The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Tight Lines

January 28, 2013

Let me take you to school with ‘Shad 101’

TARBORO — As you read this, thousands of Hickory shad and American shad, which we call white shad locally, are leaving the Atlantic Ocean entering the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, and heading up freshwater rivers to spawn.  Fish that live in saltwater, but travel to and reproduce in freshwater are classified as anadromous.  Striped bass, better known as rockfish, also follow this process several months after the shad.

This migration of spawning fish provides about 4-5 months of outstanding local fishing action in the Tar, Roanoke, and Neuse Rivers.  We will probably hit about 2-3 weeks in March when I would put up our excellent local shad fishing against angling anywhere.  It’s that good!  If you like to catch fish, an eastern North Carolina coastal river is the place to be during hickory shad, white shad, and rockfish season.

Henry Knight caught the first shad last year on the last Sunday in January 2012.  I expect a similar timetable this year.

The good news is that shad fishing is not complicated or expensive.  You do not have to have a boat.  A ton of shad are caught from the bank.  

Equipment can be as simple as a not-to-pricey spinning rod and reel combo, and a tandem shad rig.  My very biased opinion is that you need to see Tackle Joe at Greenville Marine.  Joe Varnell can fix you up with everything you need, equipment-wise.  My next stop would be either Roberson & Dupree Shoe Store or Marrow-Pitt Ace Home Center in Tarboro to purchase a card of six Custom Jimmy D Shad Rigs.  I’ve tried everything out there, and Jimmy D’s work best for me.  I highly recommend them to anyone serious about catching shad.

Personally, I think most people use too much hardware on their line to shad fish.  I prefer a simple small snap swivel on the end of the line.  I see people throw lines with more bling-bling on it than a rap singer. I find that very unnecessary, and sometimes more of a distraction and hindrance than a help.  In fishing, as in most things in life, simple usually works out better.  I believe in KISS, as in ‘Keep It Simple Stupid.’

Shad anglers tend to be kind of bunched up on the river bank.  Give the person next to you a little room, and always be cognizant of where you are casting.  Tangled lines are never any fun for anyone.  It’s a simple cast and slow retrieve process.  When I say slow, I mean painfully s-l-o-w.  Retrieve all the way to the bank or boat.  I could feed a room full of hungry people on the shad I have caught right in front of me on my final reel-turn revolution.  In addition, it’s right darn exciting to see that fish nail that bait before your very own beady little eyes.

Shad fishing is not about strength, but more about finesse and technique.  I think that may be why the ladies excel so much at shad fishing.  Also, it’s a fishing outing the whole family can enjoy.  Fishing skill and expertise is always good, but not absolutely necessary when the river is teeming with fish.  Shad is a great fish to target for novices and youngsters.  Many a lifetime of fishing pleasure was launched catching a few feisty river shad during spawning season.

Rick’s Soapbox:  Congrats shout-out to Robert Cherry who caught a 10-pound striper in the Tar River last week.  Rocky was either an early member of the advance party, or he forgot to leave last spring.  When I asked Robert what he did with him, he just smiled and rubbed his stomach.  Rocky did not die in vain.  He fed a good man.  

I prepare this article in mid-week, and as I write this, no one has claimed the 2013 Tar River First Hickory Shad Contest prize package yet.  Why not you?  Go get ‘em!  

Care to share?  Tight Lines welcomes your fish snaps, tall tales, and outrageous lies at

See you on the water, my friend!

Text Only
Tight Lines
  • Rick Goines tightlines.jpg Rockfish tourney nearing

    It must be spring because it is sign-up time for the John Cherry Rockfish Rodeo on the Tar — April 26 is the big tournament day.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Blounts Creek environment threatened

    It took a year, but Wifey and I finally met Bob Daw at Blounts Creek. An avid angler, Bob writes an interesting weekly blog about Blounts Creek fishing.

    December 6, 2013

  • Lionfish.jpg Invasion of lionfish could impact local anglers

    Are lionfish quickly becoming a nuisance and threatening our native North Carolina reef fish populations?  Those experts in the marine sciences give an emphatic yes.  The nagging question begging an answer is what to do about it.
    Known in the scientific community as Pterois volitans, lionfish are typically one-pound, foot-long, reef bottom feeders with venomous spines that have no natural predators, and are starting to overpopulate, damaging the ecological balance of the reefs off our North Carolina coast.

