Commercial shad season runs from 6 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 1 2011 through midnight on Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD). Commercial shad fishermen need to be aware that fishing regulations have significantly changed since the 2010 season.
The Satilla River and the St. Marys River are no longer open to commercial shad fishing and only portions of the Altamaha, Ogeechee, and Savannah river systems will be open to commercial fishing. The Altamaha River downstream from the Seaboard Coastline Railroad bridge will be open for commercial shad fishing Monday through Friday each week. While waters of the Altamaha River system, including the Ohoopee River, upstream of Seaboard Coastline Railroad bridge and below the US Highway 1 bridge will be open for commercial fishing Tuesday through Saturday each week. All waters of the Altamaha River system above the US Highway 1 bridge, including the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers will remain closed to commercial fishing.
The Ogeechee River downstream of the GA Highway 204 bridge will be open for commercial shad fishing on Fridays only each week during the shad season. All waters of the Ogeechee River above the GA Highway 204 bridge will remain closed to commercial fishing. Only drift nets may be used in the Ogeechee River.
The Savannah River will be open for commercial shad fishing downstream from the I-95 bridge Tuesday through Friday. While waters upstream of the I-95 bridge and below the US Highway 301 bridge will be open for commercial fishing Wednesday through Saturday each week. All waters of the Savannah River above the US Highway 301 bridge will remain closed to commercial fishing. Only drift nets may be used downstream of a line between the mouth of Knoxboro Creek and McCoys Cut at Deadman's Point.
Individuals fishing commercially for shad must have a valid Georgia commercial fishing license. Boats used below the saltwater demarcation line for commercial fishing also must be licensed, with the cost of the license depending on the size of the boat. The minimum mesh size for legal set or drift shad nets is 4 ½ inches stretched. Set nets must be placed at least 600 feet apart and should be limited to 100 feet in length. Set nets must clearly display the owners name and commercial fishing license number. Drift nets shall not be fished closer that 300 feet apart and are limited to a maximum of 1,000 feet in length in saltwaters. Set nets and drift nets must be situated so as to allow one-half the stream width to be open and free for the passage of fish. All set nets must have one end secured to the stream bank and must be buoyed at the outer (seaward) end so they will be clearly visible to other boaters. Sturgeon, game fish other than American shad or hickory shad, and all species of catfish taken in set or drift nets must be released unharmed into the waters where they were taken.
Reporting of American shad harvest to the Coastal Resources Division is a requirement under Georgia’s commercial fishing regulations. If your fish are not sold to a licensed fish dealer, please remember to report your catch. Contact Julie Califf at 912-264-7218 if you need harvest reporting forms. Other regulations apply. For a complete set of commercial fishing regulations or for more information, contact a WRD law enforcement office at (912) 264-7237 (Brunswick); (706) 595-4211 (Thomson) or (912) 685-2145 (Metter).