Life Aquatic

Fish Food for Thought

PWD's Lance Butler and Joe Perillo were working last week and found this very large striped bass. Pretty amazing to see aquatic life like this from a river that was once too polluted to support it. Lance had this to say:

"Being a PWD scientist for over 15 years, very little surprises me when I'm out in the field performing assessments, surveys, etc. I've had the rare opportunity to witness first-hand the trending resurgence of many aquatic species in the Schuylkill and Delaware drainages within and around Philly.

In short, fifteen years ago, if anyone said to me that there are 40"+ striped bass, thousands of river herring (blueback and Alewife) and Shad, and over 50+ species of fish in the lower Schuylkill, I would have probably said that they were lying. Today, that "myth" is reality and this picture is one that exemplifies this.

And although we face many issues, both legacy and future, with regards to our urban ecosystems (ranging from acute and chronic pollution events, invasive species introductions, climate change and sea level rise, etc.), I firmly believe that we (i.e., PWD and its partners) are on the correct path to improving the health and integrity of our aquatic resources."

Fishing for Some Fun


Saturday, September 7th was a picture –perfect fall day for the 9th annual Fish Fest. Over 100 anglers of all different ages came out to Schuylkill Banks to compete for Smallest Fish, Largest Fish, and Most Fish Caught. Judges awarded prizes such as deluxe tackle boxes and rods from Plano and Dick’s Sporting Goods to the lucky winners. In total, fishers hauled in eighty-one fish and six different species including Channel Catfish, Bluegill, Striped Bass, American Eel, American Shad and White Perch.


The Philadelphia Water Department partners with the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Fish & Boat Commission, and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to host Fish Fest each year.


Check out more photos from the Fish Fest by clicking on the slide show below!


 

Fair Catch: Fishing on the Schuylkill

PAC Member Chris Eife with a 30” Striped Bass caught on an A Salt Bomber Lure.

Philadelphians are often surprised to learn just how diverse the wildlife can be below the surface of the waters around our city. These recent catches by members of the Philadelphia Anglers Club are great examples of fish species that swim our rivers, right under your nose! These fish were released back into the wilds of the Schuylkill.



Chris at it again with a Flathead Catfish over 20 pounds!



And PAC Co-Founder Matt Coll with a 25 pound Carp caught on a piece of fake plastic corn.

Read more blog posts about local fishing:
Shad State of Affairs, Part Two: Swimming With Mackerel
Reel Good Time: Photos from the 2012 Philly Fun Fishing Fest
Northwest Passage: Fairmount Fish Ladder Helps Shad Swim Up The Schuylkill

And learn about Pennsylvania’s many fish species on the PA Fish & Boat Commission’s species gallery:

Reel Good Time: Photos from the 2012 Philly Fun Fishing Fest

Last weekend's Philly Fun Fishing Fest was, um, off the hook. Nearly 100 participants came to the Schuylkill banks, and the fish were definitely biting. A total of 225 fish were caught; 10 different species were hauled in during the catch-and-release event, including striped bass, white perch, yellow perch, channel catfish, white catfish, small-mouthed bass, blue gill, alewife, spot and blueback herring.

Thanks to our sponsors (Dick's Sporting Goods and Plano) and our partners (Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Schuylkill River Development Corporation). More photos after the jump.

Shad State of Affairs, Part Two: Swimming With Mackerel


Image: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Here's some advice for American shad (who are not a huge part of this blog's readership, but nonetheless): Beware of the striped bass, and stop hanging around mackerel. This week's excellent article by Sandy Bauers in the Philadelphia Inquirer"Where Are The Delaware River Basin's Once-Legendary Shad?"—expands the conversation about shad and examines some reasons why the native fish aren't yet ascending the fish ladder at the Fairmount Dam on the Schuylkill by the hundreds of thousands each year (more than 3,000 passed through in 2011, part of an upward trend in recent years). It turns out there are other fish in the sea:

As a whole, the East Coast population of American shad is considered "depleted."

Scientists working to restore the shad are finding that everything is connected. Among the reams of charts and data sets is one showing that as striped bass numbers have increased, the population of shad - their juveniles often prey of striped bass - has fallen. The lines on the chart look like a big X.

In recent years, attention widened to what was happening offshore, where shad spend four to six years growing to maturity. It turned out that they school with Atlantic mackerel, then wind up snared in the nets of fishing trawlers.

If and when the shad return in great numbers, the fish will find improved water quality in the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, dams removed and fish ladders built, including the one operated by the Philadelphia Water Department and the Army Corps of Engineers at Fairmount Dam.

Previously:

Life Aquatic: American Shad

We've Been Shad

Northwest Passage: Fairmount Fish Ladder Helps Shad Swim Up The Schuylkill

A Shad State of Affairs

Upstream Battle: Shad Ascend Schuylkill Past Phoenixville for First Time in Almost 200 Years

Upstream Battle: Shad Ascend Schuylkill Past Phoenixville for First Time in Almost 200 Years

Last summer, we celebrated the spotting of American shad below the Black Rock Dam near Phoenixville—the first time the native species had been observed above Norristown since 1820. This summer, the shad look to shatter that record. Earlier this week, biologists from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission observed several adult American shad passing through the Black Rock Fishway. This marks a 37-mile journey up the river for shad, which migrate annually upstream to spawn, and is a testament to the success of shad restoration in the Schuylkill. A total of 10 dams in the Schuylkill have either been removed or now
have fishways that allow fish to pass through; many of these restoration
projects were completed in the last five years.


