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Blog > Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission > Long Overdue? Catch and Release for some sections of the Juniata and Susquehanna

Long Overdue? Catch and Release for some sections of the Juniata and Susquehanna

Published by David Weaver [Fishidiot] on 10/07/2010 (7435 reads)
By Dave Weaver (“Fishidiot”)
October 6, 2010

For many of us in the Pennsylvania smallmouth bass fly fishing community, the decline of the bass fishery in the lower Susquehanna River, and to a lesser degree, the lower Juniata River, has been a source of sadness, concern, and hoped for recovery. While the cause of this decline has been intensely studied by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and other agencies - and these studies smallmouthcontinue, no clear cause can yet be identified. The current studies suggest low dissolved oxygen and low, warm water may be at least partially the culprit in the failure of young bass to survive. Many frustrated anglers continue to debate different theories and possible causes among themselves (quite evident on the forums here on PaFlyFish). Another topic for debate revolves around what measures to implement to limit the decline and perhaps expedite the recovery of bass in these sections of river. Among the most common suggestions has long been implementation of catch and release regulations.

This week the PFBC led by their new Executive Director, John Arway, has announced this new catch and release policy will be put into effect at the beginning of 2011. At that point, all smallmouth bass in the Juniata River downstream of Port Royal, and in the Susquehanna downriver from Sunbury, will have to be released. Undoubtedly, this will be welcome news to many in the angling community. These sections of river have been managed under Big Bass regulations for a decade or so. Although these regulations have been embraced by many, in my opinion they may do greater damage by requiring anglers to release smaller bass and kill bigger fish. In particular, the 18” minimum size limit on smallmouths in effect during the colder months of the year is particularly worrisome to me. It’s not uncommon, especially during the pre-spawn, to see a boat at a ramp with a pair of 18” bass on a stringer.

More after the break To be sure, most bass anglers already practice catch and release anyway and keeping some fish to eat or a trophy to mount certainly isn’t something I’d begrudge anyone. Yet it still bothered me. Many anglers don’t realize an 18” river smallie here in PA is a very old fish, likely over a decade in age. The big bass that still reside in the lower Susky, and in better numbers in the lower Juniata, are in many cases remnant fish from the 1998 and 2001 year classes. And of course, the success in spawning of older, larger fish is common knowledge. Shouldn’t these big, slow growing, wild fish be protected if for no other reason than to help the bass populations with spawning? Evidently, the PFBC has decided the answer is “yes.” Will these new protections help with the recovery of the bass populations in these sections? There’s reason for some skepticism. No one suggests that over harvest by anglers led to the bass decline several years ago. On the other hand, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. I think it’s a good idea and frankly wonder why the PFBC took so long to come to this decision. The agency has received a good amount of criticism – much of it unfair in my view – for the problems with bass in the Susky and this new policy may deflect some of the criticism that the PFBC isn’t doing anything.

Beyond being good PR and demonstrating the PFBC’s respect for the desire of many in the angling community for these regs, it can’t hurt the resource and may allow a few more trophy river bass to survive another year and make another go at producing the next young of the year class. Let’s hope for the best. Kudos to Mr. Arway.
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Author Thread
Published: 2010/10/7 7:49  Updated: 2010/10/7 7:50
Joined: 09/09/2006
From: Gettysburg
Comments: 439
 Re: Long Overdue? Catch and Release for some sections of ...
It should be noted that the section of the Susquehanna that will come under catch and release regulations extends downstream to the Holtwood Dam.
Dave W
Published: 2010/10/7 14:22  Updated: 2010/10/7 14:25
Joined: 09/09/2006
From: Delaware Co.
Comments: 934
 Re: Long Overdue? Catch and Release for some sections of ...
Very nicely done Dave but after writing that I think you should change your avatar to a smallie
Published: 2010/10/7 15:57  Updated: 2010/10/7 15:57
Joined: 08/24/2008
From: Mount Joy, PA
Comments: 181
 Re: Long Overdue? Catch and Release for some sections of ...
Save the trophy mounts and just go C-P-R with that trophy fish. Mounts do nothing but collect dust anyway!
Published: 2010/10/7 19:33  Updated: 2010/10/7 19:33
Joined: 12/03/2006
From: Mechanicsburg, Pa
Comments: 213
 Re: Long Overdue? Catch and Release for some sections of ...
The problem is excess nutrients in the watershed due to agriculture. you don't need to be a rocket science or spend millions of dollars to come to this conclusion. Shenandoah River in Va is experiencing similar problems. Doesn't anyone at the PAFBC think outside of the box?
Published: 2010/10/10 23:01  Updated: 2010/10/10 23:01
Joined: 08/24/2010
From: Hummelstown
Comments: 25
 Re: Long Overdue? Catch and Release for some sections of ...
Mounts do nothing but collect dust anyway!

I second that. Great article also, extremely well written!
Published: 2010/10/11 12:25  Updated: 2010/10/11 12:25
Joined: 09/09/2006
From: Dallastown, PA
Comments: 1473
 Re: Long Overdue? Catch and Release for some sections of ...
I thought I read somewhere that it included the Conowingo pool? Which would be below the Holtwood dam
Published: 2010/11/5 19:58  Updated: 2010/11/5 19:59
Joined: 09/13/2006
From: LV
Comments: 667
 Re: Long Overdue? Catch and Release for some sections of ...
C & R regs aren't going to improve the fishing. The only thing that's going to make a difference is catching the polluters that are causing all the problems in the watershed. There is a reason that the Susquehanna River was listed as the most endangered river in the US a couple of years ago. It's a very polluted river in spite of the water clarity.
As for PFBC and DEP, I think they know where it's all coming from, they are just refusing to do anything about it.

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