How do you fish during a massive shad kill? How do you fish during a massive shad kill?
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    How do you fish during a massive shad kill?
from jyarb #11210  
1/24/2009 8:18:08 PM


  Wilson Lake. Smallmouths and largemouths. The water temp is 38-40 and threadfin shad are dying by the millions. Huge schools at the top, individual shad spiralling to the surface and then down. Lot of dead ones floating or lying on the bottom. You would think all a bass had to do was open its mouth and it would be full. With the low water temp the metabolism of the bass would have to be slow, so they won't eat that often.

The shad seem to be thicker in pockets than on the main lake. Do you try to fish the pockets and other areas where the shad are dying or do you try to find areas without so many shad where the fish might not be stuffed?

The water has a moderate stain with visibility of about 6 to 8 inches to maybe a foot. What lures and presentation would you use? Would you fish bluffs, points, look for wood, or what and going home is not an option. Do you try a crawfish type bait to give them something different?

Thought a jerkbait would be perfect, but not a hit. Kept on hooking shad on nearly every cast even with a very soft jerk. Maybe water too stained? Eight hours and one hit on a jig. One pound gizzard foul hooked on a crankbait. Couldn't even catch a drum, which I usually excel at. Any thoughts or ideas appreciated.

Edited 1/24/2009 8:55:15 PM

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   Can't escape responsiobility to..... from Ralph Manns  1/24/2009 10:55:24 PM
....experiment. The glut of baitfish can have opposite effects.

1. The bass are actively feeding in these areas or
2. They're stuffed full.

In spite of writer's exaggerations about bass being "gluttons," they do get full, become satiated, and eventually stop eating until food is digested.

If you can't get hits in shad-full areas, even by dead sticking a shad imitation on the bottom (give them time to drift over and pick it up), seek places without so much food. The bass in one cove likely aren't psychically aware of the excess food in another. They will have their own, independent, feeding needs.

   maybe ignore them from Randy B  1/24/2009 11:47:16 PM
And focus on the traditional winter patterns since the water is so cold

   I'm not sure you can..... from Mike Whitten  1/25/2009 11:55:19 AM
....effectively catch fish on Pickwick and Wilson during a shad kill.

I've fished that stretch of water, especially Pickwick and the river below Pickwick dam, for over 35 years, and a big shad kill and water below 40 degrees is generally a no go deal. I know for a fact it will kill the sauger and white bass bite below Pickwick dam, for miles.

You said it in your post--hooking shad on every cast. Fish have very easy to get, natural food available, with slow metabolisms. Not a good combination for anglers.

I save my money, and wait for a warm spell, with big rains, and open gates to flush out the dead shad. It is the only thing I know that helps.

Mike Whitten/Germantown, TN

   Shad Kill tactics... from MikeB/SpotCountry  1/25/2009 1:06:44 PM
I haven't had a shad kill in a few years but we are on the verge of one now. The best way to catch fish on a shad kill is to mimic a kilt shad ;).

Float N Fly is probably the deadliest winter technique to use in this instance. It mimics the dying shad and there is no other technique that I am aware of that takes advantage of the shad in their dying phase like the Float N Fly does.


Allatoona Bass Fishing (Atlanta, Georgia)

   Other Questions from jyarb #11210  1/25/2009 1:27:09 PM
Thanks Ralph, Randy and Mike for your replies. I was fishing in my local club tournament. We had the choice of fishing Pickwick or Wilson. If you remember Saturday's weather, a strong cold front came through that morning early with rain, then the sun came out and the north wind was 10-20 with gusts to 25.

Several boats decided to stay home, which was probably the smartest move as Mike suggested. Nine out of 14 anglers zeroed. Two had one fish, one two, and one boat 6 fish weighing over 20 lbs. with a big fish of 5 lbs. The winners fished Pickwick and caught their fish close to the dam on spinnerbaits, all in one spot in just a few minutes. All fish caught in the tournament were caught before 8 a.m. One fish caught on Wilson, the rest on Pickwick.

I thought when the sun came out (around 8), the bite might improve with the water being so cold. Idea was that fish would move up and get on wood or big rocks, especially with good water color. Wrong.

Went to one spring thinking fish would be drawn to the warmer water. They were. Shad were so thick my depth finder wouldn't read. My line would move from side to side as it bounced off the shad. Any bass there were probably as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey.

Also thought the fish would probably not want to fight the current and Wilson would be better. Fish caught on Pickwick in slow current or on the edge in back eddies, so I thought wrong again.

The shad are also dying on Guntersville, but a fair number of fish are still being caught. What makes the difference? Is it the grass? Know that some fish at Guntersville are coming off rip rap. Rocks on Wilson didn't produce. Again, what's the difference?

I hate to get skunked anytime, but especially in a tournament. Getting beat by 20 lbs. is rather humbling. I've had lots of practice at being humbled. Always try to learn from my mistakes and wonder what I could have done differently and try to figure out how the bass beat me again.

Edited 1/25/2009 1:31:25 PM

   Float-n-fly Questions? from jyarb #11210  1/25/2009 1:36:38 PM
Thanks Mike B. I have never used a float-n-fly, although some of my friends have experimented with it. What rod, floats,line, and flies do you prefer? Does the water need to be real clear? Any favorite colors you will share? Thanks for the help.

