Shad season is rapidly approaching, as a few of the early, most dedicated shad fishermen have already landed some in our rivers. While historically much of my client base is interested in stripers in the March/early April timeframe, I have received more and more interest in shad fishing over the last 2-3 years, and I take a great personal interest in the fishery because I was born and raised in Tarboro, where the term, “March Madness” has been changed to “March Shadness”. I’ve also taken a much greater interest in fly fishing over the last few years, and shad fishing is one of the premier fly fisheries in coastal North Carolina during the early spring fishing season. Shad fishing on a fly rod is kinda like false albacore fishing on a fly rod. They are really fun to catch on conventional gear, but they are really really really fun to catch on fly rods. I purchased a new old 19′ flat bottom skiff (which I named the “Hickory Nut”) in the early winter of 2017 specifically for accessing the upper reaches of Tar above Greenville and the Neuse above Kinston so that we can get to the fish when they move up to their spawning grounds. The boat can easily carry up to 3 anglers plus me (only 2 fly fishermen plus me). It’s equipped with a trolling motor for controlled drifting and optimal boat positioning for casting. I recommend ultralight to light action spinning gear or 4-6 weight 9′ fly rods (I use a 9′ 4 weight). The fish are down in the water column, so a 130-250 grain sinking line is recommended. We typically rig our flies in tandem, which I believe helps get their attention, and we often catch two at a time.
Shad season usually gets going with consistency as early as late Feb. and extends into the first week of April (although shad are caught earlier and later than that each year). What I consider to be the best of it is about a 4-week span during the second, third, and fourth weeks in March and the first week in April. Again this year, we are offering our 2-River Shad Trip, where we target the larger American (white) shad in the Tar River and the hickories in the Roanoke, all in the same day. We’ll hit the Tar in the morning and the Roanoke in the afternoon. The launch sites for each fishery are 45 minutes apart, allowing a nice 1-1.5 hour break in the middle of the day to rest those arm muscles.
We can also do a single river trip on either the Neuse, Tar, or Roanoke. All 3 rivers have both American and Hickory Shad. We catch far more Americans on the Tar than the other two rivers. The Neuse and the Tar both have good numbers of fish, with the Tar arguably having more American Shad than the Neuse. The Roanoke is the king for numbers. You’ll catch mostly Hickory Shad on the Roanoke and LOTS of them.
For more information on these special spring trips, visit the shad fishing page on my website at tarpamguide.com/tar-and-roanoke-river-shad/
Be sure to watch the Double Header Shad Episode on Carolina Outdoor Journal. There’s no better way to visualize how you day will be than to watch that show. Enjoy!
Open dates during the peak of the shad season: Mar. 12, 14, 15, 19-22, 26-28, 30 Apr. 2-6