A late 19th century shad planking celebrates the first major catch of the spring. Now part of the Chesapeake past, the commercial harvest is closed due to low shad populations, but during its heyday, shad was ubiquitous- cheap, plentiful and delicious. The only downside was the thicket of tiny bones inside. Planking the fish over a slow, hot fire allowed the tiny bones to dissolve in the even heat, and produced a crispy, oily fish perfumed by the hickory it had sizzled on.
Shad plankings were large community gatherings to celebrate the return of spring, and as such, attracted politicians looking to curry favor while bellies were full and spirits high. Today, the term “shad planking” is synonymous with political stumping.