Image: PA Fish and Boat Commission

The Philadelphia Water Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed and sponsor the first fish ladder on the shad's journey upstream at the Fairmount Dam; read last month's post about the Fairmount fish ladder and keep an eye out for shad at the Fish Cam.

Shell Account: Red-Bellied Turtle Spotted at Lardner's Point


Photo: Rebecca Kennedy/Pennsylvania Environmental Council

The Philly Watersheds Blog is not in the habit of posting photos of baby animals for the sake of posting photos of baby animals (although it is Friday, and who among you would blame us?), and so we inform you that this red-bellied turtle hatchling was spotted earlier this week near the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge along the Delaware River. More specifically, the turtle was observed at Lardner's Point, a brand  new four-acre city park on the site of a former ferry terminal where a 2004 oil spill occurred. "More than just a pretty park on a pier," writes Sandy Bauers in an Inquirer article this week, "it is an ecological restoration that turned a concreted shoreline into a freshwater marsh, thick with plants and beneficial to wildlife."

As if to illustrate the point, this red-bellied turtle—a threatened species in Pennsylvania—showed up on the newly restored sandy beach. According to eyewitness accounts, the turtle had one eye, was feisty, and was last seen paddling back into the river. It's possible the turtle made his way across the river from the Palmyra Cove Nature Park in New Jersey, which has a red-bellied turtle population.

More photos below—happy Friday, everyone.

A Shad State of Affairs


Photo: Emma Lee/NewsWorks

Two shad posts in a row? It's a shad shad shad shad world. [Please make the shad puns stop. Thanks—ed.] As the peak of the shad spawning season arrives, WHYY's NewsWorks has a very informative article (and great photos) about the Fairmount fish ladder, including interviews with PWD aquatic biologists Lance Butler and Joe Perillo:

Historically, the shad traveled as far as 90 miles upriver from Philadelphia, past Pottsville, Pa., in the Schuylkill River system to spawn. In colonial times, shad dominated the Schuylkill's ecosystem and shaped life in Philadelphia. "Many families relied on the protein of shad to get them through the winter. They would salt barrels of shad, and that was their primary protein source," Perillo said. Industrial pollution and the construction of dams eventually depleted the shad population. With the Clean Water Act in the 1970s, a trickle started to return, but the Fairmount Dam blocked their way.

A quick note on shad and colonial times: Many sources mention that George Washington fed his troops shad from the Schuylkill River during the Revolutionary War. A previous post from last year—We've Been Shad (that was a pre-existing shad pun and is therefore not a punishable offense, right?)—calls this item into question.

Northwest Passage: Fairmount Fish Ladder Helps Shad Swim Up The Schuylkill

There's a lot of traffic on the Schuylkill, but for once it's not a backup on I-76. Thanks to the Fairmount fish ladder (as well as upstream fish ladders and dam removals), shad are once again migrating up the Schuylkill River to spawn. The resurgence of shad indicates improved ecological conditions, as shad populations decimated by pollution in the early 20th century began making a comeback in the 1980s. Fish ladders such as the one constructed at the Fairmount Dam (pictured above) four years ago provide a stairway to the Schuylkill, whose main stem and tributaries are the shad's native habitat. A recent report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which sponsors the fish ladder along with the Philadelphia Water Department) points to the project's success:

"The data shows the project has been an incredible success," said Project Manager Terry Fowler, a planner with the Philadelphia District. "Certainly the fish have voted and we're happy with the result." Fowler said the functionality of the rebuilt ladder was a vast improvement over what existed previously. The District rebuilt the entrance and exit gates, chamber pools, and a structure to help fish find the entrance to the passage. Project Biologist Mark Eberle said the features help simulate the natural experience a migratory fish would have when traveling upstream.

The graph below indicates the significant impact the fish ladder has had on the number of shad passing through—more than 3,000 in 2011:

Learn more about what PWD is doing to monitor fish populations and restore fish habitat.

News Stream: Shellfish Motives


Elliptio complanta freshwater mussel (Photo: Partnership for the Delaware Estuary)

Bivalves are everywhere: Here's a roundup of some recent articles on the local oyster and mussel population:

A report on mussels in the Delaware River near Philadelphia from Grid magazine:

"There's a lot more mussel work to be done out in the Delaware. In 2010, the research team found a species previously thought to be locally extinct, the Tidewater Mucket. The last comprehensive survey for Delaware River mussels was performed in 1919, and, as Thomas pointed out, the recent surveys have only looked in relatively shallow water. There's no telling what mussel beds sit in the channel."

One article on oyster reef restoration efforts in the Delaware Bay from the News of Cumberland County:

"This year, the task force is trying to promote awareness about oyster restoration after raising $200,000, said Jennifer Adkins, executive director of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. According to Adkins, oysters in the Delaware Bay have been hit hard with diseases and are being affected.

'Ultimately, our goals for oyster restoration are to get the oyster populations back to their historic levels. We’d love to see where the populations are high again and be more self-sustaining,' she said."

And a second article on oysters from CommunityPub.com:

"Sea captains employed by the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Task Force are currently wrapping up efforts to replenish oyster reefs off Delaware and New Jersey. According to past experience, these efforts will boost the economies of local bayshore communities by approximately $5 million over the coming years. In addition, oyster restoration also results in cleaner water and better fish habitat."

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