Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Shad back in the state in fishable numbers
A sea-run migrant that is starting to show up in enough numbers to make them fishable here in New Hampshire and Maine are shad. For many years, the New Hampshire Fisheries Division had a restoration effort both here on Great Bay rivers and in the Merrimack. The Merrimack shad runs are legendary, but the Great Bay restoration often seems to be sidetracked for some reason.
The reason may be that shad are not as apt to return to exactly the same stream they were stocked in, as Atlantic salmon wondrously do. Some of the smarter fishermen have taken this into consideration and have located a fishable school of shad in the Salmon Falls River, the river that is the boundary line for New Hampshire and Maine.
The shad concentrate under the dam at Rollinsford-South Berwick, and are easily fishable from shore there. You'll need a license to fish here if you keep any shad. They are included with trout and smelt as requiring a license in New Hampshire tidal waters. Seeing these are tidal waters shared with the State of Maine, a saltwater fishing license is required. If you have a saltwater license in either state you are covered when fishing this area.
Because the center of the river is the boundary of the states of Maine and New Hampshire, rules can vary from state to state. In the freshwater portion above the dam at South Berwick you have to abide by special interstate waters regulations, but in the tidal waters you have to abide by the rules of each state. This is very important if you decide to possess a striped bass that you are very apt to catch if you are fishing for shad as the Maine and New Hampshire striped bass regulations have some serioius difference that could lead to a violation that is unintentional.
Along with the shad there, you'll find alewives that will also take a shad dart, some striped bass that will give you a tussle and an occasional big sea run trout. These sea runs could be either brown or rainbow trout, as both species have been stocked above in the non-tidal water and several have been caught in this tidal area and they all seem to be trophy-sized.
Don't be surprised to find a white perch or even a black bass on the line, either!
The late Randy Dowd of Portsmouth, a good friend of ours, told us that his best shad rig when fishing in these waters is a terminal rig of a quarter-ounce keel sinker with a homemade fly with a foot-long leader does well just swinging in the current. He said two hours before and after high tide are best.
The tides are a couple of hours later than listed for the ocean, and don't forget to add another hour for daylight savings time to the time on the tide chart.
Although because of their boney structure, most shad anglers just fish for the fun of catching these feisty fish, often called "poor man's salmon" because of their fighting and jumping ability. But if you are patient and good with a fillet knife it's worth the effort to remove the bones, as shad are a very delicate and delicious fish. One easy way is to score the fillet both across and lengthwise, cutting through the bones and making small squares of flesh. Leave the skin on when doing this and don't cut through the skin. This allows all those small squares of fish fillet to stay in one piece. Roll in flavored flour and fry in good vegetable oil, skin-side up.
If you had scaled the skin prior to the filleting, you can eat the fillet skin-on. If not, just peel off the skin and enjoy some of the best eating fish there are. Note that the cutting of the bones will not guarantee that all of the bones have been cooked up so be ready to dispose of bones that are still there to prevent choking on one. This is serious business and should not be taken lightly.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.