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Delaware River Shad Fishing Reports - 2021


Anglers Asked to Report American Shad in the Paulins Kill and Musconetcong Rivers

Andrew and Steve Meserve mix fish roe and chicken eggs to create a unique dish (Travel Channel)

Every year American shad migrate up the Delaware River to spawn. The numbers and timing of the "shad run" vary year to year depending on water temperature and conditions. Having accurate, up-to-date information on the run can greatly impact on angling success and enjoyment. Fortunately, there are resources anglers can use to get this information.


"The Big D" - 2006 Freshwater Fishing Digest article about the river and its fisheries. (pdf, 165kb)
Why You Should Care About What Fish (Shad!) Swim With You In N.J. Rivers -, 3/24/15

5/17 Report
5/14-15 Report
5/13 Report
5/12 Report
5/11 Report
5/10 Report
5/7 Report
5/6 Report
5/5 Report
5/4 Report
5/3 Report
4/30-5/1 Report
4/29 Report
4/28 Report
4/27 Report
4/26 Report
4/23 Report
4/22 Report
4/21 Report
4/20 Report
4/19 Report
4/17 Report
4/16 Report
4/15 Report
4/14 Report
4/13 Report
4/12 Update
4/9 Report
4/8 Report
4/7 Report
4/2 Report

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/17/21
Well it was a great night to be on the river. Nice sunny day. Temps were warm but not as warm as they are going to get later in the week it seems. And the new pole was even ready to give a try, more on that later.

The river was down to 1.8' and is still going down slowly. We moved up to 200 yards for what should be our last night. The water temp was 62F. And the replacement pole that I've been working on for weeks was finally ready for a try. Turned out we really didn't need it but it was dipped into the water and it was decided that it could do with a little more trimming. Still a little heavy now that the steel point was attached. I'll have the summer to get that fixed up and maybe even make a spare just in case. It turned out to be a nice haul. We kept 5 bucks and 2 roe. We also had 2 smallmouth bass, 16 catfish, 2 quillback and 25 gizzard shad.

Once I double check the numbers I'll send out the results for the year along with some thoughts on how the year stacked up. I think it will end up being a good year all in all. It was certainly a better year than last year. Look for the summary of the year in a few days. Until then...

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/14-15/21
It's a two-fer night. Here are reports for Friday and Saturday. For Friday the the river was at 2.75'. It was going down slowly. The river temp up to 60F. We stayed with 150 yards of net. We got 1 roe and returned 1 shad. We also got 1 smallmouth bass, 2 catfish and 7 gizzard shad.

For Saturday it was a bright day and the river was down to 2.48' (did I say it was going down slowly?). We kept the 150 yards on. The water temp was 59F but it was morning. We kept 1 row and one buck and returned 1 shad. We also had 17 gizzard shad.

We'll go out tomorrow (Monday) evening. It will most likely be our last haul of the season. Let's wee if we can go out on a high note. I'll follow up with a summary of the year in a few days.

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/13/21
Another nice day on the river today. The river was at 3.0'. The river temp was still at 58F. We started with 100 yards of net on. All we got in the net was 1 brown trout. We decided to try another haul and added 50 yards of net. This time we got 1 American shad, 24 gizzard shad and 1 turtle. The river is going down very slowly.

We'll be out again tomorrow. We'll try to get out Saturday before the rains come in and then it looks like Monday will be our last day.

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/12/21
A beautiful day today. Thought this might be the day to get a few shad. The river was at 3.32'. The river temp was up a couple degrees to 58F. We still had toe 100 yards of net on. Tonight all we got for our effort was 1 gizzard shad. <> Seems the season may be truly winding down. We'll go out again tomorrow, Friday and Monday. Maybe even Saturday.

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/11/21
Another changeable weather day today. Mostly sunny except when there were black clouds and wind. When we left the island last night the river was not going to get any higher than it already was. By the afternoon it got up to 3.71'. That was more than a half-foot from where we fished Monday night. It was still at 3.68 when we went out. The river temp had dropped another 2 degrees to 56F. We still had the 100 yards of net on. The river was plenty fast and the we got the haul in in under 10 mins. All we got for the effort was a very small bluegill that should have gone through the net.

For what the river forecast is worth it should be lower tomorrow. About 3.3' give or take. A cool night and sunny day is also forecast. We'll see what really goes on. We'll be back on the river tomorrow.

