Shad fishing's on the way, so here are some tips

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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Jim Petruk, President of the Rooster Tails Fishing Club asked me to come down and speak to his group this month about shad fishing? but I?m booked out fishing every day in May. It got me thinking, however, that I can at least give you some pointers on how to catch these hard-fighting members of the herring family that run up the rivers each spring. And, indeed, the shad are in. The guys at Scribner?s Bend, the Firing Line, Garcia Bend, Minnow Hole and Discovery Park on the Sacramento River have been getting them pretty good the past several days and the bite at Verona (where the Sacramento and Feather rivers meet) is also heating up. But the American may be the best of them all when it?s all said and done. Flows there were a trickle-like 1,000 cfs until recently ? then releases were jacked up to 8,000 cfs a few days back. That big shot of water should encourage good numbers of shad to enter the river and the fishing should be good soon! So, without further adieu, here are some tips on how to get started shad fishing! So let me start with this: All you?ll need to get involved with the fun spring pastime is a 7-foot spinning rod and a quality reel spooled up with 4- or 6-pound test line. Throw in a handful of 1/32-ounce lead heads, some pink and chartreuse 1.5-inch curly tailed grubs and some splitshot and you?re in business. To rig up, tie a pink, bright red or white jig head to the end of your line, slip a grub tail onto the collar and add a splitshot 20 inches up the line. That?s it! Shad are not big fans of rapidly moving water, so you?ll need to target them below rapids, falls or dams. Additionally, they like slow flats that are 6 to 12 feet deep. Looks for areas that feature current that?s flowing at the speed of a leisurely walk. On the American River, some of the better spots include the flats below Gristmill, the Log Hole, the top of the Arden Rapids, Rossmoor Bar, the Upper Sunrise Flat, Sailor Bar and the Nimbus Bain. Shad will bite all day long, but there definitely seems to be a spike in the mornings and again in the late evenings, so if you want to really hit prime time, try to fish during one of the low light periods of the day. As far as catching shad goes, you?re going to want to cast straight out and allow the current to swing your jig in a downstream arc. If you end up tapping the bottom, go lighter with your weight. Ideally, you want to be within a couple feet of the bottom but not right on it. Shad hang pretty low in the water column, but will rise up a few feet to grab a passing morsel. As your lure swings downstream, follow your line with the rod tip and give it an occasional pop to add a little extra attraction. At the end of the swing, the lure will be in a position immediately downstream of you. As long as the jig?s not sitting directly on the bottom, allow it to hang in the current for a few seconds before you crank up and cast again. Bites often come just at the end of the swing and then when the lure?s dangling straight below you. Speaking of bites, shad sometimes smack a grub with reckless abandon (there?s no mistaking the grab) but they can also be a bit finicky and barely slurp it. Be on the look out for anything different as the lure drifts and give a sharp hookset if you feel something ? even a slight pause or light ?tick.? There you go? a crash course on shad fishing. If you need any more pointers, I?ve got quite a few shad fishing articles that go into greater depth on my online magazine, J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. Find him online at