Shad Migration in Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware RiverPublished by Dave Kile [dkile] on 03/14/2011 (2543 reads)
The spring offers many anglers an alternative to trout in the rivers and tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River. It is the time when shad return to spawn in the freshwater rivers from their winter feeding in the Atlantic Ocean. This migration has had terrible struggle starting early in our American history.
This story has it's beginnings going back to the late 1600's as mentioned by William Penn - "Shads are excellent fish and of the Bigness of our Carp: They are so plentiful..."
Certainly a popular and plentiful fish for commercial fisherman until 1806 when gillnets were first outlawed for many years. Sadly, this was only the beginning of many issues that plagued the shad in our region.
In the early 1800's the first dams along the Delaware were constructed and shut down shad migration past those points. As a result the access to spring spawning grounds were lost.
The Shamokin, Clarks Ferry, Duncan’s Island, Nanticoke, and Columbia dams along the Susquehanna were constructed to support the Pennsylvania canal. A dam above Newport halted the shad's migration up the Juniata during this time as well.
Once the railways took hold those dams and along the Susquehanna were removed and some shad returned. While some gains were made right behind this the effects of industrialization took it's toll on all the rivers. Coal mining, deforestation and pollution like sewage discharge was unchecked in the rivers.
Habitat, pollution and overfishing continue continued to devastate the shad populations in the rivers and tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River.
With more dams added in the early 1900's like the Conowingo and Holtwood all shad migration ceased upstream on those rivers.
It not until the early 1970's that the first progress was made in utilizing fish ladders and stocking the rivers again with millions of shad eggs.
This new opportunity for anglers has been growing as the American Shad has seen a wonderful recovery especially over the past 20 years. This has been a conservative effort by organizations like the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, power companies and sportsman groups in the region.
Thanks to Van Wagner for his YouTube Video and JakesLeakyWaders for finding this video.
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