fishing

Photos and Prizes: 2016 Philly Fun Fishing Fest One of Best Yet

Alex Sandoval caught the biggest fish in the under 14 category with this 22-inch catfish. Credit: Philadelphia Water
Alex Sandoval caught the biggest fish in the under 14 category with this 22-inch catfish. Credit: Philadelphia Water

Thank you to all who came out to the 2016 Philly Fun Fishing Fest at Schuylkill Banks on Saturday, Sept. 10!

Our partners at Parks and Recreation, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, and the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission made it possible to have one of the best days on the river yet, with 195 participants and 297 fish caught (and released).

Philly Fun Fish Fishing Fest and Coast Day: An Action-Packed Day on Our Waterfronts


The yellow line on the map above marks the area where the 2016 Philly Fun Fishing Fest will be held. Click for a larger image.

We've teamed up with a number of partners to make September 10 a truly special day for those looking to explore what Philly's rivers have to offer. If you've been hearing stories about the amazing comeback our local waterways are experiencing, this is your chance to grab the family and see it for yourself!

The Philly Fun Fishing Fest, sponsored by Philadelphia Water, Parks and Recreation, the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission and Schuylkill Banks, will be held at Schuylkill Banks on Saturday, September 10, 2016.

Rio vs. Philly: Our Water Quality Wins By a Mile

Schuylkill River boaters paddle the waters just below Flat Rock Dam. Issues with water quality in Rio de Janeiro, home of the 2016 Summer Olympics, have local water sport enthusiasts thinking about the value of clean water.
Schuylkill River boaters paddle the waters just below Flat Rock Dam. Issues with water quality in Rio de Janeiro, home of the 2016 Summer Olympics, have local water sport enthusiasts thinking about the value of clean water.

With all eyes on Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics, one big health concern right up there with the Zika virus is the water quality in rivers, bays and surf around Rio de Janeiro. While athletes no doubt would prefer to focus their attention on winning, the risk of getting violently ill from the very water they’ll compete in and on is a serious hurdle aquatic athletes will have to contend with this year.

Stories like this July 26 report from the New York Times offer an alarming glimpse of what happens when we fail to protect our waterways from pollution. Here’s what Olympians in sports like swimming and kayaking may (quite literally) get a taste of during the Rio games, according to the Times:

Recent tests by government and independent scientists revealed a veritable petri dish of pathogens in many of the city’s waters, from rotaviruses that can cause diarrhea and vomiting to drug-resistant “superbacteria” that can be fatal to people with weakened immune systems.

Record-Setting ‘Sojourn’ Highlights the Schuylkill River’s Wild Beauty

Philadelphia Water's Paul Fugazzotto paddles to the finish of the 2016 Schuylkill Sojourn. A record 205 people joined the annual event this year. Photo credit: Brian Rademaekers
Philadelphia Water's Paul Fugazzotto paddles to the finish of the 2016 Schuylkill Sojourn. A record 205 people joined the annual event this year. Photo credit: Brian Rademaekers

If you happened to be in Philadelphia admiring the Schuylkill River’s picturesque beauty from afar last week, you might have been startled by what appeared to be an enormous flock of florescent birds, all of them rhythmically flapping their wings on the shimmering water:

Those “birds,” of course, were actually the 100-plus paddlers propelling the rainbow of brightly hued kayaks and canoes that made up the annual Schuylkill Sojourn. A seven day journey covering 112 miles of the Schuylkill River from its Schuylkill County headwaters all the way to Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row, the event has been held since 1998.

Hooked: Great Turnout for Philly Fun Fishing Fest

A young angler checks out her catch with a Fish Fest volunteer. Credit: Philadelphia Water
Ava Morales, winner of the "Most Succesful Angler" award in the Under 14 category, checks out her catch with a Fish Fest volunteer. She caught a total of nine fish, a number topped only by Leo Sheng, a professional fisherman and founder of the Extreme Philly Fishing YouTube channel. Sheng caught 39 fish. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water

A few clouds and some high water weren't enough to keep people from enjoying some fine Schuylkill River fishing on Saturday, and the Philly Fun Fishing Fest saw one of its biggest crowds ever during the 11th annual event.
Hosted by Philadelphia Water, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission and Schuylkill Banks, the free fishing competition included 114 anglers this year.

