“I know I cursed getting them on me, but what’s a few ticks when you’re catching shad,” a friend said after spending an afternoon on the Annapolis River near Middleton.
The friend has been angling for shad over 30 years and only recently started mentioning wood ticks. “I won’t let a little thing like this stop me from fishing when the shad are running good,” he said. “You know how much I like eating shad roe.”
I got the friend hooked (no pun intended) on roe when we first started fly fishing for shad away back in the 1970s. I wish I hadn’t. Once he developed a taste for them I had to fight for my fair share. Pan fried, they’re a delicacy, especially as a side dish along with baked shad.
Oddly, as good as the roe is, I rarely ever hear other anglers mention they eat it. I rarely ever have anglers tell me they like shad either. Most anglers say they’re much too boney and hardly worth all the effort of scaling and cleaning them. They’d change their mind if they tried the stuffed baked shad my wife puts on the table. Sure you have to pick out a few bones but the delicately flavoured flesh of baked shad with a celery based dressing is worth it.
Have you ever tried smoked shad? I have and it’s excellent. At one time a couple of anglers in my neighbourhood experimented with cooking shad by smoking them. I’m not familiar with the process they used but I was given a few samples and as I said, it was good. It’s been a few years since I’ve had smoked shad – the nearest neighbour who smoked them passed on – but I recall the process removed many of those pesky bones; it was a lot like eating properly smoked gaspereaux, another spring delicacy few people are aware of.
Since shad have the reputation of not being good table food – and it’s undeserved as I said – a lot of anglers catch and release them for the sport. Shad are tremendous battlers, especially when taken on a fly rod and a lot of fun to catch, so this is understandable.
However, I hope some of you catch-and-release anglers will forget the mindset that shad are not all that edible. Try one this spring. Take a shad home. Have the chief cook at your house look up shad preparation in one of your cookbooks. Guaranteed you’ll be just as hooked on them at the table as you are on the stream.