American River Shad Access In Sacramento
from a late '70s document in the PFF archive

by Mike Meinz

republished November 2003

Metropolitan Shad

Imagine a pristine setting with a stream meandering its way quietly between tree-covered banks. An angler, waist deep in the cool water, is struggling to control a leaping, silvery fish as the fish attempts to make a long run downstream. One might expect that I am describing a fishing scene on a remote stream in northern California, but I'm actually referring to the American shad fishery in the middle of metropolitan Sacramento.

The Sacramento metropolitan area is the home of three-quarters of a million people and yet the two local urban rivers, the American and Sacramento Rivers, yield up to forty thousand shad annually to anglers. The American River, its serenity preserved by a series of parks and tree-lined paths, has many access points for anglers. The Sacramento River at "Minnow Hole", on the other hand, is less scenic, but the quality of shad fishing is excellent. In the spring, anglers generally begin catching shad at the Minnow Hole during the last week in April. The peak of the season spans the first three weeks in May, during which anglers catch about six thousand shad per week. Although the shad fishery in California is normally a catch and release fishery, Minnow Hole angles keep about ninety-two percent of their catch. One group of six anglers that I interviewed caught and kept one hundred and nineteen shad in five hours of fishing.

In the American River, boat anglers concentrate at the mouth near Discovery Park while shore anglers customarily fish between Arden Bar and Nimbus Dam. Although the fishery begins during the first week in May at the mouth and near mid-may at Arden Bar, the run usually peaks in mid-June and extends through July. Catch estimates for the American River in 1978 will exceed twenty thousand shad. The number of shad caught seems related to water flows, that is, when flows are high, more shad are attracted from the Sacramento River into the American River. Annual catches during the drought years of 1976 and 1977 were less than six thousand shad.

Access Points

Minnow Hole, Sacramento River
A popular spin casting area located in south Sacramento. Access is off Highway 5 at Fruitridge Road; turn left on Riverside Boulevard and drive approximately one mile.

Discovery Park
Popular in the early season with boat anglers and some shore spin casters. Access is off Jibboom Street.

12th Street Bridge
A boat fishery occurs here early in the season by fly and spin casters, however, it has become a popular swimming area. Access is from the end of Carlson Drive.

Howe Avenue
An are occasionally used early in the season by fly and spin casters. Access is off La Riviera Drive at the How Avenue Bridge.

Watt Avenue
An occassional early season fishery used by fly and spin casters. Also, late in the season, fly casters have been known to tak a few shad on dry flies. Access is off La Riviera Drive at the Watt Avenue Bridge.

Arden Bar
Popular with fly and spin casters throughout most of the season. North side access is through the water treatment plant near McClaren Drive. sout side access is from Rod Beaudry Drive off Folsom Boulevard.

Cordova Community Park
Popular with spin casters throughout most of the season. Access is from Chase Drive off Coloma Road.

Lower Rossmoor
Usually a spin casting area, but fly fishing is good when water flows are low. Access is from Rossmoor drive off Coloma Road.

Upper Rossmoor
A popular fly fishing area throughout the season, often called thirty-second-hole151;that is, if you don't catch a shad in thirty seconds, something's wrong. Access is from Elmanto Way off Coloma Road.

A once-popular fly and spin casting region; however, rafters and swimmers have taken over. Access to eithe side of the river is possible from Sunrise Boulevard.

Upper Sunrise
Popular throughout the season with both fly and spin casters. Located opposite the lower end of Sailor Bar Park, access is off Bridge Street; travel 1.3 miles upstream and turn left on gravel road.

Sailor Bar Park
Poplar throughout the season with both fly and spin casters. Fly casting from boats is also popular. Access is from Illinois Avenue off Winding Way.

Nimbus Dam
The most productive area, Nimbus is popular throughout the season with spin casters. Access to either side of the river is possible from Hazel Avenue.

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