Although Redfish, Speckled Trout, Stripers and Albies seem to get most of the attention here in Eastern North Carolina, there is a fish that is near and dear to my heart during the month of March. Many of us associate the arrival of shad in our coastal rivers with the official kick off of spring and the upcoming fishing season. These fish arrive upriver and pack themselves so tight in some spots that it's not unusual to catch 10 fish out of 10 casts. They have a penchant for bright gaudy flies and lures and put every bit of their energy into escaping once hooked. Known for their acrobatic jumps, they've rightly earned the name, "the poor man's tarpon".
Hickory and White Shad make their spawning runs up the coastal rivers of North Carolina Feb-April of each year. In my opinion, the Roanoke River near Weldon NC is the best place on the planet to experience the shad run. Other rivers such as the Tar, the Neuse, and the Cape Fear also have great spring shad runs, but I feel like the upper Roanoke is one of the most consistent and reliable fisheries. The Hickory Shad usually show up in the Weldon area during the first two weeks of March and hang around until mid-April.
Even a slow day shad fishing on the Roanoke, is usually more action than you will experience in most other locations. Over one hundred fish in a day, is a definite possibility when fishing the Roanoke. Shad are great fun on ultra light spinning rods, or 4-5wt fly rods with a sinking line. They earn their nickname “poor man’s tarpon” from their flashy silver scales and their ability to jump multiple times when hooked.
When shad first arrive in the rivers, we are still in the tail-end of wintertime, but warmer spring weather is usually the norm by the second half of shad season. Spawning Stripers are also beginning to show up in the upper Roanoke towards the end of shad season. A few weeks after the shad leave, the Striped Bass spawn is in full swing, which is another one of my favorite seasonal fisheries.
If you haven't had an opportunity to experience this fishery, then you are missing out. These shad are fantastically fun on a fly rod or a light spinning rod. They're also a great "first fish" on a fly rod, if you are just starting out. We have all the know how, equipment, and flies/lures needed to go get bent on a bunch, so give me a shout if you want to go. I'm offering trips out of Weldon for a few days this spring to guage everyone's interest in the fishery. If we get enough interest this year, then we'll most likely expand our shad offerings for the following year.
Shad Charter Dates for 2023
March 29 - April 2
Roanoke River, Weldon, North Carolina
Bright flies, sinking lines, and light rods are the gear of choice. You can also catch plenty
on ultra-light spinning rods and tiny jigs.
Hickories might not be huge, but targeting them is one of the most fun, action packed types of fishing
to be done on ultra light tackle in North Carolina.
When you get on a school of shad, the fishing can be fast and furious.
Hope to see you on the River this Spring!