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/10/21
We were back at it tonight. The river finally settled out at 3.16' at 7:45pm. The temp was down to 58F. We took 100 yards off and that left us with 100 yards to fish. The water was still a little murky with some debris coming down. Conditions made for a quick haul. We ended up with 1 buck shad that we returned (too small) and 5 gizzard shad. Still keeping our fingers crossed that we might see one or two more hauls with a few more shad in them. We will fish the rest of this week for sure. Past that, we'll see.

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/7/21
Another quick one. We didn't go out again tonight. The river was running at 4.1' at 6:30pm. That is below the level we stop at but there was still a good amount of debris coming down. We'll stay off the river again Saturday and hope that things settle down for Monday evening. Still keeping our fingers crossed.

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/6/21
This will be quick. We didn't go out tonight. The river was running at 4.82' at 7pm. We don't go out when it's over 4.4'. With any luck we might be able to go tomorrow evening before the rains come in. Keeping our fingers crossed.

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/5/21
First things first. To fill in the blanks from 5/4. Besides the 7 bucks and 3 roe we got last night we also had 3 smallmouth bass, 42 gizzard shad and 1 quillback.

For tonight, the river was running at 2.12'. It looks like it will go over 5' by Thursday afternoon. The temp was 62F. We are still at 200 yards of net. We brought in 6 bucks, 3 roe and returned 3. We also had 26 gizzard shad, 1 carp and 4 quillback. It started out as a gray evening but by the time we were loading the net on the boat again there was a great sunset.

If the river does make it up to 5'+ tomorrow we will not be going out (4.4' is our limit). It does look like it will drop pretty quickly so we might be back Friday.

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/4/21
This is going to be quick. I forgot to bring our data sheet home with me tonight. I will fill in the details later Wednesday.

The river was running at 1.91' and on the rise tonight. We took off net to bring us to 200 yards. There were a number of holes in the net that needed repairing so we got a late start (7:30). The water temp was 62F. We had 7 bucks and 3 roe (0 returned). As for the rest of the haul, that will need to wait but I will tell you that there were some big channel cats and another bunch of gizzard shad.

It's looking like we may get rained out tomorrow but you never know. The river forecast has it getting to about 2.5' by the time we fish tomorrow if we do make it out. By Friday it's forecast to get to 3.7'.

We will be back at it tomorrow night about 6:30-7pm.

Lewis Fishery Report, 5/3/21
So we made it back on the river. I put the word out to the crew at about 3:30 and it promptly started raining hard at 3:42. We were still able to sneak one in between showers. The river came up about a foot since Saturday. It was at 1.7'. The temp was down a bit to 62F. We still fished the 150 yards that we had on from Thursday. I could have taken 50 yards off but the net was already on the boat. It was still a good haul. We kept 4 roe and returned 3 bucks. We also had in the net 18 catfish, 36 gizzard shad, 2 quillback and 3 striped bass.

The weather is looking hit or miss for the next few days. If we get a break in the storms we'll be out there again tomorrow.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/30 & 5/1/21
So we've been off the river for the last two days due to high winds. A lot of folks have been asking how this year stacks up with previous years. I thought I would look at the numbers and share with you what I am seeing. >p> So far this year we have made 19 hauls over 18 days. The total shad catch has been 549. That gives us a catch per haul of 28.89. In 2017 we caught 1262 in 43 hauls for a catch per haul of 29.35. In 2018 it was 864 shad in 39 hauls with a catch per haul of 22.15. In 2014/2015/2016 the numbers were between 329 and 389 total shad. The number of hauls made were between 36 and 41. That made the catch per haul between 8.66 and 10.72. Historically the highest catch per haul was in 1963 where it was 56.9 (3983 shad in 70 hauls). There were 2 years (1953 and 1956) where we caught 0 shad.

I would say most good years we hover somewhere in the low to mid teens and really good years would be in the 20s to 30s. The best years are those in the 50s and there are just 4 of those years. and the other 3, besides 1963, are 1981, 1989 and 1992. All in all this is at least a good year. Even if we were to make another 10 hauls and catch 0 shad our catch per haul would still be 18.93. I still think there are shad to be caught. The river is up over a foot since we went out Thursday from 0.75' to 1.84' as of 8:45am today. That will work in our favor I think.

We will be back at it tomorrow night about 6:30-7pm.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/29/21
So today was trying to beat the rain. We did get some rain just as we were going out and then as we were pulling in. Then we had a good rain as we were putting the net back on the boat. In any event we were able to get a haul in. The river it was at 0.75' with a temp of 64F. We still had the 250 yards on. Again, we were hauling in on the side. We ended up with 3 bucks and returned 4. The rest of the catch was 2 smallmouth bass, 3 catfish, 2 quillback, 3 carp and 20 gizzard shad. That and some wet crew members.

