Shad Season 2023-24 - Overview

Shad Fishing Each fall we eagerly anticipate the arrival of schools of migrating American and hickory shad to the St. Johns River system. Unless you are already familiar with these fish, the word “shad” probably brings to mind images of smallish silvery fish that would make excellent bait for a largemouth bass. That’s a different kind of shad. These are hard fighting, acrobatic fish that will test your skill with a light rod.

This is an accessible fishery where the fish are sometimes very easy to catch, but with nuances only learned through time on the river. Though there are many similarities, each season is unique from the ones before. Water levels rise and fall throughout the season, and where the fish were last year, or even last week, may not be where the fish are today.

As of mid-February, 2024, water levels are well above average, and have been for weeks. This may be good for migrating fish but makes for challenging fishing. Walk-in fishing will be difficult or impossible until the river comes down and the fish are spread out and difficult to locate. Fish are being caught, but not with the regularity or in the numbers we expect to see as the water drops. Check back for updates as the season progresses or stop by the shop for a report.

The good news is that there is a lot of forage (mosquitofish, grass shrimp and others) up on the floodplain. As soon as the river drops to the point where these fish and shrimp are pulled into the main channel, the fishing will improve dramatically. 

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