Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
 
Photo of angler holding a striped bass that he caught in the Connecticut River in Hartford, CT - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo of angler holding a striped bass that he caught in the Connecticut River in Hartford, CT. Credit: USFWS

Fishing Advice

When is Fishing Hot?

The fishing is hottest when the fish are biting!

American shad return to the Connecticut River usually starting sometime in late April. The run continues through June. Once the river warms up, movement stops and the shad spawn. That's the end of the fishing season for these fish.

Striped bass are a coastal fish. They move into the Connecticut River in the spring in pursuit of prey. They feed on whatever fish species is most abundant in the river at that time. You will find stripers in the river in large numbers when the migratory fish are migrating either in or out of the river from April through July. Striped bass offer anglers nearly 50,000 hours of fishing pleasure each spring - just in CT.

New Hampshire posts stocking information and a lake and stream fishing report on their Web site.

Massachusetts also posts stocking information on their Web site.

Shad Fishing

Did you know there is a commercial fishery for shad in Connecticut? It’s one of the oldest fisheries of its kind in the United States with annual landings of 30-70,000 fish.

American shad are seasonally native to the Connecticut River. They range from Long Island Sound to Bellows Falls, Vermont. Large numbers of shad have been counted at the dam in Holyoke, MA. Large numbers of shad pass the Holyoke dam and much smaller numbers pass the Turners Falls Dam. However, shad have trouble making it all the way through the fish ladders at the next upstream dam in Turners Falls. As a result of this bottleneck, researchers are trying to find a way to improve the fishway at that location. In the mean time, some shad are collected at the Holyoke fishlift and trucked upstream of the Vernon dam to make sure that a reasonable number of shad have access to high quality upstream habitat. The consequence is a spring recreational fishery for shad from Bellows Falls south. Nearly 4,400 anglers per year fish for shad in MA alone.

American shad are an exciting fish for anglers. They're big, they fight hard, and, in the Connecticut River, you can fill your creel pretty quickly. The Connecticut River record shad was 11 lbs 4 oz, which is also the world record!

The best places to fish for shad are at the mouths of rivers including the Farmington, Chicopee, or Westfield, and below dams, such as the Enfield, Holyoke, Vernon, and Bellows Falls Dams. The shad run peaks between late May and early June.

Visit this page during the spring for daily shad counts. Also, check your state's fishing regulations for more information.

 

Planking Shad

The following photos show the old-time method of baking shad in front of a campfire. The photos were taken at the 2005 Connecticut River Museum Shad Festival in Essex, Connecticut and the Planked Shad Supper hosted by the Siloam Lodge #32 of the Connecticut Freemasons in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

Photo of a shad on ice in a cooler - Photo credit: Janice Rowan   Photo of someone using a fillet knife to prepare a shad for cooking - Photo credit: Janice Rowan
The fish on ice in the cooler is a roe (female) shad.   Dorothy Goss is demonstrating the art of boning a shad.
     
Photo of shad fillets attached to a plank and covered with spices - Photo credit: Janice Rowan   Photo of spiced shad fillets attached to planks surrounding a fire - Photo credit: Janice Rowan
Shad fillets are nailed to a 3" hickory board with strips of salt pork in preparation for baking.   Shad are doused in beer and baked in front of the fire for about 30 minutes with the board rotated from top to bottom one time so that the fillets cook evenly.
Photo Credits: Janice Rowan    

This was an interesting process to observe. The folks who are involved are true enthusiasts who see the whole process from commercial netting to planking as an art that is part of their heritage.

For more information on the history of the Connecticut River shad fishery, there is a video produced by the Connecticut River Museum entitled A Passion for Shad: Keeping The Tradition Alive. Contact the Museum (www.ctrivermuseum.org) to view or obtain a copy of the video.

Catch and Release Fishing Techniques:

  1. Use a barbless hook and play the fish quickly.

  2. When releasing shad, keep the fish in the water.

  3. Gently remove the hook because their mouths tear easily.

  4. Never remove a deeply sunken hook, just cut the leader.

  5. If the fish is exhausted, hold it in the water facing upstream and gently move it forward and back. Release the fish once it revives.

Accessible Fishing Sites

 

 
Last updated: September 1, 2010
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