The annual day of fishing showcases Schuylkill River recreational opportunities and water quality improvements while encouraging residents to develop a personal connection to this crucial drinking water source.
With free tackle and bait for use during the fest, not to mention a free pass on required licenses from the Fish and Boat Commission, the day is also a popular way for novices to give fishing a try.

But, looking at the final tally of fish, you wouldn't think this was an inexperienced crowd. In just four hours, Fish Fest participants recorded a whopping 234 catches! Species included channel catfish, white perch, blue gill sunfish, American eel and striped bass, with channel cats by far the most common catch. You can check out photos from Philly Fun Fishing Fest by clicking here.

Bob's Bait and Tackle on Ridge Avenue in East Falls donated a new rod and reel combo as the grand prize for the raffle drawing.

Fishing prizes, donated by sponsors Dick's Sporting Goods and Plano Tackle, were awarded in 16 categories:

Category Winner Prizes
Last Fish Caught Jalieha Lyles Take Me Fishing Tackle Box donated by Plano Tackle
First Fish Caught Lynell Robinson Take Me Fishing Tackle Box donated by Plano Tackle
Smallest Fish Caught Emre Olceroglu (4" White Perch) Runner up: Eric Mondelli Take Me Fishing Tackle Box donated by Plano Tackle
Youngest Participant  Ayden Chomper Tackle Box and Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate  
Third Largest Fish (Adult) Jamie Lafferty JR (21.5" Catfish)    Take Me Fishing Tackle Box from Plano and Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate 
Third Largest Fish (14 & Under)  Jon Conway (17" Catfish)  Take Me Fishing Tackle Box from Plano Tackle and Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate 
Second Largest Fish (Senior)  George Cooper (19.75" Catfish)  Rod and Reel, Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate 
Second Largest Fish  (Adult)   Fran Murray (22.25" Catfish)  Rod and Reel, Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate 
Second Largest Fish  (14 & Under) Jason Miller (21in Catfish) Rod and Reel, Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate    
Most Successful Angler (Senior)  Jamie Lafferty SR (8 fish) Take Me Fishing Tackle Box from Plano Tackle, Rod and Reel, Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate
Most Successful Angler (Adult) Leo Sheng (39 fish) Runner-up: Emre Olceroglu Take Me Fishing Tackle Box from Plano Tackle, Rod and Reel, Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate   
Most Successful Angler (14 & Under)  Ava Morales (9 fish) Take Me Fishing Tackle Box from Plano Tackle, Rod and Reel, Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate  
Largest Fish (Senior)  James Preston (20.75in Catfish) Spiderwire Tackle Box, Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate
Largest Fish (Adult) John McCann (22.50" Catfish)  Spiderwire Tackle Box, Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate 
Largest Fish (14 & Under)  Marcus Morales (22.25" Catfish)  Spiderwire Tackle Box, Dick's Sporting Goods Gift Certificate

A Banner Summer for the Schuylkill River

The Schuylkill River Trail, America's Best Urban Trail, in Center City. Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Planning Commission.
The Schuylkill River Trail, America's Best Urban Trail, in Center City. Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Planning Commission.

The Schuylkill River is closing out the summer in grand style and getting national attention as a premier destination for urban nature lovers.

On Wednesday, Philadelphia Water joined officials and groups from across the region on the river's banks to celebrate the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) being named America's "Best Urban Trail" by USA Today. The now 65-mile pathway connecting Philadelphia and the upper reaches of the river won the top honor in an online voting campaign held earlier in the summer, and the designation has helped bring a spotlight to the SRT's scenic and functional qualities.

Eventually, the trail will grow to about 130 miles and connect the city and Pottstown in Montgomery County. The recent restoration of the Schuylkill Canal Towpath in Upper Providence Township is another win for the trail that added some fresh ground for cyclists and hikers to explore.

John Quigley, secretary of the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection, was at the Wednesday celebration and said the Best Urban Trail status points to a growing appreciation for the river—something he hopes will translate to more people advocating for the environmental health of the Schuylkill.