    September 12, 2013 1 Photo

  • Rick-Goines.jpg National hunting, fishing day Saturday September 28

    North Carolina joins the nation Sept. 28 to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day.  Your NC Wildlife Resources Commission has family oriented activities scheduled statewide to help you welcome this enjoyable occasion. For more information about the event, call 919-707-0010 or go to  Visiting that NCWRC website regularly is always a good idea to stay on top of current, solid outdoor info and intel.
    Fall fishing is hard to beat in Eastern North Carolina.  I would stack up our fall Eastern NC fishing action, freshwater and saltwater, against fishing anywhere.

    September 9, 2013 1 Photo

  • Battle Park is a cornucopia of nature

    Fifty-seven acre Battle Park, in the heart of Rocky Mount, is named after the Battle
    family of Tarboro, founders of Rocky Mount Mills. Water-powered, the mill dam was hewn of the rocks of the Great Falls, past the westernmost point of Edgecombe County.

    June 7, 2013

  • Take a kid fishing this summer

    As you put the final touches on your summer vacation plans, consider a fishing outing for the youngsters.  They might not remember or appreciate that expensive beach cottage rental, or that high-dollar meal at that trendy waterfront restaurant, but I would bet a pretty penny they will recall every detail of a fun-filled family fishing experience.
    Just about anywhere you chose to go this summer will offer fishing

    May 31, 2013

  • Shad Season in Review

    All things considered, 2013 was a good shad season, thoroughly enjoyed the fishing activity and usual camaraderie among shad fishing friends. Shad fishing to me is about so much more than just catching fish.  It’s a total package of enjoyment as it captivates and dominates my life February through May.
    Wayne Harrell kicked off the season winning the first shad contest catching his hickory shad on a cold 19-degree Saturday morning, February 2.
    The shad hole on East River Road in Tarboro was a little disappointing this year. Untimely flood waters might have limited our regular peak run. Fish were caught and we had some good days, but not the action we have experienced in past years.

    May 24, 2013

  • Banner Day at Battle Park

    Sunday was Mother’s Day.  I am not a mother, but I played one in a school play years ago, so I figured that entitled me to go fishing on Mother’s Day. Need an excuse or rationalization to go fishing? Check with me, I’ve got plenty!
    After suffering through 2-3 days of a rain induced swollen, unfishable Tar River at Battle Park in Rocky Mount, it was jackpot time on Sunday. Without a doubt, I had my best white shad fishing day ever, fishing from sunrise to early evening. Action was good all day, with a little lull for about 2-hours in the heat of the afternoon.
    I am proud to report to you that I enjoyed a 50-fish day. I caught a personal best 46 white shad, 3 hickory shad, and foul-hooked a very angry, upset 3-foot gar.  I thought I had two large white shad, or maybe a big rockfish, so I was a little surprised to see Mr. Gar.  It was like reeling in an uncooperative 2x4 piece of lumber.

    May 17, 2013

  • NCWRC enforcement officers doing a great job

    North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission has two enforcement officers assigned to each county. That’s 200 dedicated, educated, and highly trained individuals protecting our North Carolina environment and natural resources. To become an enforcement officer applicant, one must participate in a highly competitive selection process. A typical candidate is required to pass extensive background and psychological screening. Also included is a vigorous 19-week training academy that is patterned after a military boot camp, with an emphasis on physical fitness.

    May 10, 2013

  • Tight Lines declares Ginger Perry of Nashville the shad queen

    One of my favorite places to bank fish is the boat ramp at Battle Park in Rocky Mount. I have met a lot of interesting people there. Three or four times this season, I have watched this amazing lady, Ginger Perry, fishing with her friend, Big Kelly, for white shad. Simply put, she is one good angler! She casts and retrieves like a pro, and always catches her fair share of fish. Maybe a few more than her fair share! This lady can flat-out fish!

    April 19, 2013

AP Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
Twitter Updates
Must Read