Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 315: Let There Be Shad

A nice roe shad thanks to Capt. Mickey.
Photo courtesy of Capt. Mickey Melchiondo of Mickey's Guide Service.

When: Thursday, March 22nd, from 5pm to 7:30pm
Where: The Delaware River near Lambertville
What: Shad fishing with Mickey
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 75 degrees, wind calm to 6mph from the West
Barometric Pressure: 30.09in and steady
Moon: New
Water Conditions: 60 degrees (wow), 1.23 feet at the Lambertville gauge, partly stained

I had never caught a shad before today. Actually, I had never even tried. I've been told by lots of people that it's a total blast, so when Mickey called me on Monday to tell me the fish were biting and that I had to come down, I made sure to find the time.

Mickey is a New Hope native and knows the shad fishery better than anyone. He's a seasoned charter captain, running trips on the Delaware in his jet-boat and from Belmar and Key West on his 23-foot Jones Brothers Cape Fisherman, Archangel. Check it out at

So, needless to say, I had a ringer taking me out for my first shot at a shad.

And no surprise, he delivered.

I left work a tad early and met Mickey in Lambertville just before 5pm. He had already launched the boat and I hopped on after swapping my suit and tie for the jeans and t-shirt I had put in my car the night before. We motored over to the spot and Mickey wasted no time putting the 4-rod spread in the water.

After what didn't seem like too long, the first rod slammed down.

Fish on!!

Fish gone!!

It was that quick. The second I got the rod in my hand, the fish was gone. From what I'm told, that's all part of the game.

At the time it was slightly disappointing, but before too long another rod bent in half. This one stayed tight and after a spirited fight made it to hand. It was a nice big roe and my very first shad.

Another few minutes passed, another rod slammed down. Mickey once again handed me the rod and I fought the fish to the front of the boat. Right as Mickey was about to land the fish, it jumped clear out of the water and in the process spit the hook. Before it splashed back into the water, Mickey deftly plucked it from the air with the net...just as another rod went off.
With the first fish still in the net, Mickey yet again handed me the rod and I was battling another shad to the boat. Before too long, there were two shad in the net.

Things got a little quiet after that, but the Fish Gods weren't about to let us go home without a cherry on top. Mickey insisted we had at least one more fish to catch, and he was right. We both had our heads in the livewell admiring our catch when we heard a drag screaming. After plucking the rod from the holder, I could immediately tell this was a bigger fish. It put a much better fight than the previous shad, peeling out drag several times and digging deep into the current. A couple times it came to the surface and I was sure it was going to jump and spit the hook, but on this night we could do no wrong. Keeping calm and waiting patiently, I finally got the hefty roe close enough for Mickey to put it in the net.
A fantastic fish, and a fantastic trip.

A special thank you to Mickey for thinking of me and my quest and for inviting me down to be a part of this special fishery. Needless to say, I had an absolute blast. Mickey made sure I got the full experience by showing me what he was doing, explaining why he was doing it and repeatedly putting the rod in my hand when a fish hit. Mickey runs after-work charters at an incredible price, so anyone interested in having a similar experience should seriously think about giving him a call.

Thanks again Mickey.


  1. You think he's good with a net? You should see him with a guitar! Congrats on a stellar story & adventure!