For some, it’s the blooming of dogwood trees that mark the beginning of spring. But for many of North Carolina’s anglers it’s the shad run that tells them winter is over. And even though we’ll surely face a few cold nights before we put away our coats for a while, spring is here, at least on Pitchkettle Creek.

It seems a little bit early to some angler, like ’s Darby Kitchens of New Bern, who carried his ultralight rod and reel to the Neuse River this past weekend mainly to kill some time.

“I didn’t expect to have much luck, but I’ve been dying to get on the water, and with the weather being nice over the weekend, I figured I might as well do some scouting at least,” said Kitchens.

Taking along his rod and reel was a good decision. Kitchens caught about 30 shad in a couple of hours, mainly on the Pitchkettle section of the river. He expects the fishing will only get better over the next couple of weeks.

While most of his shad were hickories, Kitchens said he saw several other fishermen who caught more American shad than hickory.

“They seem to both be here in good numbers. You can go for a while without catching anything, then you’ll catch one on every cast for a few minutes. They are running in big schools, so you have to get them while they are biting,” he said.

Kitchens caught all of his fish on a tandem rig that featured a 1/16-ounce chartreuse jighead with a white curly-tail grub as the top lure. He used a No. 3 gold Kastmaster spoon for his bottom lure. Using a Penn Battle II 1000 series spinning reel with 6-pound test line, he said you won’t find a better fight.

“They might hit any lure at all at times, but they really seem to like chartreuse and gold colors. I think anything shiny or bright will work though,” he said.

“I don’t think they are only biting in the Pitchkettle Creek area either. I think you’ll find them all up and down the Neuse,” he said.