“What we’re celebrating is not just about recreation. This project is about building a constituency for the river,” Quigley told Mercury News, which covered the event. Check out the full Mercury story here

For Philadelphia Water and partners like the Schuylkill Action Network and the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, the national recognition is proof that decades of working to improve water quality is paying off.
The river also got lots of attention during last week's successful INVISIBLE RIVER fest, and, as demonstrated by this Sept. 2 photo of Bassmaster champs Mike Iaconelli and Takahiro Omori on the Schuylkill, the waterway is even attracting professional fishermen from places as far away as Japan:

Takahiro Omori on the Schuylkill.
Mike Iaconelli & Takahiro Omori above the Columbia Ave. Railroad Bridge via Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers.

Omori, who was in the area for the 2015 Bassmaster Elite at Chesapeake Bay, came up to Philly and reportedly had an action-packed day of fishing on the river thanks to the Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers association, which helped him explore some of their favorite spots.

Speaking of fishing, don't forget to sign up for the Philly Fun Fishing Fest on Sept. 12registration closes Sept. 10! RSVP by clicking here.

For more on America's Best Urban Trail, give this blog a read: 10 Ways to Celebrate the Schuylkill River Trail’s Designation as Best Urban Trail 

Urban Wildlife Podcast Explores Cool Philadelphia Water Job

Joe Perillo and Lance Butler of Philadelphia Water with a monster striped bass. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Joe Perillo and Lance Butler of Philadelphia Water with a monster striped bass. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Earlier this summer the locally-produced Urban Wildlife Podcast sat down with our very own Joe Perillo to talk about what creatures lurk in Philly's waters. And if anyone knows, it's Joe.

After all, it's his job: Perillo is an aquatic biologist in Philadelphia Water's Bureau of Laboratory Services division who, along with fellow aquatic biologist Lance Butler, helped get our bio-monitoring program off the ground starting in 2001.

Aquatic bio-monitoring, the collection and study of things living in our watersheds, is a tool Philadelphia Water deploys to learn more about the health of our urban waterways.

Here's how Perillo described the value of bio-monitoring to Urban Wildlife, which is produced by reptile and amphibian enthusiast Billy Brown and West Philly birder and naturalist Tony Croasdale, who has helped tons of kids learn about nature in Cobbs Creek through his Wild West Philly docent program (supported by Philadelphia Water):

When you take a water sample, you're basically taking a snapshot. That's one second of what that water body is like. When you start looking at aquatic life like [algae] you're assimilating days' worth of information. When you move up to higher forms of life, such as invertebrates, their life cycle is months, so now you're taking in all that environmental information. When you go to fish, you're talking about years. So instead of just grabbing that one snapshot of that one second of what the water is like, by looking at the aquatic life, you're getting longer term pictures of the health of the rivers and, specifically, what's impacting the health: what's keeping it from being healthier, or being impaired or polluted. Is it stormwater? Is it sewer overflows? Is it habitat degradation, sedimentation?

We thought Perillo's Urban Wildlife chat was so good (topics such as drunken Philly alligators are covered), we decided to ask him a few questions of our own to learn a bit more about his bio-monitoring work, which involves everything from briefly stunning fish en masse with a cattle prod-like tool to collecting microscopic plant life.

Philly Watersheds: It seems like the public only sees and hears about what you guys are doing when you happen to come across a 40-inch striper and your picture ends up on Philly.com, but I assume your day-to-day work is a bit different than just electroshocking trophy bass. How much of the time are you out there collecting these living samples, and how much of the time are you studying the information you get from the samples?

Perillo: My work is strongly tied with the different seasons of the year and varying life cycles of diverse aquatic organisms. Some of the creatures we study (like shad) are only present in this region for a couple weeks in the entire year. I would say, in a general sense, that late winter through the spring and into early summer is the busiest time of year; I’m almost always in the field and hardly in the lab during this time period. My work moves indoors when ice starts to form on our waterways, so December, January, and February we are in the lab looking into microscopes, analyzing data, and writing reports.

PW: Does Philadelphia Water have labs where scientists study fish and other biological samples, or do you mainly send the samples out to another lab and then study the results when they come back?

Perillo: We work closely with state and federal scientiststo collect, analyze, and interpret results.

