Shad season has started with a bang here in central Florida and from the sound of the reports coming in right now, we could be looking forward to one of the best years in recent memory. I can't believe it might possibly top last year but you never know what's going to happen when dealing with unpredictable fish migrations, water levels, and strange weather patterns. All of these factors have produced an earlier than normal run with goof numbers, acceptable river conditions, and pleasant temperatures.
American Shad are a migratory fish that returns to their birthplace to spawn, then die just like salmon do in northern regions. The Saint Johns River starts its life in south central Florida, somewhere around Lake Hell N Blazes and continues on to the point where it enters the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville. This is how the shad enter the river for the last time in preperation for the spawning. We fishermen get the priviledge of pursuing this historic species once they have traveled upstream past Lake Monroe in Seminole county.
So far his year has been pretty good for myself and my fellow shad chasers, with quality fish available in numbers that rival the past couple seasons. You just have to know where to look and what tactics to employ. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission survey takers (shocking surveys) have found fish throughout "Shad Alley" and all the way south to Rt 50 in Midway. I have only fished at Mullet Lake and the entrance to the Little Econ, and both of these locations have produced well, but what has suprised me is the size differential between fish at either place. The southern spot seemed to produce larger fish. Either way though, we're having fun.
Fish are hitting the typical flies and lures but a small silver Rat-L-Trap is one I had never tried that has been working really well for me. I found this year that trolling one of these superb lipless diving baits will catch just about anything that chases minnows. Shad, bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegill have all taken some of the finish off my new favorite hard bait. What started out chrome colored is now a nicely scratched and beated bone color. Chuck it and reel it!
I hope you all get the point and head for the water some time over the next month or so. You just don't know what your next obsession might be.
Brian "Beastman" Eastman
Whte River Fly Shop