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.

The 2023/24 shad season has been very difficult. Water levels have remained well above average, which may be good for migrating fish but makes for challenging fishing. Walk-in fishing hasn't been an option 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. In a normal year, a "good day" probably means you caught 15 or 20 shad. This year consider yourself fortunate if you land one or two. 

The good news is that there is a lot of forage (mosquitofish, grass shrimp and others) up on the floodplain. If the river drops to the point where these fish and shrimp are pulled into the main channel, the fishing will improve dramatically. We hope this occurs while there are still good numbers of shad in the river. If not, it will still be worth getting out on the water for bass, panfish, and the chance at a late shad. 


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