James River Fishing

The Associated Press

Members of the Virginia Departrment of Game and Inland Fisheries display an American shad (right) and a Hickory shad.

The dogwoods are getting ready to bloom. To a fisherman that means one thing — the shad are on the way.

Shad are an anadromous fish that spend most of their lives in saltwater, but make a springtime run up freshwater rivers such as the Appomattox, Rappahannock, James and others. This is when anglers pack their gear and head out for a little shad fishing, often wading side by side with a bevy of other anglers. But it’s worth the crowds and the trouble when a shad latches on to the end of your line. Often called a poor man’s marlin, shad are — pound for pound — one of the fiercest fighters of all. And their roe makes a mighty fine breakfast alongside a mess of scrambled eggs and some hash browns.

We have two types of shad in our rivers — American and Hickory. American shad, generally the larger of the two, are currently protected and must be released.

The shad are just beginning to show now on the James River and the first wave has arrived on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg. High water encourages upstream movements, so the rain expected this weekend should only improve the outlook. Right behind the shad will be white perch and then stripers.

Bass and crappie fishing is turning on big time throughout Virginia. Crappie are headed for the shallows to spawn and big female bass are doing the same. Lake Anna has been a hot spot for bass, crappie and stripers in recent days. Good reports are coming in from both Buggs Island and Gaston. Smith Mountain also is starting to produce.

With a couple days of warm weather in the forecast, ponds and small lakes should really turn on. It looks like spring is on the way.

Shenandoah update

Mid-week rains and some wet stuff in the forecast for this weekend is a godsend to the Shenandoah River. Low water levels have made for difficult portaging through shallow riffles in recent weeks. Now, it’s time to fish.

The Shenandoah has bounced back rapidly after a few down years. Smallmouth to 18 inches and more have been finding the barbs of more and more hooks and the largemouth fishing remains steady. A pleasant surprise has been the emergence of a genuine musky fishery on the Shenandoah.

Muskies seemingly are spreading throughout our state with strong populations now found on the New River, James River and Shenandoah River. Muskies will be lurking in the deeper pools now, up and down the river. Their favorite meal is a common sucker, a fish now in spawning mode.

I have it on good authority that the nasty virus that plagues us today has no effect whatsoever on fishermen. That’s why we need to get our rod and reels ready and go fishing.

Jim Brewer writes outdoor columns for The News Virginian. He can be reached at j44brewer@gmail.com.

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