Shad Reports from the Man who knows Shad
NCC-TU Vice President Mark Binsted has been fishing the Potomac River for its many resident and migratory species for the better part of six decades. In that time he has developed an astounding knowledge of America's "Founding Fish", the American and Hickory Shad. These amazing migratory fish return to the Potomac River each spring to spawn and with their arrival comes the beginning of fishing season.
For almost a decade, Mark has shared his first-hand knowledge of this amazing fishery with NCC-TU members and subscribers to the "Shad Report". A collection of in-depth reports on the status of the shad run, various musings about the beauty of the wildest urban river in America, and a whole lot of information on how to catch these wild anadramous fish, the Shad Report is something no angler in the DC area should miss.
For the most recent Shad Report, please see below. In order to view previous shad reports, please visit our Shad Report Archives Page.
The Shad Report
The Last of the Firsts
April 1, 2019
When warm weather was predicted for this past weekend, I felt certain that the first American shad of the season would be caught on Saturday when so many lines would be in the water. Instead, Jim Stables jumped the gun and took one from his kayak on Thursday, March 28. Congratulations to Jim for securing the first catch two years in a row! He works hard at this and knows how to target Americans, so the honor is well deserved. The arrival of DC’s Official Fish by late March has become the norm in recent years. Decades ago in a previous climate and state of mind, we associated the start of the run with the dogwood bloom. On my tree some of the buds have just begun to spread. The best fishing will come in the weeks ahead when these enchanting flowers are fully open.
On Friday, Chad Tokowicz (above) followed Jim with the first American shad taken on a fly rod. The small buck grabbed Chad’s fly before any of the more plentiful hickory shad could react to his cast. Some of this year's larger roe hickories have been similar in size but this was a no-doubter. Friday was the first day this season that river conditions were safe enough for boat rentals out of the new dock at Fletchers Cove, and Chad was among the first to hit the water. He will now be recognized by Friends of Fletchers Cove as the first person to land an American shad from a traditional wooden rowboat this year. Not a bad morning for the young man who once interned with Trout Unlimited and now works with the American Sportfishing Association.
Despite seventy-degree weather and beautiful river conditions, the fishing on Saturday regressed from the previous few days. Perhaps this was due to those otherwise pleasing south winds, which pushed higher tides and stymied outgoing flow. A shift in wind direction with the cold front on Sunday solved that problem but created another. Hickory shad fishing along the shore picked up nicely but the north winds were so strong that it became a chore to cast. Fletcher’s Boathouse suspended boat rentals after several customers became stranded downstream. Today, the strong winds continued and the Cove was isolated from the river at low tide. Most of the boats were still floating with nowhere to go.
Windy weather on Sunday didn’t deter the St. Patrick’s Day boys (Shad Report #2), who were back on their aluminum fishing craft to catch plenty of hickory shad on the fly. This time they stepped up their game: Both anglers nabbed a nice female American shad, the first two roes I have heard about this year. It’s only fair that we show Alec Hicks with his catch (above) after his friend Kevin Eichinger was pictured last time.
Today, it was surprising to discover on the USGS site that the Potomac is at normal flow for the first time since last May. Timing is everything. The river is in pristine condition and water temperatures are rising again. The coastal storm tomorrow is expected to brush our region with a few showers and spare the upper watershed. Some rain later in the week may actually be productive by maintaining a good flow. If all goes well, fabulous fishing awaits.