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Lambertville Shad Festival
Visit Lewis Island to Learn about Shad and the Delaware River

The Lambertville (N.J.) Shad Festival was originally organized in 1981 to celebrate the return of good water quality and American shad to the Delaware River. This annual festival, in its 35th year in 2016, also highlights the region's arts community and the City of Lambertville, turning the downtown into a street fair, complete with crafts, music, food, and camaraderie. 

The Delaware River and the American shad are still celebrated, with folks traveling down to Lewis Island along the river to watch the Lewis Fishery traditionally fish for shad using nets and to visit the DRBC tables set up to discuss water quality with festival attendees.

Lewis Fishery Seining Demonstrations

Steve Meserve is the grandson of Fred Lewis, who passed away in April 2004. Fred's father and Steve's great-grandfather, William, established the Lewis Fishery in 1888 which operates from the island in Lambertville, N.J. now bearing the family's name. The Lewis Fishery is the only remaining N.J. commercial shad fishery on the non-tidal river. A lifetime of shad fishing experience on the Delaware prompted an April 2003 Philadelphia Inquirer article to describe Fred as "the repository of generations of lore, making him one of the fish's keenest students and most ardent champions." Steve is now carrying on his family's tradition into the 21st Century.

On both days of the Lambertville Shad Festival (weather permitting), the Lewis Fishery demonstrates how to seine (catch with nets) for American shad from Lewis Island.

View this video for a great aerial view of the Lewis Fishery at work.

Steve Meserve and the Lewis Fishery also were featured on the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern."

DRBC Water Quality Testing Demonstrations

DRBC sets up on Lewis Island to discuss the river's water quality with festival attendees. Staff collect macroinvertebrates (aquatic bugs) from the Delaware River and display them for folks of all ages to view and learn about. The amount and kind of macroinvertebrates found in a waterbody can help tell how clean it is. Some are very sensitive to pollution and others are more tolerant. We typically find several sensitive species, for example, mayflies and stoneflies, in our collections, which is a sign that the river is in good health.

A copy of the "Bugs in the Stream" handout distributed by DRBC staff during Shad Fest can be downloaded (pdf 155 KB). To learn more about "macros" and what they can tell us about water quality, please visit these web sites:

Many thanks to Steve and the other members of the Lewis Family for allowing DRBC staff to join them on Lewis Island during Shad Fest Weekend.

To view additional DRBC photos from the Lambertville Shad Festival, please visit our Flickr page.