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Annual Spring Run of Hickory Shad has Begun

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The St. Mary's County Times Newspaper

The Calvert County Times Newspaper

Posted on April 12, 2011

ANNAPOLIS (April 12, 2011) — The recreational Hickory shad fishing season for Maryland’s sport anglers has started, offering several weeks of excellent fishing until mid-May.

“Now is the perfect time to fish Hickory shad,” said Tom O’Connell, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Service. “Grab your rod, get outside and celebrate the beginning of spring and the resurgence of this fish.”

Hickory shad populations declined dramatically in the late 1970s, leading to a moratorium on any harvest in 1981. The fish rebounded in the upper Chesapeake in the 1990s and with the help of restocking efforts by DNR’s Fisheries Service, populations have been rebuilding in several watersheds, including the Patuxent, Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers. As populations have grown, hickory shad have expanded to establish spawning runs in several other rivers as well.

Hickory shad, also known as “hickories” are migratory fish that spend their adult life in the near shore waters of the Atlantic ocean and coastal bays, ascending streams and rivers each spring along the eastern seaboard, including those in the Chesapeake Bay to spawn. Hickories can be caught in numerous tributaries of the bay, with the best runs in the Susquehanna, Gunpowder, Patuxent and Choptank Rivers.

Hickory shad are part of the herring family and the lesser known relative of the iconic American shad. Acrobatic fighters that often leap multiple times as they fight, these fish can be caught by using small shad darts on ultra light spinning tackle, or on a variety of small “shad flies” on fly rods. Hickories are smaller than American shad, averaging 14 inches in length, with large specimens topping 20 inches. The Maryland State record for hickory shad is 4 pounds, caught in the Susquehanna River in 1971.

The fishery remains a recreational catch and release fishery only, with DNR studies indicating a greater than 99 percent survival rate when properly handled. Keep in mind the best fishing occurs at dawn and dusk. Because of this, the best locations are those in which anglers are standing or wading arm to arm at sunrise.

For a map of the top locations for this harbinger of spring, visit

Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

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