Maryland: Annual Spring Run Of Hickory Shad Has Begun

The recreational Hickory shad fishing season for Maryland’s
sport anglers has started, offering several weeks of excellent
fishing until mid-May.

“Now is the perfect time to fish Hickory shad,” said Tom
O’Connell, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources
(DNR) Fisheries Service. “Grab your rod, get outside and celebrate
the beginning of spring and the resurgence of this fish.”

Hickory shad populations declined dramatically in the late
1970s, leading to a moratorium on any harvest in 1981. The fish
rebounded in the upper Chesapeake in the 1990s and with the help of
restocking efforts by DNR’s Fisheries Service, populations have
been rebuilding in several watersheds, including the Patuxent,
Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers. As populations have grown, hickory
shad have expanded to establish spawning runs in several other
rivers as well.

Hickory shad, also known as “hickories” are migratory fish that
spend their adult life in the near shore waters of the Atlantic
ocean and coastal bays, ascending streams and rivers each spring
along the eastern seaboard, including those in the Chesapeake Bay
to spawn. Hickories can be caught in numerous tributaries of the
bay, with the best runs in the Susquehanna, Gunpowder, Patuxent and
Choptank Rivers.

Hickory shad are part of the herring family and the lesser known
relative of the iconic American shad. Acrobatic fighters that often
leap multiple times as they fight, these fish can be caught by
using small shad darts on ultra light spinning tackle, or on a
variety of small “shad flies” on fly rods. Hickories are smaller
than American shad, averaging 14 inches in length, with large
specimens topping 20 inches. The Maryland State record for hickory
shad is 4 pounds, caught in the Susquehanna River in 1971.

The fishery remains a recreational catch and release fishery
only, with DNR studies indicating a greater than 99 percent
survival rate when properly handled. Keep in mind the best fishing
occurs at dawn and dusk. Because of this, the best locations are
those in which anglers are standing or wading arm to arm at


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