Spring Shad Fishing on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers
After spending too many hours for too little reward chasing spring salmon, I start missing the feel of a fish on the end of my rod. Luckily for those of us in the Portland area, another anadromous fish swims up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers during the spring. Stating in in late May and running through June, American Shad start moving up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. These fish are not nearly as big as salmon, but once you find them, they are eager biters and put up a great fight on bass gear or a fly rod.
On both the Columbia and Willamette Rivers you will find boats anchored up in known shad migration lines, but there are many other places where you can catch shad without sitting on anchor or being surrounded by boats. These fish move in schools and tend to stick to a few travel lanes so once you find a few shad there is a good chance more will be coming through. The spots I look for are 10 to 20 feet deep with some current. My favorite method to catch shad is to troll back and forth looking for a travel lane. Once I catch my first shad, I focus my trolling effort to where I caught the first fish. For trolling I use a weight or small diver to get my lure down to within a foot or so of the bottom, with a small panfish jig, Dick Nite spoon, or shad dart about 3 ft behind it. If salmon are around, which they usually are, I will use a Kwikfish or other diving lure to get my shad rig down, in the hopes I troll it past a hungry salmon.
Shad are very bony making eating them fresh a bit difficult. Canning them dissolves the bones and make a tasty treat that can be enjoyed year-round. Their eggs also taste great fried and added to regular eggs. If you are not interested in eating shad, they make great sturgeon or crab bait.
Good luck and I hope to see you out there.