I planned to visit Montreal the first weekend of June because the American Shad migrate from the Atlantic Ocean to Rivière des Prairies between mid-May to mid-June. The peak of the run usually occurs around the last weekend of May. I thought with the late winter this year, we would hit the peak the first weekend of May. However, the run peaked last week, so we missed it by a few days.
I took the overnight bus to Montreal and met Eli and Michael at a Metro station. A short drive later, we arrived to a fully parked street. Looking down toward the river, the shore was lined shoulder to shoulder with anglers. Great...
We found a parking spot quickly, but took some time to suit up in waders. It wasn't until around 9am that we walked down the river.
We managed to find a spot for the three of us right by the stair access on the river bank. There were lots of anglers, but the number of anglers with fish in their bucket, cooler or stringer were surprisingly few. I was a bit worried that we had completely missed the run. But eventually, we saw a couple of departing anglers with a full limit (5) of American Shad.
We all started fishing with shad darts, but these darts were soon gobbled up by the hungry and vicious river bottom. So Michael and I resorted back to something that had worked for us in Virginia on Hickory Shad - a 1/16oz jig with a 2" plastic grub.
Eli was first to hook up, but we were a bit disappointed that it was a Sauger. Not long later, we were fooled by another pair of walleye.
A successful angler passed by and we chatted with him a bit. He said that we arrived too late. The bite shuts down by 9am and if we are not using darts, we will not be catching fish. Still, Eli, Michael and I persisted on.
As the morning wore on, it looked more and more bleak, until someone further down the bank landed a shad.
Shad often travels in schools, so we were fishing with intent to intercept the school. However, on this day, it seemed that fish were either in very small school, or they were just not interested. It was really a scratch bite.
Finally, Michael hooked up and with the strong pull, it looked like the right kind. After a few minutes of good struggle, the shad finally tired and Eli put it in the net. Great job Michael!
Michael was drifting the jig along the current seam, just like where we found Hickory Shad holding. We continued casting and drifting and a while later, Michael hooked a good fish but the hook came off.
When people started to leave, there was a bit more bank space and I moved slight upstream where the current seam was closer to shore. I was able to reach the seam with my cast more often. After a lot of casting and drifting, I felt some weight at the start of a retrieve and it was a decent fish. I hooked this fish at 11:50am. On my medium action rod, the fish fought well but I managed to tire the fish pretty quickly. Finally...American Shad!
American Shad (Alosa sapidissima) - Species #325
Net shot with the winning lure
Very beautiful fish...but they lose scale very easily. The net mesh can knock off scales. Holding them in hand can rub off scale. And if the fish thrash on rocks, it definitely cause scale loss. These fish are also very delicate and it doesn't take long before they expire. This fish was not going to make it...so I took a few more shots.
Having caught my target, I put the rod down and took a surrounding shot. I'm often too busy fishing and the camera is often ignored.
A while later, Michael hooked into a screamer and the fish took a long run downstream before the hook dropped out. I suspected it was a channel catfish.
I moved further upstream when Michael went downstream to fish with Eli. At about 2:20pm, I hooked up another fish in the current seam, only this time I was drifting the jig in the back eddy. The fish was quickly subdued and I tried to be quickly with a couple of pictures. I was fishing along a rocky shoreline so I had no choice but to put it on the rocks. The fish did swim off upon release...so I hope it did survive.
Michael and I were really cheering Eli on. For a little stretch, there were people hooking and landing 3 shad all around Eli. It seemed like Eli was getting flanked out. Eli talked to a local angler and received a couple of shad darts to use. Eli had renewed hope and fished on. It was just a few casts later that that Eli hooked up! It was definitely a few tense moments watching Eli fight the fish, and I had the honour to net the fish...which I did with shaking knees. As Eli puts it "There is no fight more intense and scary than a lifer fight" True that!
Finally, we all achieved our American Shad lifer! With that done, we decided to call it a day and planned to hit another spot on the way back to Ottawa.
However, our plan was overthrown when Eli arrived at the car to find a smashed car window. Someone had broke into Eli's car. Luckily, there wasn't anything too valuable stolen...but it seriously sucked. The thief stole a few of Eli's CD's, my backpack of clothes was stolen (and I had no change of clothes for the weekend), and strangely Michael's pair of jeans was stolen while mine remained. Luckily, the thief did not find Eli's GPS or Michael dad's camera. It was seriously weird that the items stolen worth the least.
We had a 2-hour drive on the highway and it wouldn't be fun without a window. I had two garbage bag and we patched up the opening with duct tape. We figured that the car was broken into because we had an Ontario plate (surrounded by Quebec plates). When we called the police, they said it was the holiday and they cannot send an officer or write a police report of the incident...WTF?!?!
Anyways......after Eli called the insurance company, we decided to just head back to Ottawa. On the way back, we drove through a thunderstorm and Michael spent 2 hours holding down the make shift window screen when the tape failed. But we did get back in one piece and relatively dry.