Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gone Fishing

We arranged to meet Tom and Judy up in Holyoke, to give the heralded Shad Derby a try. Shad are a medium size salt-water/fresh water fish. Annually they fight their way up the strong currents of the Connecticut River as far as they can to spawn, much like Atlantic Salmon.

Saturday was thankfully sunny and in the low 70's, despite the weathermen's best efforts to predict otherwise.

We met up at the Holyoke Bridge connecting Holyoke and South Hadley. It's a short walk down to the river on the Holyoke side, if you can find the way through a giant retaining wall lining the edge. We went to the right for quite a ways, before realizing we should have gone left.

We finally made it to the river's edge and staked out a section of riverbank for three fishermen, two lounging women, and a territorially defensive dog.

Fishermen of all ages lined all the banks at intervals.

These people had a great position on the other side of a canal run-off, where they could cast directly downstream and retrieve in a relatively straight line.

We had to cast out from our fishing spots and watch the line immediately veer to the right, downstream, forming a perfect arc right into the bank in the very strong current. The lures would bounce along the shallows as we reeled in. As with most things, the early birds get the best fishing spots. But, at least it wasn't crowded where we were. The boys and girls across the way didn't enjoy the same luxurious elbow room. And when you get that many fishing lines together, it can start getting...a little cob-webby.

The three of us on our side cast for a while, but weren't having any luck. The Shad have started their run, but from what I gather, the bulk of the legendary giant schools of fish haven't made it up this far yet. I've heard at it's peak, the fish can be caught almost immediately on every cast. Probably a fish story, but it's one I've heard often. Either way, I'm sure it gets more active than it was today. The guy with the biggest hat, of the anglers across the way, seemed to be doing ok though. He pulled one in every now and again. Must have been the Sachem of yonder tribe.

They were also subject to inspection from the local fuzz, who sauntered in for a look around.

Our ladies chatted, read magazines, and waited patiently for fish that never came. Judy, surveying the tossed beer cans, cigarette butts and donut boxes strewn all over the river bank, decided she'd seen enough of the disgusting litter. Grabbing a plastic bag, she did something about it.


We tried different spots and lures, but one by one came to realize the Shad weren't having it today. We reluctantly decided to pack up and go check out the fish elevators nearby at the dam before they closed. The elevators, or fish ladders as they are known, are right across the street, at the Holyoke Gas & Electric Hydroelectric station on the end of the dam. Holyoke G&E sponsors the annual Shad Derby. You can register there for the derby, weigh and record your catches for prizes, or just go fishing without registering.

The dam was only flowing over on the edges today, but quite forcefully.

We entered the Robert E. Barrett Fishway, as it's called. There's some pretty interesting pictures, an observation deck right next to the dam, a glass fish viewing station where they record the quantity and types of fish passing through. Down below an elevated walkway, two giant turbines are turning, generating what I believe they said was 30 megawatts of electricity from the dammed up water.

I took some good pictures of the inside, but afterwards was (very politely) told I wasn't supposed to have a camera in there. So, I'm not going to post the pictures. Ok just one of the outside from the observation deck:

There's some cool stuff in there, and the staff are very kind and enthusiastic about what they do. They're eager to discuss the fishway, and point out some of the cool stuff to visitors, like the Shad leaping above the massive churning overflow of the dam, trying to get through. The Shad aren't not much for eating from what I hear, but they're heroic little fighters. Against Man and Element. Inside, there are several very cool pictures of the construction of the existing dam at the turn of the 20th century. Also, there are pictures of the old wooden, (that's right, wooden) dam that was there before it. The fishway will only be open until Father's Day in June, around when the fish runs stop, so if you want to see the Fishway, do it soon...

One More Cast

Tom and Judy had to go, and we bid each other adieu, after leaving the Fishway. The remaining three of us headed for Easthampton.

The original idea was to check out the Art Walk that was going on there. Unfortunately, I had fish on the brain. As soon as I spotted Nashawannuck Pond, I checked myself out of the group. Kelly and Chris took a walk around the pond to Mt. Tom Ice Cream for some treats, while I parked myself on the edge of the pond for a few more casts.

Mt. Tom (the mountain) always provides a stunning back drop to the scenery of this town.

Nashawannuck Pond is stocked every spring with trout, and several fishermen ringed and floated in the pond. The pond extends for a ways, but the main, widest part is located on Cottage St., pretty much in the heart of town.

I cast a few more, but to no effect. Kelly and Chris came back from their sugar hunt at Mt. Tom Ice Cream; Chris sporting a string of candy in one hand, Chocolate ice cream cone in the other. Kelly devoured her Cashew Turtle and watched while I explored different ways at not catching fish. That seemed to be the prevailing affect among my fellow anglers surrounding the pond, so I didn't feel that bad. We packed up and headed out a short while later. One thing I did catch though, was a marvelous sunset on the way home.

Then I almost got hooked myself, as this police officer pulled over to see what I thought I was doing on the side of the road...

Just blogging sir... nothing to see here....


Tommy said...

I used to shad fishing every year. I tried to cook one once but it tasted awful. Gotta have a special recipe or something.

Anonymous said...

Better luck with the fishing next time.

Tony said...

Hope to find out what they do taste like some day. We might try it again next weekend, they might be running a little better by then...

AdamH said...

It's the shad roe (eggs) that you eat. The Student Prince usually serves them up wrapped in bacon as a special. Reminds me that it's time to bring the maternal parental unit down there for that...