Stories Of The Collapse Of Susquehanna Smallmouth Bass

Chris with bassWe have frequently written about the decrease in smallmouth bass populations in Central Pennsylvania on the Susquehanna River.  Here are some excerpts from stories submitted to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Stories of the collapse of the Susquehanna smallmouth bass

…Unfortunately, now my main motivation for writing is to comment on how much has changed. While I personally still fish the Susquehanna regularly after moving back to Lancaster in 2007, the river is a shell of what it once was. While I still have the patience and skill enough to land fish, I struggle to get my son and his friends interested in fishing. In some ways I don’t blame them.

When I was a kid a few minnows guaranteed an afternoon of catching smallmouth and red-eye bass. Of course, the latter are completely gone and smallmouth are a challenge to find. Too much work for kids even with a helping hand!

…I fished in the heat of summer, the cool of autumn, during high water and low, in darkness and light. Wading from west shore to east I caught smallmouth, rock bass, sunfish, largemouth and walleye; I even chased a few carp and just couldn’t get enough but then it happened. Around 2005-2006 despite my best efforts, catch rates started to drop precipitously. The 90-100 fish – all day outings and the 20-30 fish after work specials, became 10 fish days, later 5 fish days and finally outright skunkings. I was devastated! Even the infamous White Fly hatch was a fishing bust.

…When I got my first jet boat in 2005, I was already noticing a change in the river especially after the large fish kill in June of 2005. I saw thousands of adult smallmouth floating down the river around New Cumberland, rotting in the early summer sun. It was a sad day for someone who just found the passion of Susquehanna smallmouth fishing. Over the next couple of years, I begin to stage my fishing out of Duncannon at Riverfront Campground, the fish below Harrisburg were just not there like above. In 2007, I begin to keep a camper there every Spring and Fall, clearing out when the Summer campers moved in, coming back when they left. To me river smallmouth fishing is best in the cold and we have enough water to run comfortably. This was when I began meeting more people whose passion was the same.

Four to five years ago, I began to notice the sores and a couple different fungi on the fish even above Harrisburg and then last year the fish begin to get the black spots. By 2010, I was solely fishing above Harrisburg because the fishery, while there are still some fish in some areas, was so unproductive it was not worth wasting my time. I went lake fishing when the water was too low up north. Even with the problems on the river, it is still one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the world that is why I am investing in it, but for how long.  Please take the time to read the stories here

The decline in smallmouth bass population is a real problem in the Susquehanna.

There are increasing numbers of diseased fish as well as intersex fish: fish with both male and female tissue in their reproductive organs.

The concern about the intersex fish is twofold.

The first issue is the obvious impact on breeding.  These bass become less able to produce egss and sperm for fertilization.  This obviously reduces the amount of young smallmouth bass.

The second issue should be a concern to all of us.  If there are endocrine system (hormonal system) disruptors in the water causing these changes, are they present in our ground water and are these having effects on the people living in these regions.  This is an unanswered question.

These endocrine disrupters come from a variety of pollutants including pesticides, flame-retardant chemicals, personal-care products, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural products.  Many products dumped into our streams often mimic or act like estrogen compounds in the water. Examples of Substances Known or Suspected to be Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs).  Source

The same thing is happening to the Potomac River as can be seen in this study: click here

The problems there will extend into the Chesapeake Bay as well.  Please sign the petition encouraging action on this River and write to your Congressman ASAP.

Thank you

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