It’s nearly spring, and I wanted to have at least one sea-run fish on an Angler’s Pint to celebrate the season. It was a toss-up between an alewife and a shad, but I decided to go with the American shad. The decision came down to a couple of key factors, including 1) the fact that more people fish for shad than alewives using rod and real, and 2) we have a great relationship with a fantastic store in Essex, Connecticut called Goods and Curiosities. The store is associated with the historic Griswold Inn, and they have been carrying the Angler’s Pints for a while now.
For those of you who don’t know, Essex is on the Connecticut River. It’s a wonderful town well worth a visit, and, if you go, you might want to plan your visit to coincide with the annual Shad Bake. The Shad Bake is a spring ritual put on by the Rotary Club of Essex and the Connecticut River Museum. The shad are cooked nailed to boards and positioned around a bonfire, imbuing the flesh with a delightful smoky flavor. The Shad Bake is scheduled for June 2nd this year. You can find more information on the Connecticut River Museum Facebook Page.
The shad is the state fish of Connecticut, and the shad fishery is one that has a storied past. The shad runs were important as both food and culture to native peoples, but dams and pollution eventually reduced the number of rivers in Connecticut that were conducive to shad to just a handful. In addition to dams, haul-seining on a massive scale in the 19th century further reduced populations of shad to the point where, by the latter part of the century, there was little incentive to put much commercial effort into harvesting shad.
The creation of fish passage around dams, as well as generally improving the riverine habitat, means that the shad are returning in larger numbers, but those numbers still fluctuate from year to year. Events like the Essex Shad Bake are an opportunity to educate people about important cultural traditions and environmental concerns. I believe strongly that keeping people connected to the resource more often than not benefits the resource, and I hope this American Shad Angler’s Pint will provide an opportunity for important discussions about sea-run fishes.
In terms of the artwork, the original American Shad painting was commissioned by Maine Sea Grant for a sea-run fishes of Maine calendar. The calendar, which was published for 2017, features Maine’s 12 native sea-run fishes and was produced in partnership with NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Office and The Nature Conservancy, with funding from NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint for the Penobscot River.
In addition to finding the American Shad Angler’s Pints at Goods and Curiosities (by mid-May), you will also find them at the Bi-State Shad Fishing Tournament, which is for April 26th-29th this year. Of course you can also get them from me directly.