The original record books of George Chapman, Esq., haul seine fisherman for American shad,Alosa sapidissima, in the Potomac River during the period 1814 to 1824, include the numbers of shad and herring,A aestivalis andA. pseudoharengus, caught and sold each day. From the numerous miscellaneous notes included in the records, estimates of fishing effort were made.
Yearly shad catches ranged from 27,939 to 180,755 fish, while the numbers of herrings caught and sold ranged from 343,341 to 1,068,932. The estimated catch per haul was 800 shad in late March, 2250 in mid-April, and 1200 per haul in late May. During the 11-year period almost one million shad were taken.
Catches from this fishery were equal to about one-third of the catch of shad by all gears from the Potomac River during a 11-year period (1946–56). Other species were undoubtedly captured, but were not sold. Fishing for shad in the early 1800's was evidently far more lucrative than it is at the present time.