Every year at this time there seems to be quite a bit of confusion about shad fishing – and shad in general – and I often have to field a million questions like: What the heck is a shad? and Shad are just small baitfish…why would anybody fish for those things? So, I figured it was time to clear a few things up. With that in mind, here’s my graduate crash course on shad and shad fishing. You will not be tested.
Baitfish vs. Gamefish
The first thing we need to set straight is there are several types of shad. In California, we have two varieties: threadfin and American and this is where most of the misunderstanding begins. Threadfin shad are small baitfish that live in most of our lakes and reservoirs and rarely top 4 inches. American shad, on the other hand, run anywhere from 2 to 7 pounds and spend their lives in the ocean and then come up freshwater streams to spawn in the spring of each year. Aside from the size difference, the two species look similar to one another – deep bodies, big eyes, large silver scales and forked tails. Neither is native to the West Coast.