SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) says commercial fishermen can take to the water beginning at 12:00 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2023, to take advantage of the opening day of shad season.

Shad, a species of herring fish, was almost depleted in prior years due to threats from climate change, polluted water, deadly run-ins with hydroelectric turbine blades and getting eaten by larger fish.

“Last year’s shad season was tough, and catches fell short of what most fishermen wanted. Nonetheless, 2023 is a new season, and we’re hopeful for a good shad run this year,” said Jim Page, WRD Senior Fisheries Biologist in a written statement.

He continued, “Additionally, we are excited to announce that we have increased the reward values of tagged shad the agency is releasing in the Altamaha River, with rewards ranging from $10-$100. We hope that encourages better participation by fishermen in the critically important shad survey.”

Photo provided by Georgia Wildlife Resources Division.

2023 Shad Season River Regulations are as follows:

  • Savannah River: The Savannah River is open for commercial shad fishing downstream from the I-95 Bridge Tuesday – Friday.  Waters upstream of the I-95 Bridge and below the U.S. Highway 301 Bridge are open Wednesday – Saturday.  All waters of the Savannah River above the U.S. Highway 301 Bridge are 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.
  • Altamaha River: The Altamaha River downstream from the Seaboard Coastline Railroad Bridge is open for commercial shad fishing Monday – Friday.  Waters of the Altamaha River system upstream of the Seaboard Coastline Railroad Bridge and below the U.S. Highway 1 Bridge are open Tuesday – Saturday, including the Ohoopee River downstream of the U.S. Highway 1 Bridge.  All waters of the Altamaha River system above the U.S. Highway 1 Bridge, including the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers, are closed to commercial fishing.
  • The Ogeechee, Satilla and St. Marys rivers are not open to commercial shad fishing.
Photo provided by Georgia Wildlife Resources Division.

Legal Net Guidelines for Commercial Shad Fishing:

  • 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 than 300 feet apart and are limited to a maximum of 1,000 feet in length in saltwater.
  • Set nets and drift nets must be situated 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 captured.

Commercial shad fishermen must have a valid Georgia commercial fishing license and are required to have purchased a commercial fishing endorsement for shad.

For a complete set of commercial fishing regulations, click here.

Shad season will run through midnight on Mar. 31, 2023.