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Spring Striper and Shad Fishing in Philadelphia…

Shad and Stripers in the City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia’s fishing roots began before William Penn laid out his grid of streets between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. The Lenape, an Algonquin-speaking people, built weirs along the rivers seeking some of the millions of anadromous fish that entered the Delaware watershed each spring to spawn. Blooms on the aptly-named shadbush heralded the start of their fishing season. While English and Swedish settlers adopted the Lenape’s style of roasting whole shad on wooden planks displayed around a fire, they employed large haul seines to catch shad by the thousands. In fact, Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood earned its name from the German-American fishing families who inhabited it in the 18th and early 19th centuries. John McPhee’s popular book, The Founding Fish, alleges that 1778’s Schuylkill River shad run saved Washington’s beleaguered Continental Army at Valley Forge, some 25 miles upstream of British-occupied Philadelphia. With improved water quality in recent years, area anglers have returned to the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers seeking shad and striped bass within Philadelphia’s city limits, and I’m proud to say that I am one of them.

Philly spring run map

Urban Philadelphia Fishing

I discovered Philadelphia’s fishing opportunities while riding my bike around my Center City home. I encountered people with fishing rods on bikes and on buses, and noticed trucks plastered with fishing stickers parked in odd places along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. Among many casual anglers, I soon discovered Philadelphia’s quiet fraternity of serious urban anglers, whose diverse backgrounds converge because of our sport. In spite of decreasing fish populations, we have found plenty of fish to catch. However, the challenge is finding a place to catch them. Serious surf anglers know that, many times, the best spots are a long walk from the truck. Philadelphia’s urban angling is no different. To get started, you must purchase a Pennsylvania fishing license and register with the Pennsylvania Saltwater Angler Registry Program, both accessible via www.fishandboat.com, the Commonwealth’s fishing website.


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