Depending on just how bad the wind gets we will be back at it tomorrow night about 6:30-7pm.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/28/21
It was a hot but clear day. At least until we headed down to the river to fish, then it started clouding up. Got a call from one of the guys fishing from the boats and we agreed that it seem like the shad were not moving in the clear water while the sun was out. The catch had really fallen off for him and most others it seemed. We had decided to move back when we would go out by about an hour and see if that changed our luck.

So when we got to the river it was at 0.79' with a temp of 64F. We still had the 250 yards on but because the river had dropped to below 1' we decided to haul in on the side. This would mean going a little further upstream to start out and landing upstream by about 100 yards. We also went a little further out to try and get to more fish. Well, we got more fish. However most of them were gizzard shad. In total we got 17 bucks and 3 roe for American shad. The rest of the catch was 3 catfish, 5 quillback, 1 herring and 107 gizzard shad.

It looks like we have some rain coming in that will change things around again. We will be back at it tomorrow night about 6:30-7pm.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/27/21
A beautiful evening to be on the river. The water dropped a little to 1.08' from 1.13'. The temp was up to 62F. We are still fishing 250 yards of net. The haul looked great form start to finish. We are still coming in at the point. at the end though we only kept 7 bucks. We returned 7 shad. We also had 4 smallmouth bass, 3 catfish and 1 quillback. Not sure why the lull. We'll keep at it.

We will be back at it tomorrow night about 6:30pm.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/26/21
Sorry we didn't get the Saturday news to you over the weekend. I'll double up tonight to get you caught up.

Saturday was a looking good to start but the forecast was for a good amount of rain to come in. The river was at 1.32' and 56F. We were still fishing the 200 yards of net. Just like Friday evening there wasn't much in the nets. All we had were 2 shad that were returned (very small), 2 smallmouth bass and 4 catfish. With the rain that was forecast we were hoping to see the river come up just a bit so we wouldn't need to put net on for Monday.

We never really got the rain so for Monday the river was at 1.13' and still 56F. another 50 yards of net was added. We still fished it around the point. As we pulled in the net there seemed to be a little activity going on. When all was said and done we kept 17 bucks and 8 roe. We returned 20 shad. We also had 4 catfish. It's looking like the river will continue to drop for another day or two before the next chance of rain comes our way Wednesday night. So far for the year we have caught a total of 500+ shad. The average catch per haul is just under 30.

We will be back at it tomorrow night about 6-6:30pm.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/21/21
Well, it was a great looking day today. A little warmer and the wind was not quite as strong. When we got to the river it was sunny and nice. Didn't even need to get a fire in the old stove going. The river was at 1.41' and 56F. We still have the 200 yards that has been doing us so well on.

Because the water was a little lower we tried to get a little further out. All looked well until we got the haul in. All we had in the net was 4 catfish and 1 quillback. Where did all the shad go? One of the boats that was fishing under the free bridge in Lamberville came over to see how we did. They told us that they only had 2 shad for the whole day and the rest of the boats were not doing any better. In fact they didn't see anyone else pull in any fish while they were out there. I guess the shad are just taking it easy in an eddy somewhere waiting for the warmer weather that is coming in next week.

The forecast is for temps to reach 72 on Tuesday and 80 on Wednesday. keeping my fingers crossed for that. We will go out Saturday morning about 11am just to see what is there. I'll keep you posted.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/22/21
It was another day waiting to see what the weather was going to do. There was no rain in the forecast but there was a lot of wind and cold temperatures. We decided to give it a try and headed down to the island. We all decided it felt a lot more like the beginning of March and the start of the season.

The river was at 1.54' and was 54F. We still have that 200 yards of net on. It was a bit of a struggle to get the boat upstream with the wind coming from the west-north-west. We made what looked like a good haul. As we pulled it in the two people on the lead line commented on how light it felt. The crew started wondering if we were going to have a water haul (no fish in the net). When we got to the last 15 yards or so we finally started to see some movement in the net. When all was said and done we had a total of 84 shad. We kept 7 bucks and 12 roe. We returned 65 shad along with 1 smallmouth bass, 1 catfish and 1 gizzard shad. None of us expected that amount of fish.

