Main Stem Susquehanna In Trouble

To the novice, warm weather angler, the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania looks like a smallmouth bass mecca.  They wouldn’t think that the Susquehanna is in trouble.  There are nice, large bronzebacks caught in large numbers.  However, on closer examination, there are fewer young smallmouth bass than ever and various diseases are taking their toll on the once great fishery.

Main stem Susquehanna in trouble

Many long-time Susquehanna anglers are noticing big changes and in recent years the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has picked up the ball and has been trying to get the DEP to study this problem, designate the river as impaired and help fix the problem before its too late.

John Arway fears the smallmouth bass could be the Susquehanna’s Andrea Gail.

“Is a perfect storm coming? We think it may be,” says the executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.

The juvenile bass population has essentially crashed.

All that are left are the adults.

“The bass we have left are the ones we have to rely upon to repopulate the river,” said Arway.

And now the adults are getting sick as well: gross lesions; papillomas; bacterial infections that normally wouldn’t affect healthy fish; and male fish with female characteristics.

The particular causes of each disease aren’t yet known, but the multiple pressures stressing the fish certainly are: low dissolved oxygen levels in the water, high dissolved phosphorus; industrial, agricultural and household contaminants that ultimately wend their way into the river.

Several guides said that there are many large bass to be caught, but small, younger fish are harder to find.

“I can tell you unequivocally that the number of big fish is substantial,” said guide Rod Bates, who leads trips along the river in the Harrisburg area. “I can also tell you unequivocally that the [total] number of fish is reduced.”

Last year, the commission required all bass fishers on the river to immediately release any fish they caught to protect the healthy bass. It was a good step, Bates said, but not something that can improve the quality of the water.  Source

There are many good people that are doing what they can to get government bureacreats to address this problem. will keep a close eye on this issue and will be taking steps in the near future to help move this problem into the forefront.

If you have pictures of diseased fish from the Susquehanna, please post them to our photo gallery with a note on where they were caught.  We will maintain a separate folder for these pictures.

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