PW: What does Philadelphia Water do with the information it collects from aquatic life samples?

Perillo: Most information is related to State and Federal Permit Compliance requirements and ends up in comprehensive reports to the major environmental regulators. I have published some of our data in peer-reviewed scientific journals and presented research at international scientific conferences.

PW: In the years that you've been doing bio-monitoring in Philadelphia, have you observed any trends?

Perillo: A surprising trend for most folks is that in many instances water quality and biotic integrity is better in the city portion of a watershed than out in the suburbs.

PW: And, of course, what's the coolest aquatic life you've ever found in Philadelphia?

Perillo: Several years ago, was the first time in almost 200 years that an adult American Shad was found above Valley Forge in the Schuylkill River. At one time this species was the king of the river, shaping much of the cultural and economic history; but it was nearly wiped out during the Industrial Revolution due to severe pollution, over-harvesting, and construction of dams/loss of habitat.

To learn more about Perillo's work out on Philadelphia's rivers and hear some great stories about the natural world at your doorstep, listen to the full Urban Wildlife Podcast episode here (Joe comes in around the 9 minute mark). You can also read about our fish monitoring program (the source of those great striped bass pics) here.

Fish Fest: Inspiring Life-Long Watershed Stewards


Watch our video to learn more about the Philly Fun Fishing Fest.

There’s something about fishing—the wonder, perhaps, that you inevitably experience when you cast your line into the water and hope that something will appear, alive and fighting, on the other end—that makes it an especially potent way of getting people hooked on "watershed stewardship."

Being a watershed steward is a fancy way of saying you care about the rivers, streams, creeks, wetlands, brooks and bays around us; Philadelphia alone has seven watersheds, all of them feeding into the much larger Delaware River watershed, stretching from the cold, wild trout-filled streams of the Catskill Mountains in New York all the way down to the salty Delaware Bay, where blue crab and flounder swim.

We want everyone in the Philadelphia region to think of themselves as watershed stewards because people who care about the source of their drinking water make our job—protecting and treating that water—that much easier. Whether it’s voting for elected officials who care about water quality or just picking up pet waste to keep it from washing into rivers and streams, we can count on watershed stewards to be on our side when it comes to making sure the Delaware watershed is in tip-top shape.

That’s the sentiment behind the Philly Fun Fishing Fest (Fish Fest for short), a Schuylkill River tradition now in its 11th year. It’s a day when anyone, old or young, fishing license or not, can come down to the banks of this amazing river and, we hope, make that special connection that leads to a life of watershed stewardship.

"Our source water protection efforts, from working with partners far upstream to reducing the amount of stormwater entering waterways from city streets, are all guided by our ‘One Water’ approach, which recognizes that everything we do comes back to the goal of having healthy rivers," says Tiffany Ledesma, a member of Philadelphia Water’s public engagement team. "Fish Fest is a great, fun way for people of all ages to experience what a healthy Schuylkill River has to offer in a hands-on way, and we want residents to have a direct stake in our efforts to take water quality to the next level."

This year’s Fish Fest, a totally free catch-and-release only event, will take place Saturday, September 12, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. (rain date: Oct. 3). Participants must register and fill out a quick form, which you can find by clicking here. The deadline for signups is Thursday, September 10. We’ll even have fishing poles available for loan and worms to use as bait. Experts will also be on hand to teach you how to cast and identify the fish species caught.
Prizes for a variety of categories, including the biggest (AND smallest!) fish, will be awarded during an 11:30 a.m. ceremony. To make the day even more fun, we’ll be holding the second annual Crazy Hat contest, open to all. Get creative with your head gear for the chance to reel in a prize!

What to Expect
Anglers during last year’s fest recorded nearly four dozen catches, and species identified included channel catfish, striped bass, bluegill, American eel, American shad, white perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, and red-breast sunfish.

Philly Fun Fishing Fest 2014: See Photos from Last Year, Including Fish Measuring and Crazy Hats

REMEMBER: Registration and Release of Liability are required to fish at the Fishing Fest. The registration must be completed ahead of time and the release form must be brought on the day of the event in order to participate. Register here and download the Release of Liability here. Questions? Call : 215-685-6300 or email us at StreetGreening@gmail.com.