We can't wait to see what a little warm weather will bring us. We'll be out there again tomorrow night to see what we can get. There is some rain forecast for Sunday that hopefully will keep the river from getting down too low.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/21/21
This is going to be a short email tonight. It seemed we dodged all the really bad weather and only had a short bit of dark clouds and rain around 2. Radar was looking good so off to the river we went. When we got there there was a stiff wind out of the northwest and it seemed the temperature was dropping quick. We got the net onto the boat but by the time half of it was on it was decided that it would be better to give it a pass tonight. There weren't even any boats under the bridge trying their luck. The water temp was down to 54F and the water level was 1.71'.

We'll give it a go tomorrow, looking like it's going to be a cold day however.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/20/21
It was a good looking day most of the day. we were expecting big things tonight. When we got to the island the river was at 1.75' and the temp was 59F. We are still fishing 200 yards of net. It was a bit windy but still bright and sunny. We came away with 7 bucks, 2 row and we returned 2 shad. We also got a catfish, 3 gizzard shad and 3 quillback. We had lots more on order so we went out again. This time we kept 5 roe and 5 bucks. We also got 2 bass (smallmouth) and 13 gizzard shad. For the year that gives us a total of 377 shad (I was missing a day in my database yesterday). We've made 12 hauls for the year so far.

Tomorrow is iffy. We'll see what the weather looks like. Thursday and Friday look better right now. We'll see what we can do.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/19/21
All day I was getting word that there were going to be rain storms in the evening around the time we go out fishing. Because the weather has been playing tricks on me this season I decided that we would wait and see what might happen. Most of the afternoon was sunny but as soon as I headed to the river the gray clouds started rolling in. We went ahead and got the net on and headed up river.

There was a little drizzle but by the time we were heading home the sun was out. The water temp was up to 56F and the river was at 1.92'. We are still working the 200 yards of net. We got 20 buck, 21 roe and returned 41 shad. We also had 7 catfish, 3 gizzard shad and 1 quillback. There were some nice sized roe in the haul. Those numbers put us over 300 total shad (308) for the year so far in 9 hauls. And there was a very pretty sunset.

We'll be at it again tomorrow. Weather is looking good and then it turns rainy (Wednesday) and cooler (Thursday).

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/16/21
I'm just going to give you the short version of Saturday's haul. The water temp was 52F (it was 11am after all) and the river was at 2.26' (about the same as the night before). Saturday hauls do not produce many fish most of the time. This time however we got 27 shad. I put it down to being overcast so it was like an evening haul. There was nothing else in the net. We also didn't have any customers so they all went back into the water.

As has been the case the last couple of hauls we noticed that the fish, for the most part were running small. I take that to mean that we are still in the early part of the run. We'll only know when it's all over. I can only guess for now. We'll be at it again on Monday. Same time, same stretch of river.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/16/21
Just like yesterday it just took me letting the crew know we were on for fishing and then the rain came in. Tonight a slight drizzle lingered while we fished. It was just another gray damp night. The water temp was down to 53F. The water level was down just a bit again to 2.29'. We were still fishing with 200 yards on the boat and again fished it like 150 (but I'm getting better at it). Project for tomorrow is to start work on a new pole. For the haul we caught a total of 20 shad. We kept 10 bucks and 0 roe. We returned 2 shad, 1 smallmouth bass, 1 catfish and 3 gizzard shad.

We'll give it a go tomorrow about 11am. Not sure what to expect. At least the weather is looking better (I'm also using Weather Underground now).

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/15/21
Mother nature was at her best today. After being just gray most of the day I sent word to my crew that we would be going out tonight. About 15 minutes later it turned black at my house. A couple of guys thought I was nuts because it was pouring rain where they were. As it turned out it was just another gray damp night. The water temp was still at 56F. The water level was down just a bit again to 2.45'. We were still fishing with 200 yards on the boat and again fished it like 150.

I should take a moment here and explain about the pole that we broke last night. I've had a question about what it is used for. When the boat is heading into shore with anything more than 100 yards of net it can be a bit of a struggle. To help the two people rowing there is an 18-foot wooden pole with a steel point that is used to help the boat get into shore. Mostly what it does is keep the boat from drifting backward when the rowers have their oars out of the water. It gives a little extra help while the rowers are pulling on the oars. Without it it would be very difficult to get the net in.

Now back to our story.

For the haul we caught a total of 40 shad. We kept 0 bucks and 0 roe. We returned all 40 shad, 3 catfish and 7 gizzard shad. All the shad were returned because we had no one to buy any. For the year we are already over 200 shad caught (204 to be exact). And tonight was our 7th haul.

With the way the weather has been going I have no idea what to expect from tomorrow. I'm guessing that we will be able to get a haul in. Just have to keep one eye on the skies ( is not doing too well lately).

