Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

The extensive shad fisheries and smokehouses huddled along the mouth of Gunner's Run/Tumanaramingo Creek earned the neighborhood of "Fishtown" [in Philadelphia] its name. Fishtown families grew to dominate shad fishing all along the Delaware River. For more information on shad:

Pasted Graphic Fishtown and the Shad Fisheries, Rich Remer (Pennsylvania Legacies, Vol 2 No 2, Nov 2002). The best history written on this subject.

Pasted Graphic The Founding Fish, John McPhee (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002).
This excellent book describes shad, their lifecycle, shad fishermen and the shad communities throughout North America, highly recommended. McPhee is a keen shad fisherman along the Delaware River and he weaves tales of days on the river, quotes from historical sources and even recipes for enjoying shad. Not limiting himself to the returning shad, McPhee also fishes during the autumn outmigration of the juveniles:

“On a 6X tippet, you lay the mosquito on the river and pull it along the surface where it cuts a miniature wake. Pow! Zap! The tenderest of shad are fighting for your mosquito. You hook, land, and pocket six or seven, and, as soon as you can, saute them in butter. You cook the whole four-inch fish—head on, scales on, fins intact. And that’s what you eat—innards and outards, head and tail, the whole baby shad, Sapadissima!”

Pasted Graphic 1 Natural Lives, Modern Times, Bruce Stutz (Crown, 1992).
Perhaps the best book published on the natural history of the Delaware River, from Cape May to the headwaters in New York state, highly recommended. Stutz includes stories of many other interesting animals along the Delaware River including snapping turtles, sturgeon and muskrat with a fondness for the characters who hunt them.

Gone Fishing! A History of Fishing in River, Bay and Sea, Susan Popkin & Roger Allen (Philadelphia Maritime Museum, 1987). An almanac full of wonderful quotes, anecdotes and illustrations (many in color) sure to engage even the youngest reader.

Delaware River Shad Fishermen’s Association is a sportsmen’s / environmental organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the American shad population in the Delaware River and its tributaries. There website shares a bounty of shad history, fish counts, legislative efforts and festivals.

American Shad Educator Resources, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.

Claim Your Waterway, Share Your Know-How, Art Michaels (Pennsylvania Angler & Boater, November-December 2003). Learn shad fishing from an expert local angler including techniques for trolling, deadsticking, downrigging and shore fishing.

Shad Journal contains a number of other fascinating articles on the thirty species of shad worldwide and the communities concerned with those shad:

An Interview with Fred Lewis—The Lewis Fishery, which turned 108 years old this spring, teaches us the lessons of history in managing shad populations, and the value of forging relationships between scientists and fishermen, by Richard Hinrichsen (Shad Journal, Vol. 1 No. 1, Nov. 1996). The Lewis shad fishery in Lambertville, NJ, continued to catch shad in 2007.

Oceanography of The Pacific Shad Invasion—Seth Green’s bold experiment, transporting shad via the transcontinental railroad to the U.S. West Coast in 1871, fostered one of earth’s great biological invasions, by Curtis Ebbesmeyer & Richard Hinrichsen (Shad Journal, Vol. 2 No. 1, Feb. 1997).

“Uppie Downie”—Commercial Shad Fishing on the Hudson, by John Harmon (Shad Journal, Vol 2. No. 3, Summer 1997).
Includes a description on using gill nets.

The Valley Forge Fish Story, by Joseph Lee Boyle. (Shad Journal, Vol. 4 No. 2, 1999).
Disputes the myth of shad saving the starving Continental soldiers during the spring of 1778.

American Shad Timeline along the Delaware River.

Alosa Sapadissima—“shad most savory.” Suggestions on how and where to enjoy a taste of shad near Philadelphia, PA.