Shad season is hitting its stride right about now and fishermen are doing pretty well when they can find the fish. I've caught a few very nice ones but the season seems to have taken a strange turn by having peaked a bit earlier than expected and while the fishing quality is still there, the quantities aren't what we've come to expect after the last few seasons. There are some that call shad "Florida's Salmon" which means anyone who likes to catch strong, migratory species needs to give it a try at the very least.
On the brighter side, we've had the opportunity to introduce some new folks to the joys of fishing the St. Johns River at this time of year and the wonderful variety that's possible. I had a chance to share with a customer and now friend a couple days ago and he's surely to venture back on his own given the success he found along this wonderful waterway. John and I meandered along the straights and bends of the river for a few hours this past week and learned a few things about the waterway and each other, which makes time on the water that much more enjoyable. We chatted about all things fishy, from flies and rods to the places we have been fortunate enough to visit. He's a budding "big water" fly fisherman, so casting at a distance is still somewhat of a challenge, but he stuck with it and landed some wonderful fish, including a beautiful hybbrid striped bass (albeit on a spinning rod), and an enormous american shad. Beginner's luck must have had something to do with it. Either way, we had a great time and I expect to spend more time together on the fresh and salt water.
My favorite thing about shad season is the variety of fish species available if you just take some time away from casting for the main target. Bluegill, warmouth, crappie, bass, hybrids, catfish, and many others are possible if you just take a little time to get out of the main channel and explore the out of the way spots. Scott absolutely blasted a reed line full of crappie just to prove he could catch fish better than me a couple weeks ago. I didn't stick around to watch the fun, but I could hear him yelling "FISH ONNNN!" from quite a ways away.
Kayaking across this section of river is a very enjoyable way to venture around, especially if you want to take your time and fish as you go. Every sand bar and channel potentially holds fish, so stopping regularly to ply the water is recommended if you expect success and are willing to take whatever happens your way. With so many types of cover and water structure available a kayak allows you the luxury of stealth and being able to get close. You also get a chance at some exercise.
This season has been a little tougher than the last couple but it has proven to be a succesfull one anyway. We've all caught some nice fish, making the effort well worth the rewards and I can gaurantee we'll all be back next year for another go during shad season 2015
Brian "Beastman" Eastman