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Smallmouth Bass Assessment Underway on West Branch of Susquehanna

Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 06/29/2008 (2347 reads)
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding anglers to report tagged smallmouth bass in order to help the agency with a population assessment on a section of the lower West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

The commission is currently conducting the assessment and an angler survey on about seven miles of the lower West Branch of the Susquehanna River from the vicinity of Muncy downstream to Montgomery, Lycoming County. “The population assessment portion will evaluate smallmouth bass population size and size structure, while the angler survey portion will measure angler catch and harvest for the period of June through September 2008,” said Dave Miko, chief of the Division of Fisheries Management. “Creel clerks are collecting the angler survey data by interviewing anglers at access areas. The results of the study will provide important information that will help guide future management efforts on the river.”

Biologists are using a mark-recapture method to estimate the smallmouth bass population. During this process, biologists tag and release a large number of smallmouth bass.

A toll-free telephone number and unique serial number are printed on each tag. The tags resemble an orange strand of “plastic spaghetti” located on the fish’s stomach area (see photo below). The tag strand contains a tag number and a toll-free telephone number where tags can be reported. It is not necessary to harvest fish to report the tags. The tag numbers simply need to be recorded and anglers can release tagged bass unharmed. Anglers should not pull the tag out of the fish because doing so may injure the fish.

The tags are specially designed so that bass which are caught multiple times can be reported. Each tag contains two sets of serial numbers. The first time a tagged bass is captured, and an angler intends to release the fish, the angler can clip off the outermost portion of the tag at the dark separator mark and leave the inner portion of the tag containing duplicate information. If the bass is captured a second time, the remainder of the tag can be removed and the fish released.

Anglers harvesting bass should look for both the spaghetti tag as well as a small anchor button under the skin when filleting, as they may have taken a bass that was caught and released twice before and no longer bears an external tag. Those finding anchor buttons should also call the toll-free phone number printed on the button.

This study will complement two large-scale river angler surveys that the PFBC has undertaken on large rivers in the past decade. In 2007, the PFBC partnered with Penn State and Colorado State universities to conduct angler surveys on about 130 miles of the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers. The survey was designed to measure catch, harvest, economic expenditures and angler opinions associated with fishing on sections of the two rivers for the period April through October.

In 2002, Pennsylvania partnered with New Jersey, New York, and Delaware to measure catch and harvest of all fish species on the Delaware River and Delaware Estuary. That survey revealed significant recreational activity on that river. The Delaware River survey documented that approximately 120,000 angling trips occurred on the tidal and non-tidal portions of that river combined from March 17 through October.

The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. Please explore our website for more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania.
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