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/14/21
It's Wednesday so it must be time for a gray damp night. There was a chance of rain all day but only saw a little drizzle during the afternoon. The water temp was down to 56F tonight. The water level was down just a bit to 2.63'. We were still fishing with 200 yards on the boat but fished it like it was 150. That was because the crew noticed that the pole we use to help get the boat in broke last night. Lucky for us it happened when it came into the boat and not out in the river while it was being used. Now I need to find/make a new one. It's not something you can just pick up in Home Depot. Just what the captain needs, another project. Anyway, on to what you are really interested in.

For the haul we caught a total of 36 shad. We kept 5 bucks and 7 roe. We returned 24 shad and 4 gizzard shad.

Tomorrow is not looking too good for fishing right now. There is a 90% chance of rain and up to a quarter of an inch forecast. But who knows, we may get lucky. Just have to keep one eye on the skies and another on

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/13/21
What a beautiful night on the river. Clear and sunny. Not the gray and damp we had Monday night. The water temp was up to 59F and the height was 2.7'. We continued with the 200 yards of net. We brought in a total of 67 shad. We kept 2 bucks and 17 roe. We returned 48 shad, 3 catfish and 2 gizzard shad.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the rain forecast for Wednesday holds off until we can get a haul in. Looks like the river will be up over 4' sometime Friday morning. If that is the case we may be off the river for the end of the week (the weather forecast for Thursday is not looking good right now, but things can change).

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/12/21
It was a gray night on the river but Mother Nature decided to be good to us and not pour down rain. The river was up a bit at 2.44'. The temp was down to 54F. We still had the 200 yards of net working. A fine haul that brought in a total of 34 shad. We kept 5 bucks and 6 roe. We returned 23 shad, 2 catfish, 1 carp, 2 quillback and one Rainbow Trout. I'm sure that last one somehow found its way out of the canal trying to get away from the trout fishers on those banks.

Today (Tuesday) is shaping up to be the best of the week with rain coming in Wednesday afternoon and sticking around into Friday. Welcome to April and its showers.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/9/21
What a change from yesterday. Instead of sunny and warm it turned gray and too cold. We still had 200 yards of net on. The water temp was 55F and the height was 1.99'. We had a 10-12' tree in the sea end of the net when we came in. Had to move it as close to shore as we could in a hurry. Then we had to use pullies and come-a-long to get it all the way up on shore so it can be cut up Saturday. We still managed to get 4 bucks nd 2 roe. We returned 5 shad. We also had 5 gizzard shad, 2 carp and 1 smallmouth bass.

It looks like there is rain coming in for a good part of the weekend. We won't go out tomorrow (Saturday) so we can take care of the tree mentioned above. That should take a good part of the afternoon and dull a couple of chainsaw chains. We'll go out again on Monday, weather and river permitting (looks like the river is only going to come up a bit with the weekend rain).

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/8/21
It was a warm but beautiful night to be on the river. We went to 200 yards of net. The water temp was reading 58F on our thermometer. We ended up with 6 bucks and returned 4. We also had 1 quillback. I'm keeping an eye on the weather. There are some showers in the forecast for tomorrow afternoon. If it holds off we'll be back a it. It's looking like a rainy weekend too.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/7/21
I am glad to report that we were able to get out on the water this evening. We were getting a temperature of 57F but I think that was a bit high. As of 11:30pm the mean temperature reading from the Lambertville-New Hope bridge was 52F (11.0C). Anyway, we were running 150 yards of net. There was quite a crowd on the river tonight. Fishing boats, rowers and dragon boats. We ended up with 4 bucks, 2 roe, returned 2 and also had 2 quillback and a gizzard shad. While it was a bit warm on the river it was nice to be back at it again. We'll be back at it tomorrow night.

Take care and stay safe.

Lewis Fishery Report, 4/2/21

It's been a long winter. I hope this email finds you well and safe. We are finally getting ready to start the season. The nets are out and I hope to get the boat in the water in the next few days (Keep your fingers crossed the old Yamaha will start for me). Our bridge which we were going to replace in October 2019 (remember those days?) sustained some significant damage in the high water in December. It will be replaced this spring but not until after the season I expect. Because of this we will need to keep people off the island while we fish. We will bring fish across the creek to sell. It's a process we have used before. Please bear with us.

I will send something out again over the weekend as the start date is firmed up.

If you know anyone who would also like these updates just send the email address and contact info to me.


Steve Meserve
Lewis Fishery
1 Lewis Island
Lambertville, NJ 08530


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