Another important recreational closure will affect angling activities across the region this upcoming season. Effective January 1, 2013, all American shad fisheries (both commercial and recreational), with the exception of the Delaware Bay, Delaware River and its tributaries, will be closed (no possession, take or harvest). The recreational possession limit in the Delaware Bay, Delaware River and its tributaries will now be three fish with no minimum size and an open season all year.

These new American shad regulations were taken to comply with Amendment 3 to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) management plan for American shad and river herring due to concerns about the significant coast-wide decline of American shad stocks. Amendment 3 of the ASMFC fishery management plan for American shad prohibits both the recreational and commercial harvest of American shad in the waters of states that do not have an ASMFC-approved sustainable management plan. Working in conjunction with state partners from the Delaware River Basin Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative (CO-OP), a sustainability plan for American shad was developed for the Delaware River estuary and subsequently approved by ASMFC’s Shad and River Herring Board. There was insufficient information available to develop sustainability plans for other American shad stocks along New Jersey’s coast.

%pullstart%The recreational possession limit for Delaware Bay and the Delaware River plus its tributaries, will now be three fish with no minimum size and an open season all year. Fishing for American Shad anywhere else along the East Coast is now prohibited.%pullend%John Punola, long considered “the shad man” of the Northeast wrote to me stating, “Good news for Delaware River shad anglers, and I can breathe a sigh of relief, I was afraid the State of NJ might not submit the required sustainability plan as requested by the ASMFC. The decision by ASMFC to keep the Delaware River open to shad fishing with a 3 shad per day limit made good sense because the Delaware continues to show significant shad numbers unlike all the other rivers entering the Atlantic Ocean.”

He added, “I fully expected a five-year ban on shad fishing since that was told to me by one of the government delegates when I presented detailed testimony at two public meetings. I was told when any fish studies are undertaken; the fish under study is protected from all fishing until the study is finished. Rivers like the Hudson and Connecticut, the other rivers with usual large shad populations, now have low populations as well as the other New England Rivers, so it made sense to suspend shad fishing in those waters.”

In all his reports that he e-mailed to the ASMFC headquarters last year, Punola kept noting the high number of shad in the Delaware and kept stating that the river should be kept open, and supported his reports with impressive photos. He also urged other longtime shad anglers to send similar letters to ASMFC letting them know of the good successes they were having, and many of them did. All in all, its good news for shad anglers and spring is not that far away.

Some shad anglers voiced dismay that the Raritan River will be closed to shad fishing, but the Raritan shad fishery is very limited and so are its shad numbers, so the overall ruling should not affect shad fishing as we know it.