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280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Some “Fishy” News

Hearing and reading about invasive species showing up in our country is getting to be commonplace; it seems like every time we turn around another new plant, bug or critter has found a new home here. Our waterways and lakes are no exception, and in fact, many invasives including a variety of plant species and

Hearing and reading about invasive species showing up in our country is getting to be commonplace; it seems like every time we turn around another new plant, bug or critter has found a new home here. Our waterways and lakes are no exception, and in fact, many invasives including a variety of plant species and several fish species are now making Pennsylvania their home.

A not so desirable even downright detrimental invasive fish is making its way into our state. The fish I’m referring to is the northern snakehead. The fish is shaped a little bit like a pike or pickerel but with a flatter head. The snakehead has dark brown markings down its sides similar to what some snakes have hence the name. The northern snakehead has a long dorsal fin that runs most of the length of the fish’s body and a fairly long anal fin as well. It can reach two or more feet in length.

Like a lot of our invasive species, the fish came from another part of the planet, namely China, Russia, and Korea. Due to its popularity in ethnic markets and restaurants, the snakehead has been imported live to the U.S. over the past two decades. While the notion that some may have “escaped” into our waters is possible, there is no doubt that some were deliberately and illegally placed in various locations.

In 2002 a reproducing population showed up in a lake in Maryland, and then in 2004, they showed up in the Potomac River near the nation’s capital. Also in 2004, an angler in Pennsylvania caught two snakeheads in a lake near Philadelphia. It is believed that some of those fish may have made their way into the Schuykill and Delaware Rivers. Now, here’s where it hits home. Recently 81 snakeheads were caught in the fish passage lift at the Conowingo Dam on the lower Susquehanna River; only one snakehead was ever found there over the past two years.

So what’s the problem? The snakehead is a voracious predator feeding heavily on other fish. The snakehead feeds much like a bass; thus it would be competition for the same food supply. In addition, there is concern what diseases or other problems could be associated with the invasive species. They are real fighters when hooked on fishing tackle; thus, there are apparently some fishermen who have no problem with the invasion. Anglers can keep any size, and any number and harvest is highly recommended. I’ll put it a little more clearly-if you catch any kill them and report it to the Fish and Boat Commission.

On a more positive note, there is another interesting fish that is apparently starting to spread at least in western Pennsylvania. The fish I’m referring to is the paddlefish. About one-third of the fish’s length is comprised of a long, flat “nose” or rostrum. They can live up to 55 years and reach a length of five feet. Their preferred food is microscopic zooplankton and small aquatic insects. Paddlefish were once found in Lake Erie, the Allegheny River, and the Clarion River. Dams altered river flows and overfishing decimated populations and by 1919 they were completely extirpated in Pennsylvania.

Due to the efforts of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission fingerling paddlefish have been stocked in the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. In 2018 someone fishing the Allegheny River found a dead, but easily identifiable paddlefish on the bank-it was over four feet and weighed an estimated 40 pounds.

We’ll keep an eye on the new guys in town. In the meantime, if the high, muddy water ever clears up, I wouldn’t mind hooking up with a couple of our own smallmouth bass.

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