Between Trenton Falls, which is the start of the tidal flow, and the junction with the West Branch at Hancock, the Delaware River stretches for exactly 200 miles. All along the way, and even farther into the northern branches, anglers can catch migrating and spawning American shad.
After a mysterious downturn around the turn of this past century, shad fishing has picked up again over the last two or three years. If you’ve been away, get out there and rediscover what shad fever is all about.
Most places noted here provide some of the best shad action in the Delaware River each year:
BUCKS COUNTY START-UP
Until the water temperature reaches about 50 degrees, shad fishing gets off to a slow start in the lower non-tidal Delaware. But when that magic number is reached, Bucks County is where the action begins.
This section of the river offers a combination of fishing from shore and boat, with the latter more dominant due to the character of the water and the availability of access.
Bucks County has three boat ramps directly in front of good shad spots. In the lower end of the county are the Tinicum and the Yardley accesses, both on the circuitous river highway, Route 32.
Tinicum is near Erwinna and Yardley, at the north end of the borough of the same name. Farther upstream is the Upper Black Eddy access, also along Route 32, just below the bridge crossing to Milford.
Parking at this site is unfortunately limited because it’s hemmed in by housing. In addition, if you are coming from the north, the turn into the lot can be downright dangerous.
Nevertheless, all three launch sites can lead the boating angler to good shad channels and narrow pinch points, where shad must venture in order to continue their migration.
Wade-fishing in Bucks County is problematic due to the width of the river and access problems. Anglers like to concentrate their efforts above the footbridge north of New Hope and in the Point Pleasant area, both narrower settings.
For adventurous anglers, a key to access is the Delaware Canal. In selected spots, the canal is practically adjacent to the river, as opposed to several thousand yards away, or on the east side of routes 32 or 611.
These unofficial access points can put you close to shad. Ambitious anglers walk along the towpath and then climb down an embankment to these lesser-used locations on the river.
In addition, places along the Palisades area and Route 611 offer easier shore access. These spots usually have parking for the historic canal locks and towpath, which anglers will use to reach the river.
One good site is across from the brownish red industrial plant on the New Jersey side.
In addition to access in Bucks County, many shad anglers cross the bridges and launch or wade-fish from the parks and access points in New Jersey. Two of the best are at the Kingwood Access about a mile south of Frenchtown, N.J., on Route 29, and at Bulls Island, also off Route 29.
The number of boat-launch sites increases only slightly in Northampton County, but the amount of wade-fishing opportunities increases dramatically.
In Northampton County, the river is still wide but there are more spots where it narrows down. Fortunately, this gives shore-bound anglers a better chance at reaching the deeper channels where shad are migrating.
Boaters have a number of access points in and above Easton. The ramp at Riverfront Park is usable, but not the easiest to navigate during the Delaware River Shad Tournament.
After a mysterious downturn that occurred around the turn of this past century,shad fishing has picked up again in the last two or three years.
A major ramp is upstream at Sandts Eddy on Route 611, five miles north of Easton. This lot has parking for some 50 vehicles and features some excellent channels and pinch-point water.
Continuing upstream is the Pennsylvania Power and Light access. This ramp places anglers just downstream of the infamous Foul Rift in a surprisingly narrow part of the Delaware River.
Boaters flock to the New Jersey side of the river and can do quite well when shad are passing through.
In addition to the boating access in Easton on the Pennsylvania side of the river, the largest launch facility is just across the bridge in Phillipsburg, N.J. This site is now used by most of the boaters working the great Easton channels between the two railroad and two highway bridges.
To reach the Phillipsburg access, take the Free Bridge from Easton, at the bottom of the main street, and make the first left just after crossing the bridge.
There’s also a N.J. ramp only a few years old that’s called the Holland Church access. This site is one mile north of Riegelsville on River Road.
Northampton County has good wading access from the bottom to the top of the county, though anglers must often scramble to reach the best spots. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission maintains a no-ramp access just above Cooks Creek in Durham. Shore-anglers may also find regular access at Fry’s Run Park, six miles south of Easton, at Wi-Hit-Tuk Park three miles south of Easton, and at the mouth of the Lehigh River, all at or below Easton.
Above the downtown area, there’s access along Route 611 at the former waterworks and at the Frost Hollow Overlook. Anglers also manage to locate catch-as-catch-can access along Route 611 from the Overlook to where the highway makes a hard turn towards Belvedere.
As the Delaware reaches into the lower Pocono region, it often presents anglers with tighter shorelines and fast water. Boating these spots produces excellent numbers of shad, but shore-bound anglers must find other locations where the river flows at a more moderate pace.
The key boating location is the huge Smithfield Beach facility. This fee ramp gives anglers access to a lengt
hy area of the river that includes long, deep pools and many pinch points. The ramp lies three miles north of Shawnee. Some anglers have been known to hike along the shores from this point.
On the New Jersey side of the river in Warren County is a ramp at Poxono, off Old Mine Road, eight miles north of the Delaware Water Gap. Another is at Worthington State Forest, four miles north of Interstate Route 80.
Boat access is also available at Depew, nine miles north of the Gap, also on Old Mine Road.
Where it comes close to the river, Old Mine Road provides access for shore-bound anglers.
Some 50 miles of the Delaware River stretches along the Pike County boundary, and here the flow undergoes frequent changes in width, depth and power. Fortunately, there’s plenty of boat and shore access to many of the best spots.
Launch facilities may be found at Milford, south of town off Route 209; at Matamoras on Delaware Drive, one mile north of the Route 209 bridge; at the Dingmans Ferry Access, half a mile east of Route 209 off Route 739; at the Bushkill Access, one mile north of the village of the same name off Route 209; and at the Eshback Access, five miles north of Bushkill on Route 209.
All of those sites except Matamoras lie within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. There’s also good access for wading at Milford and at Eshback.
Farther north, boaters have an excellent launch point at the mouth of the Lackawaxen River at the Zane Grey Access in Lackawaxen off Route 590.
Boating and shoreline availability go hand-in-hand for the four Pennsylvania access points in Wayne County. At these spots, boaters will find deep pools and channels, while shore-anglers can find pinch points within casting distance of the banks.
Four prime locations include the Narrowsburg Access opposite Narrowsburg, N.Y. on Route 652; the Damascus Access in the village on Route 371; the Callicoon Access, downstream of Callicoon, N.Y. and accessible from Route 191; and the Buckingham Access, three miles north of Equinunk on Route 191.
There are also access points on the New York side of the river for each of these spots, except for Buckingham.
For additional information on shad- fishing opportunities in Pennsylvania, including maps and brochures, contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in Harrisburg at (717) 705-7800, or on the Web, log on to www. fish.state.pa.us. For travel information, call 1-800-VISIT-PA.