Shad is a type of fish, much valued as a sport fish. The male shad is an excellent game fish, showing multiple jumps and an occasional end-over-end; it has been called a “freshwater tarpon”. The pregnant female does not fight much, but is often kept for the roe. The current world record is listed by the IGFA as 11 pounds 4 ounces (5.1 kg), set at Holyoke Dam, Massachusetts, on 19 May 1986 by Robert A. Thibodo.
American shad exhibit complex and little-understood feeding behavior while spawning. Unlike salmon, shad retain the ability to digest and assimilate food during the anadromous migration. Like other fish, their feeding instinct can be triggered by a variety of factors such as turbidity and water temperature.
Anglers use both spinning and fly fishing tackle to pursue shad. Spin fisherman use a shad dart or a flutter spoon. Typically, a downrigger is used to place the artificial lure at the desired depth and location. This is usually in the channel, or deepest part of the river. Much of the shad’s migration places them in the lower portion of the water column which makes this the typical depth of choice for fishing.
Except in unusual conditions, shad stay fairly deep, requiring weight on the line or fly. Many fly fishermen use an unusual 1/64 oz. “micro-jig”, that resembles a tiny casting bass jig, although it commonly has short nylon feathering to the rear. Shad can be taken either by slow trolling or drift casting, i.e. casting upriver and letting the lure drift with the current. Most fishermen use a Y-shaped “shad rig”, consisting of two lures spaced one to two feet apart, with a weight on a swiveled line between them or in front of them. The two lures are either two “shad darts”—a very small bright jig (as small as 1/64 oz., but usually 1/4 oz. and about one inch long) — or a shad dart in front and a spoon spinner in back. Sometimes a live grub is threaded onto the dart. The shad stay near the bottom unless the water is unusually high, so the rig is designed to keep the lure a foot off the bed.
During the shad spawning run, multiple species of shad run together. Fishing regulations may vary between species. For example, in some locales, Hickory Shad may be kept while American Shad must be returned. The two species can be difficult to distinguish, so anglers must use caution when shad fishing to be able to make proper identification.