HOLMBERG: James River shad run speaks to many people

Posted at 12:41 AM, Apr 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-09 00:41:06-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- It’s a constant amazement to me how many people take the James River for granted - folks who rarely visit it, swim, boat or fish in it.

Those who do cherish the James - the kayakers, the walkers, runners, cyclists, park volunteers and so many others who, like those who settled Richmond, know that this is a special, wild spot in our long Virginia river. (Even if it can be a little stinky at times.)

The fall line – why Richmond is here.

But it seems to me, many of those who fish the James with great vigor, particularly those who fish from the shores, are relative newcomers to the city, and often, to the country.

I visited Ancarrow’s Landing on the south bank of the James, right across from the Intermediate Terminal - just upriver from Rockett’s Landing.

It’s a place where you can hear many languages.

“Arab, Spanish, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Cambodian . . . English,” said Sam So as he fished with dozens of others on that park of the bank.

But fishing is the universal language.

“I guess everybody down here is like family,” said Anthony Taylor. “Everybody speaks to one another.”

Particularly when the shad are in the middle of their annual run to the upper rapids, to the  fall line.

Some years their spawning run is kind of puny, as it was two years ago.

Other years, Richmond’s shad fishery is considered to be world class.

This year is pretty strong. You can hook them with just about anything. Flies, worms, many kind of lures (a small spoon will do), maybe even a bare hook. Shad roe is coveted, but the bony, bony fish, not so much. They’re definitely good for fertilizing your garden.

The perch are also biting nicely, and some catfish.

Welcome to spring!

What’s really new is the latest among those fishing downtown:

Eagles. Several of them. Perching, soaring, scuffling and yes, fishing.

It makes for quite a scene.

This is a sweet spot, with a nice public boat ramp with quite a history.

And big kudos to those who have tremendously expanded and spiffed up the park and facilities there. It’s just a huge turnaround from  what was once a kind of sketchy place for mostly hardcore boaters, fisherfolk and partiers.

Now it’s a family spot, a great place to embrace the tidal James River as it courses through downtown.

Reach the park by going to the northernmost end of Maury Street (via E. 1st, 4th, or many other Manchester streets). It turns into Brander Street, goes past the city’s sewage treatment plant and takes you right to the park.