Edited 1/25/2009 1:38:15 PM

Edited 1/25/2009 1:40:52 PM

   Difficult fishing, but from Spookchucker #10778  1/25/2009 2:53:54 PM
I have found fishing difficult when there are millions of shad dying. But I can usually find a few by changing ends of the lake or major creek, to an area where there are not so many shad. The bass in these areas are more willing to bite.

   jyarb from Ralph Manns  1/25/2009 3:22:09 PM
You created an interesting thread. I liked the comments on float and fly.

Regarding your query:"The shad are also dying on Guntersville, but a fair number of fish are still being caught. What makes the difference?", this is my observation.

Most of the fish we catch are actively feeding fish, although we may get a few neutral fish with very-close presentations or reaction-type presentations.

But, It is a lot harder for bass to catch food than most anglers realize. Under normal conditions in a reservoir, only about 50% of the bass hold even one food item in mid-summer, when food is abundant. In the most food rich reservoirs surveys typically found 70% with one for more food item in their gur. In winter, even though digestion takes 15 days or so, an average of only 30% hold one food item. It's a great day for bass when they get two or three prey.

The conditions when they can eat more than they can hold are so relatively rare, that, unlike humans, bass in the midst of active and successful feeding may even try to cram in a few more shad than they can hold. This creates a situation, even in a glut environment like a shad kill, when some bass still haven't become satiated.

During most of our successful bass angling, only 10 to 30 percent of the bass are active, the rest are inactive but another 10% may become active within an hour or two. We make good catches when only a small percentage of the total population is active. Still our lures pass hundreds of bass that don't hit in a given fishing day.

If the die off creates a situation that motivates 90% of the bass in a given area to to feed, even at the tale-end of the feeding activity period, a few bass will still be eating, and the bass far from the glut will still be in their normal feeding cycles. Thus, bass anglers in the "hunt" may still locate catchable bass if they search long and effectively enough.

   As always Ralph, from jyarb #11210  1/25/2009 6:10:33 PM
I appreciate your input. I commented to my son-in-law yesterday as we were fishing that I wondered how many fish had looked at our lures. We were fishing some usually very productive areas.

I can relate very well to those bass that eat a few more shad than they can hold. Happens to me every time I go to my favorite seafood buffet. Wonder if they are miserable for hours also? (But it's a good kind of miserable if that makes sense.)

Had not realized such a small percentage of bass were feeding at any given time. Would assume on those rare days when you catch very large numbers that the percentage is higher due to perfect conditions. For me it has been related to spawning movements with fish following a migration route in or out of a spawning area.

Have you ever encountered a situation where you caught a large number of bass that appeared to be all females? On one trip to Lake Harding years ago we caught around 75 bass off of 3 long red clay points that had one or two stumps on the drop in about 8 to 10 ft. of water. This was in March and all of the fish appeared to be pre-spawn and full of eggs.

David Campbell with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. told me he had seen females bump against objects supposedly to loosen their egg mass. I always thought maybe those bass on Harding were possibly doing that on those stumps. Then again, maybe they were just relating to the cover, but why did we catch only females?

Edited 1/25/2009 6:14:18 PM

Edited 1/25/2009 9:33:41 PM

   I can confirm......... from Guy #10385  1/26/2009 9:53:15 AM
What Mike W posted. I fished Pwick last Fri. 10 to 4p The shad were everywhere.

I had the same thinking as Mike B and fished the FnF almost the entire time.Caught one little spot.Did not fish the river part of the lake, maybe a little current might have made a difference, but I think not.

   Has anybody tried... from SurFishaLot #12110  1/27/2009 12:03:35 AM
letting a Rat-L-Trap fall through the dying shad???

I've always heard that this was a good technique, but I've never tried it.

Just throw it out. Dead stick it all the way to the bottom. Repeat as necessary.

It definitely works on deep fish that are holding below schooling/busting fish.

Jigging spoon ?????

   Float N Fly... from MikeB/SpotCountry  1/27/2009 3:20:39 AM
You don't want to fish where the shad are dying. There's no competition for food ie easy pickings. Get away from the shad. Find a nice string of bluffs and go at it with the F n F. Be sure to vary your depth as that is key. The nastier the weather the better it shines. IT's probably the only technique that I WISH for post frontal conditions as it excels in catching suspended fish.


Allatoona Bass Fishing (Atlanta, Georgia)

   Club records show the same from Spookchucker #10778  1/27/2009 6:15:13 AM
When there have been big shad die offs. The ones in the money were always fishing away from the shad. Which is why I posted earlier about changing ends of the lake, or large creeks.

   Spookchucker from jyarb #11210  1/27/2009 8:35:25 AM
That was pretty well our strategy, but the shad kill was pretty much all over the lake. There were fewer dying shad on the bluffs, so that's where we concentrated. I wondered about the guys that won fishing the edge of the current at the dam. Maybe the current had moved the dying shad downstream and there were fewer shad there.

The one lure I wished I had with me and didn't was some Sassy Shads. I think they may have caught a fish or two on an 1/8 jig head. Surfish: my son-in-law tried a trap as you suggested and that didn't work either.

If I ever face that situation again, I will be better prepared thanks to your replies.



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