Columbia River Shad?


The irony, when it comes to invasive species in the Columbia, is that there is a bounty in Oregon for Northern Pike Minnow (aka Squaw Fish) and they are native to the river. They are one of the few species in the Columbia these days that were in the river before the white man started building the dams.

I'm sure the other non-native species of fish are doing much more harm to the native fish than are the shad.
Are shad good eating?
They taste incredible, but getting past the bones is a bitch.
Try this on for size. Remove head, tail, entrails and fins. Wrap shad in heavy duty aluminum foil with several pats of butter, sliced lemon and sliced onions. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 325 degrees until just barely done. You want the meat to be real moist. Unwrap the fish and use a fork to scrape the skin off the side of the fish. Then scrape away the dark meat along the lateral line and discard. Now the fun begins. Using the fork like a rake, scrape the meat from the rib bones and pile it into a bowl or dish. Keep raking the meat from all areas of the fish until you are finished. In about a half hour you should have a nice bowl of the best tasting fish and a BIG pile of bones. It gets easier the more you do it. It reminded me of cracking crab, a lot of work but well worth the effort. Tom


Active Member
That's a GREAT question. We don't know.
I did some reading and best I can find is that shad fry are very abundant throughout the lower river, they provide food for predators like bass, walleye, and pike minnow, while depressing the populations of daphnia that feed out migrating salmon smolts.

Doesn't sound good.

But proof of the significance of this seems scarce, is my impression.

We smoke them, pressure cook, and can them so you don't have to worry about the bones. Then we make a smoked fish cracker dip out of them.

You wouldn't even know it was shad.
We gave a bunch to an oriental lady who was fishing next to us on the Snake River one year---she told us to come back the next day and she would give us some fish cakes. I have no idea how she made them but they were the best fish cakes I've ever had. I could have eaten them for days, and I am not much of a fish eating fan.


Active Member
Craig Haskell (USGS) just published a paper in the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society which demonstrated that the feeding of abudant juvenile shad in the John Day Reservoir is responsible for the seasonal decline of both the size and number of Daphnia, which are an important dietary component of sub-yearling chinook.

Yeah Seth Green introduced them to the Sacramento River in 1871, and they were first observed in the Columbia by 1876. I wrote a couple articles on this, so if any wants them PM me with your email address and I'll pass them along.
The shad have been in the river way longer than the dams have been on the river.

It occurs to me that their impact on salmon in a damned up river, where the smolts spend months getting to sea, may be way greater than the shads impact on salmon when the river was free flowing and smolts made their journey in a matter of a week or two.

possibly shad and other invasive species, plus dams, could be way worse than dams alone.


Kris Kerr

The Breaker of Tippets and Arrows
I've had some fun trolling for shad with a gear friend. He was doing it to use them as bait for oversized sturgeon. While that was fun I want to get one on the fly myself.

My rendition of a shad dart. I am headed to the deschutes for a three day float day. I'll be coming down HWY 97 from Washington and Crossing the columbia. I figured I would take a few casts for Shad while I am there. Any suggestions about where near 97 to fish for Shad? I was thinking about heading up to just below John Day on the oregon side, based upon a blog I read. However, I found the oregon regs confusing. I don't see shad mentioned for the section below the John day, whereas they explicitly mention them below Bonneville. Does that mean you can or cant fish them there? Also, it seems you can fish within 600 ft of the "fish entrance." I took a look at the satellite images and I see a Square of water on the south side of the dam and also a long sleuce looking thing that angles down stream. Is either one of these the fish entrance?


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