Philadelphia Water’s partners for this event include Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission, Schuylkill Banks, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Plano Tackle.

Want to Spread the Word? Download a Fish Fest Flyer by Clicking the Image Below:

Fish Fest Official Flyer 

See What a Healthier River Looks Like at INVISIBLE RIVER

Performers from INVISIBLE RIVER 2014 hang suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Credit: INVISIBLE RIVER.
Performers from INVISIBLE RIVER 2014 hang suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Credit: INVISIBLE RIVER.

We have lots of ways to measure the improving quality of Philadelphia's two rivers, but one of our favorite is simply seeing more and more people think of the Schuylkill and Delaware as beautiful, natural places to visit for recreation and relaxation. Since everything we do comes back to protecting and enchancing water quality, we see the change in the way people think about our rivers as a real metric of success.

But, as much as our rivers have improved, not everyone knows about it, and many people are still physically cut off from accessing these urban treasures.
Helping to nudge people to the scenic and natural beauty of the Schuylkill River is INVISIBLE RIVER, a nonprofit whose mission is "to use art, outdoor activities and dynamic programming to build wise stewardship of our rivers and waterways, to create unique and otherworldly artistic celebrations and to engage the public in art and environmental education."

We can get behind that!

Over the last few years, INVISIBLE RIVER has created a lot of buzz with stunning acrobatic performances featuring dancers suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, with the river acting as a breathtaking backdrop.
This year's big event will take place Saturday, August 29th from 2 to 8 p.m. and incorporates what Artistic and Executive Director Alie Vidich calls "a more open format than previous events."

Rather than just one big performance, this year will be more like a festival on the river that kicks off with an opening performance followed by lots of cool activities, with their trademark acrobatics as the grand finale.
A processional led by Positive Movement & Ecstatic Drill Team starts things off at Mander Recreation Center at 2140 N 33rd St. and Diamond Drive at 2 p.m., and a full day of activities will center around the festival area in the parking lot next to the St. Joseph’s University Boathouse, 2200 Kelly Drive. Participants are encourgaged to park at Mander take a walk to the river from there.

As one of the event sponsors, Philadelphia Water will be there too, partnering with Mural Arts to host some activities showing people how the green tools that make up Green City, Clean Waters are making the Schuylkill River even healthier. We'll also have members of our education team from the Fairmount Water Works there to provide some family fun.

Other INVISIBLE RIVER activities include free boating and paddling lessons, fishing lessons for kids, food trucks and vendors, and a beer garden.
Those who want to catch the Strawberry Mansion Bridge performance should be there at 5:30 p.m. There are lots of cool options for watching the performance, including "Bring Your Own Boat" and  a "Front Row Seats" program that lets people rent boats from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Check out the INVISIBLE RIVER website for more details, including transportation options like bike rentals and a special Phlash shuttle to help people get to the river.

"We have seen a change in the way people view the river, especially with the artists who interact with the river and the anglers who fish in the Schuylkill," says Vidich. "But for some people, there's still this cloud of past pollution hanging over the river, and we hope events like this can help change that."  

Endangered Shortnose Sturgeon Returns to the Schuylkill


Shortnose sturgeon
Shortnosed sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum. Author: Karen Couch, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last summer, just below the Fairmount Dam on the Schuylkill River, an angler managed to catch a shortnose sturgeon, a species of fish that has been on the endangered species list since 1967! While sometimes found in the Delaware River, the shortnose sturgeon has never been found in the Schuylkill—at least not on record. PWD regularly samples fish in the Schuylkill and in their 14 years of sampling below the dam, they have not seen this species.

Spotting this shortnosed sturgeon not only indicates that the species could be coming back, it also indicates that the water quality of the Schuylkill is improving. Researchers have long used levels of dissolved oxygen to gauge water quality—oxygen deficient water is not good for aquatic life. The sturgeon is extremely sensitive to low levels of dissolved oxygen, so finding one in the Schuylkill indicates that the dissolved oxygen levels are on the rise.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a sturgeon, remember it is a protected species and that you should quickly return it to the water. To learn more about the shortnosed sturgeon and other species (not all good!) that inhabit the Schuylkill River, check out this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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