I was using a Orvis Recon 8wt with 350 depth charge Orvis line. I had on a larger (heavily weighted) fly for stripers/cats which assisted in getting the damsel down.
Every fish that came in stunk. The smell on them is horrendous. These weren't even the gizzard shad. The shad also didn't stop flopping around. They were shaking, twisting, flipping, etc. Taking a hook out was dangerous. I got a few fingers stuck while taking out hooks-thankfully I tied with barbless.
With that said, I want to go into how to safely handle these fish. We don't want to further traumatize them, we don't want to kill them, we don't want to smell like chum, and we don't want to get injured ourselves.
For boat, shore, wading anglers.
GET A NET
First off, get a net. Get a large net. Get a rubber bagged net. A net will hold/cradle these fish. When the fish are out of the water all they want to do is get back in, they still fight, they are always on the move.
There are white perch mixed in. They have extremely sharp dorsal spines. They will stab you good if you try to free hand grab one of these little bastards.
You never know what you will have on the end of your line during this time of the year. Be prepared with a big net. There are more fish and bigger fish than shad in the depths.
GET A GOOD PAIR OF HEMOSTAT OR PLIERS
If you can keep your fingers away from their mouths you won't get stuck by a hook when the fish flops. Grab your leader (don't use anything fancy here, these fish are not leader shy. If it fits through the hook eye use it, 10lb is a good start. Nothing under 8lb) and follow the line to the fly. Grab the fly with your tool and remove. Drop said fish back in the river.
GRIP AND GRINS
Shad have no teeth. You can lip them for pictures. Be sure to have the sun shine on them to illuminate all those colors. Don't keep them out of the water too long. If you choose to grip them around their bodies be prepared to get cut by their ventral scutes.
These are a series of protruding scale like growths on the ventral side of the body from the head down past the belly. They are sharp. They will stick you. It will hurt. Just don't touch gizzard shad. Just don't.
Not something you normally hear about but I'll go there.These male fish are gorged with 'reproductive
fluids' when you pull them out of the water they will squirt it all over the place. They just can't help it. They are full of the stuff. If your fish is spinning in the air while you try to grab it (no net in this situation) they will be spraying fish jiz all over the place. Imagine giving a toddler a bottle of Elmers Glue and see what they would do with it. Few things are worse than a free spinning pendulous fish squirting milt into the air. I got so much of this stuff on me yesterday it looked like white paint was spilled on me and the boat. Its nasty. And think about those wet wading, you are being bathed in spooge soup. Nasty. Wash your waders.