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End of an era; annual shad tournament in Easton cancelled

Fishing for shad in the Delaware River at Easton is an annual activity in spring.  Unfortunately after 31 years the Forks of the Delaware Shad Fishing Tournament has ended due to lack of participants and financial problems.
Fishing for shad in the Delaware River at Easton is an annual activity in spring. Unfortunately after 31 years the Forks of the Delaware Shad Fishing Tournament has ended due to lack of participants and financial problems. Duane Sedlock

Looks like the annual Forks of the Delaware Shad Fishing Tournament after 31 years has finally come to an end. The once wildly popular tournament has been cancelled for 2014 by its organizers and there are no future plans to restart the tourney.

The tournament which was held annually in Easton, PA had drawn less competitors and sponsors over the past few years. In its heyday, there were up to 1,500 entrants annually, but only a mere 300 participated last year. In 2006, an article in Field and Stream Magazine had called it the largest shad tournament in the country.

In 2011, the tournament was nearly cancelled due to lack of funding as several sponsors had dropped out. Then at the last moment Brown-Daub Kia of Easton signed on as the principle sponsor. But with the reality of smaller future cash prizes being awarded and events like the annual parade and cook-out being permanently cancelled it was only a matter of time before the tournament would be no more.

American Shad, an anadromous fish migrate up the Delaware, Schuylkill, Lehigh and Susquehanna Rivers each year in spring from the ocean to spawn. They are a bony fish which Native Americans and the early settlers would grill on wooden racks suspended over open fires. When the Moravians who founded Bethlehem, arrived in the late 1400’s; they spoke of being able to walk across the Lehigh River on the backs of the shad because they were so plentiful in the river. It was not uncommon for thousands of shad to be caught daily during the shad’s migration.

The shad are a feisty fish which prefer to swim in schools in the deeper river currents. The Delaware River is the prime water to fish for these shad which draws plenty of anglers from nearby and far away every year. Towns and cities along the river in PA, NJ and NY reap economic benefits from the sales of food, gas, fishing equipment and lodging. The best time to fish for shad in the Easton area is April through early May. For the Delaware Water Gap and north the best time is early to late May. Along the New York border, shad can still be taken through mid-June.

When the tournament was doubtful in 2011, a new 1-day tournament called the Bi-State Shad Fishing Tournament sprung up across the Delaware in Phillipsburg, NJ. This increasingly popular contest now the only game in town will expand to four days.

The entry fee is $30 and anglers can get an application and more info by visiting the Bi-State Shad Fishing Tournament.