Shad are great fighting fish. Every year I look forward to doing battle with these giant herring look a likes.
I normally do a 3 or 4 day camping trip around Memorial Day as the run is usually in full swing by then. With the cold temps in the big river the run may be a week or 2 later than normal. Depending on how the state salmon regs are, some years kings are legal to retain. It's surprising how many kings grab onto shad darts and wee Dick Nite spoons down there. I like to stay at the Lewis & Clark Campground as its only minutes from the dam. However, its right next to the rail road tracks and trains come by at about 80 miles an hour.
I'm not a big fan of eating fresh shad. The eastern Europeans and most Asians do like them. I give most of what I catch to whoever wants them. The Korean ladies have fed me shad cooked over a hibachi and it wasn't bad tasting, bony as all get out so you have to separate the meat from the bones with chop sticks. Enough soy, garlic, and ginger on it and its not bad tasting. I've also ate fresh shad in fish ball soup with the Russians and Ukies down there. Again, not bad, but not great either. My choice for good fresh eats is the roe. Washed, split, rolled in flour, dipped in egg wash, rolled in cracker crumbs, and then fried is good eats. Have to have a splatter screen as if the eggs get to popping hot oil goes flying.
I smoke and then can 20 or 30 shad every year. Bleed out the messy buggers, gut, de-head, split, rinse, put in plastic bags, and then on ice. If you don't keep the fish ice cold you might as well throw your cooler away as it will smell far worse than bad. When I get home I rinse off the filets again, then put them into a cold salt water rinse for about 20 minutes to get any remaining blood or slime off, the shad then goes into a dry brown sugar, non iodized salt mix for 3 or 4 hours. This is just for flavor and I pull the fish out when they juice out some and get firm. hen its a rinse, pat dry, put on oiled smoker racks to let a pellicle form (the racks are oiled so the scales don't stick for easier clean up), then its into the smoker for only 30 - 45 minutes. I only want the smoke flavor not to hard smoke preserve. Out of the smoker, scale side down on a flat surface, slide a knife blade between the flesh and the scales and separate. I cut the shad pieces into chunks that will fit into pint jars. Make sure the jars are boiled and clean. Put a peeled garlic clove, a slice of onion, a couple peppercorns, a pinch of pickling spice, and a pinch of salt in the bottom of the jar, add the fish pieces, and top with a half teaspoon of Canola oil. Into the pressure cooker and process per the cooker directions. Another flavor is a garlic clove, slice of onion, pinch of salt, tablespoon of mustard, fish, again topped with the Canola oil.
My canned shad never lasts much beyond fall salmon season because I always take a couple of jars along fishing. Everyone thinks its smoked white king salmon. I don't tell them that they just ate shad until they basically have licked the jar(s) clean. Yeah it can be a lot of work, but it is good eats.
Life's short - fish hard!