- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

At least in Virginia’s Rappahannock and James rivers, it appears April is the month for shad.

Creel surveys during last year’s shad spawning run were conducted on the fall line sections of the two rivers from March 1 through May 31. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries wanted to evaluate the popularity of shad in just those two bodies of water but also the economic value of the anadromous fishery created by the “poor man’s” tarpon, the shad.

In the case of the historic Rappahannock, the survey took place from the Fall Hill Avenue area of the river to the City Dock in Fredericksburg and covered less than three miles. A total of 10,706 hours of fishing pressure was estimated for both bank (7,698 hours) and boat (2,429 hours) anglers, for whom shad were the primary focus.

When May arrived, a significant number of Rappahannock visitors switched to catching river herring.

A total of 6,210 hours of fishing pressure was intended for shad in this section of the Rappahannock, followed by 1,438 hours for herring, but above the fall line the attention (1,041 hours) turned to smallmouth bass fishing. The hickory shad was the dominant species caught in the Rappahannock fall line, and almost 100 percent of the shad were released. The same was true of American shad, also known as white shad.

Not so with the herring; only 38.7 percent of the river herring were let go. The others were kept, probably to provide a traditional Virginia dish: fried, salted herring. Anglers spent an estimated $59,406 during the three-month survey on this small section of the Rappahannock.

In the James River in Richmond, the survey was conducted from the 14th Street Bridge downstream to Ancarrow’s Landing, covering about 11/4 miles of the river. A total of 30,994 hours was spent by fishermen on the James, where there were more boat anglers than shoreline fishermen.

In March and April more than 80 percent of the people fishing in that short stretch were after shad, but when May arrived they switched to rockfish and catfish. A total of 22,306 hours of shad fishing was done in this section of the James, followed by 3,418 hours for striped bass and 3,144 hours for catfish. Roughly the same percentages of shad releases applied as those in the Rappahannock River. Anglers spent an estimated $87,159 during the three-month survey on a relatively small section of water.

Maryland anglers asked to help — During spring the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hopes recreational anglers become involved in fisheries management. The data collected from helpful fishermen could play a major part in the DNR’s ability to estimate harvests and overall fish populations, as well as assist in developing workable creel limits.

For starters, striped bass anglers should be aware of three ways the DNR will seek their cooperation this spring. The Department will conduct a telephone survey to estimate the number of anglers participating in the trophy rockfish season. Calls will be made to randomly selected tidal water sportfishing license holders who will be asked to complete a brief survey over the phone. DNR biologists also will visit popular public boat launch ramps and marinas to talk with fishermen. They also will ask whether they can examine the fish that were caught.

If you’re interested in participating in the Striped Bass Volunteer Angler Survey, go to www.dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/survey/sbsurveyintro.shtml and enter information about your catch. The data collected will help estimate the total harvest and other important information, such as sex ratios and age structure of the population.

Then there’s the Maryland Volunteer Angler Summer Flounder Survey, designed to obtain recreational harvest and release data that the DNR normally does not have. By submitting fishing trip information when you go after the summer flounder, you could be of considerable help in the state’s flounder management. Go to www.dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/survey/sfsurveyintro.shtml or e-mail Allison Luettel at [email protected]

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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