The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently published its Biology Reports from late September 2009 based on electrofishing surveys taken on the middle to lower Susquehanna River. The surveys were taken between Sunbury and south to Middletown at Clemson Island, Rockville, Dock Street Dam and the Turnpike Bridge. Smallmouth bass were the target of the analysis which is meant to track and compare size, age and numbers of the smallmouth from year to year in the area.
As many local “Susky” anglers may be aware, the smallmouth fishing has been going downhill for the past several years and the data brought about by the new study shows that the quality and numbers of bass are following the negative theme. Susquehanna anglers have come to expect not only excellent numbers of fish but smallmouth within the 4lb-5lb range to not be uncommon. However, the data from the survey shows that these expectations may be unwarranted as the quantity of “trophy” bass seems to be on the downswing as well.
The size data shows that there were only 6 bass captured, combined from all four areas, that measured equal to or over 17” in length. This is surprising considering the reputation that the Susquehanna River has for producing world class smallmouth.
The real staggering numbers lie within the catch rate per hour data. Of fish 15” and over, there was a catch rate of 2.6 per hour where the average over the past decade was 6.2 fish per hour. 2008 showed a catch rate of around 7 bass per hour. A difference of 4.4 fish per hour from one year to the next is a scary number for Susquehanna bass anglers.
There are several factors that could have contributed to these numbers aside from sickness, fungus and reproductive deficiencies. One major factor, as cited by the PA Fish and Boat Commission, is that this past year, the river experienced higher water levels and faster currents than those of recent history and could have affected mating habits and feeding patterns of local bass; causing them to relocate.
All information in this article is credited to the PA Fish and Boat Commission’s “2009 Biology Report”. To learn more about electronic surveying and to see the entire 2009 report, please click the link below.