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The Natural Habits of the Shad

One afternoon, when I was a young boy, I arrived at my grandparents’ house just before supper. I immediately smelled the sweet aroma of fish cooking and asked my Papa where he got the fish. He laughed and said, “Your grandmother caught them with a silver hook.” I told him I’d never seen a silver hook, and he let me know the hook was actually a silver dollar, because she bought the fish at Mr. Palmer’s market. When I asked — “What kind of fish?” He proudly answered, “It’s a shad — you need to try it because it’s delicious!”

I had never heard of a shad, but my PaPa was right — it was very good. My MaMa knew how to prepare the shad, which required some special preparation because of the many tiny bones in the fish. She would slice the meat off the sides of the fish and then cut deep gashes into the meat about ½” apart. When the shad cooked, the bones were dissolved and the result was a very tasty piece of fish.

I just got back from a few days at the East Side Fishing Club on the Altamaha River near Darien. The weather was very cold, so we didn’t spend a lot of time sitting in a boat — even though Crappie were biting. However, we did spend a few hours each day drifting with a shad net — the drifts were so successful that we had fried shad each night for supper. Larry Dickerson, who does most of the cooking, has mastered the technique for preparing and cooking the shad.

Lee Foskey, another club member, who personally caught a lot of shad during our trip, also told me a few more things about the shad. According to Lee, when the fish is about 5 years old — it will leave the ocean and travel up a fresh water river to a point where they will spawn. They’re continued from page

aggressive and 100% dedicated to their journey — some have been found 375 miles upriver in the St. John’s River in Florida. The Roe Shad (female) and the Buck Shad (male) travel together until they reach the end of their journey.

When the Roes and Bucks reach their spawning ground and the spawning is complete — the female will deposit the eggs and, unlike the salmon, the adult fish will immediately begin their journey back to the ocean. After hatching, the young shad will remain in the river until fall, when they’ll begin their journey down the river to salt water.

Lee also said, “You show me a fellow who doesn’t believe in God — let me take him shad fishing and explain the natural habits of the shad that had to be endowed by our Creator. After that, I believe the fellow will do a little soul searching — the shad’s spawning experience can’t just be something that evolved after a ‘big bang’ — no sir,” Lee said. “When you think about it — you must realize that it had to be divinely inspired.”

Shad season is February and March of each year in South Georgia and a special license is required to use a drift net to catch the fish.

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