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Invasive Species in Our Waterways

It seems like the subject of invasive species, be they land-based species, aquatic plants, or animals, comes up more frequently these days. As a fisherman, I have noticed several new threats to our waterways, including invasive crayfish, zebra mussels, and the northern snakehead. Other species of fish, like the silver and bighead carp, while not yet found here in Pennsylvania, are of great concern. In addition, ten viruses and diseases have shown up here, such as gill lice, that are of concern.

The snakehead is a voracious predator that originated in China, Korea, and Russia and first showed up in a pond in Maryland in 2002. It was probably somebody’s pet and was put in the pond because it was no longer wanted. In 2004, a snakehead showed up in Meadow Lake near Philadelphia, and several catches have been made in the Conowingo Reservoir section of the Susquehanna River. The snakehead is now being found in the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. Being the voracious predator, it is, and with no natural enemies, the snakehead is a serious threat to our native species like smallmouth and largemouth bass and panfish. Other species, like the flathead catfish, first showed up at Safe Harbor Dam on the Susquehanna River in 2002 but are so well established now that there is no longer any hope of it being eliminated.

In an attempt to help cut down on the spread of invasive aquatic species, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has instituted some new regulations. As of January 1, as part of an updated section of the Pennsylvania Code that deals with the propagation introduction, and transportation of fish in Commonwealth waters, every angler who movers live fish from one water to another is now required to submit a Notice of Stocking (NOS). What’s involved here is every angler who likes to catch bass or bluegills from a local lake and then take them back to a private lake to stock them or, for that matter, any angler who uses live bait and then releases any unused bait back into the lake or stream. In other words, you can’t do that anymore without the required NOS.

The NOS is required for anyone who introduces fish into any Pennsylvania water, public or private, with the exception of fish baited on a hook for fishing purposes. Closed ornamental backyard ponds are exempted. The NOS can be completed on your smartphone or computer using the website or by submitting it by e-mail or traditional mail. An electronic or hard copy of your completed NOS is required to be present at the time of a stocking event, and failure to submit an NOS before stocking fish may result in a summary citation and a fine.

For the most part, this new regulation is more about stocking fish in private locations or moving fish from one lake, stream, or pond to another.
As far as fishing with live minnows go, I have always made it a practice to bring any live minnows back home with me for use later. I simply place a small aquarium air pump in my minnow bucket, and that keeps the bait pretty healthy until the next trip. If you don’t intend to use leftover live minnows, they should not be put into the location you are fishing but instead taken home — they make good fertilizer.

For more information on the NOS requirements and a video guide to completing the form, you can go to