishing I do is catch and release. In many cases, not releasing your catch is breaking the law so to reject the practice is to reject fishing, and this I will not do.

For a number of years, fishing for both the American and the Hickory shad must be catch and release in Maryland. The regulation was passed because the numbers of both species became dangerously low. Recreational fishing was a factor is reducing the numbers of these fish, but the greater problems were commercial over-fishing and the building of dams which often stopped the upstream spawning migration. Sport fishing for shad is probably about one hundred years old, but commercial fishing goes back to colonial times as we know from entries in George Washington's diary in 1760 about netting large quantities. Before the coming of the Europeans, Native Americans along the eastern seaboard caught them for centuries.

Yesterday, I drove to Deer Creek which flows into the Susquehanna River right at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay. I've fished the April shad run in the Rappahannock River, the Patuxent, and, especially in recent years, in the Potomac at Fletchers Boathouse, but this was my first time at Deer Creek. At Stafford Bridge, I met my friend Ken, and we joined other fly fishermen in the stream. I would describe the fishing as steady/slow because every 20 to 30 minutes someone would hook a fish but the action never got as hot as I've seen shad fishing get.

I enjoyed fishing for these strong ocean fish in a relatively small freshwater stream. Water was high and cloudy and the level was 2.71 at Darlington.

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