by Blair Mackintosh
Pssst. Want to experience saltwater fishing without spending thousands to get there? If so, Hawkesbury, Ontario is the place for you.
Reaching over twenty inches in length, the Alosa Sapidissima, a.k.a. American Shad averages between four and six pounds with the world record being just over eleven. Trust me when I say, "A six pound shad on the end of your line will definitely test your tackle." In regards to the fight, they've been compared to double-digit bass.
Alosa Sapidissima, a.k.a. American Shad
For a two week period around the beginning of June each year, the American Shad make a spawning run into fresh water. Leaving the Atlantic they head through the St. Lawrence and hang a right at the Ottawa River where they head north. At Carillon, Quebec (across the river from Hawkesbury) they run into a problem. A few years back, Quebec Hydro constructed a huge dam and this is where you'll find thousands of them. Before the damn they use to spawn behind the parliament buildings in Ottawa.
To reach the boat launch you must cross the bridge to Quebec at Hawkesbury and take your first right. From here a sign will tell you 18 km to Carillon and you'll know you have arrived when you see another sign saying Embarication P.L.P.
Don't have a boat? Don't worry, you can rent one there. The cost of a boat is twenty dollars for the day, or fifty dollars with a motor. To save on the extra charge or if you just don't feel like towing your own boat for four hours, you can bring your own motor. If you go motor-less, the owner will tow you out, anchor you and then pick you up later. You'll also a need a Quebec Fishing license for which a day permit will run you $10.25 or so.
Once on the water, go fairly close to the dam and look for current breaks. The water is swift, so try and position yourself where you'll have faster water on one side and slower water on the other. If in doubt, just park where all the other boats are located.
In many areas, front and rear anchors and necessary. Important Safety Tip - always make sure your front anchor has caught before throwing out the rear anchor. Rear anchor first will result in the transom facing the current and your boat will be quickly swamped.
Medium action rods with spin or bait cast reels loaded with 8 - 12 pound test line should work fine. Use jigs and bring plenty of them as the bottom is snag-heaven. The most popular jig at Carillon is the ¼ to ½ oz. red and white darter jig with a tinsel tail. They sell them at the launch. Another popular colour is orange. Some people tip their jigs with minnows but it really doesn't seem to be necessary. As long as you keep your jig just off the bottom, you'll get fish. Just make sure your drag is ready to do battle.
As for time of day, people will tell you one thing and books will tell you another. The one constant, through experience, reading and stories, is that the early morning bite is best. The action slows as the day wears on. With the town of Hawkesbury and quite a few campgrounds located nearby, getting an early start is easy.
So if you're looking for a different
type of fish to add to your species list, try the
American Shad. It's an ocean fight close to home.
Warning however, it'll probably spoil you for the
upcoming bass season. To reach the Embarication
P.L.P. call 1-450-537-8220 and ask for Jean-Pierre.
He'll tell you when the run has started and if he
has boats available.
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