Sure Sign of Spring: Lambertville’s ShadFest

Everything you need to know about this famous fish fest.

Fishermen finally are talking about spotting shad, and that’s making me think spring really and truly is going to arrive in New Jersey this year. Maybe even this month.

Last fall, the state Department of Environmental Protection reported that its biological surveys of American shad showed the fish was making a strong comeback in the Delaware River. That gave fishermen hope for a good shad season—which is now upon us.

In fact, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said the surveys show the ninth largest overall haul of migrating adult shad ever recorded, while surveys of juvenile shad hatched were the best in almost four decades of monitoring.

That’s good news for those who expect to see shad on spring menus in their favorite restaurants as well as the chefs who enjoy shad’s all-too-short season.

Nowhere, however, is shad celebrated with as much verve as in Lambertville, which again hosts ShadFest (in cooperation with the just-across-the-Delaware town of New Hope, Pa.) from 12:30 to 5:30 pm on Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29.

Shad, the fish that hops between saltwater and freshwater to make baby shad, will be the culinary focus of the two-day event that also features local art and music. For those new to ShadFest, Lambertvillians have compiled a list of FAQ:

First, what is a shad?

The American Shad is the largest fish in the herring family. Every spring, shad migrate from salt water to fresh water to reproduce. Fishermen call this the “annual spring shad run.”

What’s the best way to eat shad?

Local chefs prepare shad in a variety of ways. A lot of people like it smoked. One of the best local shad recipes is from Paul Eschallier of Bell’s Tavern (in Lambertville): Shad and Shrimp Fritters.

What if fish isn’t a favorite?

ShadFest welcomes lovers of all foods. There are so many things to do, see and eat at ShadFest. Details of festival events will be updated all month at shadfest.com.

Is there a rain date?

The fun doesn’t stop in Lambertville due to a few rain drops. ShadFest takes place rain or shine.

Meanwhile, the 8th annual Bi-State Shad Fishing Contest will take place from Thursday, April 26 through Sunday, April 29, with the weigh station located at the Phillipsburg (NJ) Boat Launch. Entry fee is $40; information and registration at shadfishingcontest.com.

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