When we see the ring billed gulls circling and diving into the water there is a pretty good chance those gulls are picking up thread fin shad that are coming through the dam. This was the case in January as well as February when we started to actually see the shad. It’s a great time to fish the White River in Arkansas if you can handle a bit of cold weather. Bring more clothing than you think you need. Ideally we like to see the shad come through the dam floating on the surface. I who does not like to fish on the top? It’s way too much fun fishing on the top!
Generally the generation on the river needs to be pretty heavy although I have seen shad come through on very light generation. So by heavy generation a full 8 units is roughly 26,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) down to 4 or 5 units which is roughly 15,000 CFS. Or to put it another way 8 units is about 16 feet more than no generation at all so it’s a big water column for a river. When the shad are not floating on the surface then they must be fished either on the bottom or suspended. Split shot is a good choice to get the fly down to the bottom and sometimes a big shot or two is needed. With a streamer type pattern sinking lines with a rapid sink rate can sometimes do the trick. Often we use an ozark doll fly which is basically a jig.
The catching can be pretty hot and heavy at times and is a ton of fun however when the water drops it can slow down some and when shut off the fish usually shut down as well. Sometimes moving down stream and staying in the heavier water will keep the fish coming.
I don’t know how much longer the shad will continue to come through but I have seen them continue into April but this is rare. I would hazard a guess and say that with this continued cold weather and some generation we should see shad through the middle of March.
If you decide you want to fish the shad kill do so during the week and avoid the weekends as those are the days that generation usually will not happen. If this sounds like something you want to do give the shop a call Monday through Saturday 9 till 4 central time or call me on my cell phone at 870-404-8906 and we can set up a day.