As the armada of boats launch, I wonder why I am here. With a width of 100 yards the Roanoke is a relatively small river that will get crowded very quickly. The pseudo captains command their vessels and move down the river and been to pursue the wily shad family (American and Hickory mainly). We eagerly launch and assume our place in the pecking order. With boats on all sides I am mesmerized by the gauntlet that the shad must navigate to complete their spawning run.
Excited by the anticipation of a solid hook set, I remember that a mere trash fish has drawn all this attention. From modern bass boats to crude vessels that are barely water worthy, all classes of fisherman are here for this trash fish. Shad were once used as fertilizer and food for the lower class, even George Washington and his troops survived many harsh times on this trash fish. Most people who live near a river that has a shad run can tell the stories of the feast and celebrations that coincided with the shads arrival up river.
With all this following it is easy to see why the shad's yearly migration are such a monumental event. You would assume that everyone is here to feel there coolers and go home, but that is far from the truth. With a clear limit and "the man" (the game warden) creeping around it is obvious that the shad has metamorphosed into a sport fish. For years shad have lacked the praise awarded to other sporting fish but that is changing with each season. I am amazed at the number of catch and release anglers who are there just for the fight. Once the shad make there way into the rivers it is a simple matter of keeping something in the water, they are voracious creatures that readily take lures and flies. With numbers that can mean a fish per cast and a fight that rivals, if not beats, most fish pound per pound; they are a sporting fish!
Once again angler evolution has opened our eyes to another valuable resource, the shad. With a beauty all its own and numbers that ensure success, the shad is a true sporting fish. Once scorned and cursed the shad now is an indicator of the beginning of the spring fishing season. Give it a try and find out for yourself that trash fish are fun!