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PFBC Looks to EPA to Help Save Susquehanna Smallmouth Fishery


A “perfect storm” of stressors is destroying one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the nation. Algae blooms, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and pollutants annually decimate young-of-the year bass, leaving the Susquehanna River with a steadily declining number of big fish and little recruitment to replace them.

Since the first disease outbreak in 2005, biologists with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have been studying the problem on the river that flows from Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, N.Y., to Chesapeake Bay, draining about half of the state’s land area. Their conclusion: The problem is too complex for them to solve without additional help.

“That’s why we’re trying to convince the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to put the Susquehanna on the (impaired waters) list,” said John Arway, PFBC executive director.

Despite the Susquehanna’s biological and recreation impairment, the state Department of Environmental Protection decided not to include the river on the list, forcing the PFBC to look elsewhere for help.

 “We’ve also had meetings with our members of Congress,” Arway said. “This is extremely important. If the river goes on the impaired list, then there’s a time clock to fix it. But that clock doesn’t start until the problem is formally recognized.

"Putting it on the 303D list would mean that there’s a plan and we’d be eligible for grant money and we could prioritize how to spend it.”

The PFBC has support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its campaign. In a letter to the EPA, Region 5 Director Wendi Weber wrote the following:

“We concur with recent scientific assessments that indicate a chronic problem exists with recruitment of smallmouth bass in the river.

 “We are also concerned with the recent rise in reported skin lesions on bass, as well as emerging evidence of inter-sex, possibly caused by endocrine disruption compounds in the water. The Service believes the suite of warning signs exhibited by the smallmouth bass population is cause for careful and thorough assessment of environmental conditions in the river. While exact linkages and root causes seem to remain unclear, we believe the evidence suggests that environmental stressors are affecting the biota in the river.”

And just how much have those environmental stressors impacted smallmouth bass? “We’d typically get 1 ½ to 2 good years for every 1 bad year (of reproduction). Now, we will be lucky if we get 1 out of 8,” said Geoff Smith, a biologist who has studied the river.

He added that the number of adult fish in the river “has plateaued to low densities historically.”

 “As the older fish die of old age, we’re not seeing the recruitment we need to replace them,” Arway said

He points to dissolved phosphorus in the river as a “principal stressor.” Right at the time bass are born, he added, “We’re seeing blooms of nuisance algae from the west shore to the east shore.”

That results in low dissolved oxygen, which in turn, compromises the immune system of young bass.

“We need to trace it (phosphorus) to the source,” Arway said. “We need to know where it comes from. That’s why we need to be on the 303D list.”

Additionally, biologists have identified these contaminants in the river that could cause endocrine disruption:

Thirteen flame retardant compounds, 2 personal care products (triclosan), 14 organochlorine pesticides, and 9 other pesticides.

They’ve also confirmed Largemouth Bass Virus.

“That’s not likely a factor (for abundance). But just carrying that virus might add to the stress,” Smith said.

Possibly most disturbing, though, is that similar problems with smallmouth recruitment now have spread into the Susquehanna’s tributaries and even outside of the basin, to the Allegheny and Delaware.

Anglers, meanwhile, “were madder than a hornet’s nest for a time,” Arway said. That’s because the PFBC implemented mandatory catch-and-release for the middle 98 miles of the Susquehanna and prohibited targeting of bass on nests from May 1 to June 15.

“But now they understand and they’re behind us. They’re working with us,” the PFBC executive director added.



State Funds Needed in Nebraska to Fight Invasive Species

Editor's Note: This is a speech that Teeg Stouffer of Recycled Fish prepared in support for state funding to fight invasive species in Nebraska. His actual presentation differed a bit, but not the message: State money is needed to combat mussels, carp, and other invasive threats to Nebraska waters.

My name is Teeg Stouffer, I’m the Executive Director of a non-profit fisheries conservation organization called Recycled Fish. Although our work is national in scope, we’re proudly centered right here in Nebraska. I appreciate the opportunity to testify in support of LB 63.

Since our organization is national in scope, I see the threat of invasive species all over the country firsthand.  It’s to our shame as Nebraskans that it’s a problem that’s being better addressed elsewhere than it is here, and we need more comprehensive support in our state.

LB63 is an important step in that direction. When federal funding runs out, we will be left defenseless against threats like zebra mussels and quagga mussels, which we’ve been able to keep out of our waters for now.

The thing with these invasive species is that once they’re established, there’s virtually no getting rid of them. Smart money chooses low costs today to prevent a problem rather than high costs tomorrow to solve a problem. LB63 is smart money, and that’s why we support it, and we hope you will, too.

Let me paint a quick picture – some of you have seen it. Imagine a lake floor that spans for hundreds of acres. Every rock, every log, every wrecked boat on the bottom is coated, blanketed, with dime-sized mussels – like little clams. They breed by releasing veligers --- little larvae that float in the water. A current pulls them into a pipe --- like the outlet at Lake McConaughy.  And all of a sudden, they’re headed downstream, to cling to a rock, or an irrigation intake, to start a new colony. That’s how it happens. Or it could start with one uninspected boat. The solution is simple. But it’s not free. LB 63 provides the funds.

Colorado invests millions in the prevention of these invaders because of how that state moves water in big concrete tubes between its reservoirs to provide a water supply for their cities. If they get an infestation, the removal costs could 10-times everybody’s water bills.

Imagine what an infestation in the Tri-County Canal systems might look like, and how that would impact farmers. In the span of a couple of years you can have mussels clinging to mussels --- choking out a three-foot diameter tube, so water can’t flow. Sounds like a horrible impact for Nebraska’s farmers, who are reliant on irrigation, doesn’t it?   

Now, I don’t speak for the Nebraska Fish & Game Association, but I’m a member, and I do know that in a poll of its members, anglers in this state supported LB 63 with about a 2/3 majority. That’s a strong show of support from the state’s sportsmen, and it speaks to the fact that sportsmen want to see our natural and wild places protected. They’re counting on you.

I speak for Recycled Fish and our 15,000 stewards across America --- perhaps 500 of which are in Nebraska --- when I ask you to support the bill on behalf of anglers.

But in closing, I speak for myself --- not for my organization --- but for myself, when I say that I’m a person of faith, and I bet some of you are, too. Way back there in Genesis God said to us, “Hey, take care of this place that I made,” and in the time since, we’ve done a pretty terrible job caring for His Creation. This is a chance we’ve all got to do one thing right, so let’s do it. The generations to come are counting on us. 


Carp Invaders More Adaptable Than Previously Believed


Yeah, like we didn’t see this coming. Researchers have discovered that Asian carp are more adaptable than previously believed.

Remember the warning that mathematician Ian Malcolm issued in “Jurassic Park"? When told that the dinosaurs couldn’t reproduce, he said, “Life finds a way.”

Well, so do Asian carp.

“It looks like the carp can probably become established in a wider range of environmental conditions than once thought,” said Reuben Goforth, an assistant professor of forestry and natural resources at Purdue University.

Translation: The scientists found carp spawning in waters previously believed to be too narrow or too slow moving. They also noted evidence of spawning and eggs drifting in the water as late as September; previously reproduction was believed to end in July.

Read more here.

And be afraid, be very afraid. If you don't believe me, check out this Activist Angler story about a tropical fish --- the Jack Dempsey --- now established in South Dakota. Life finds a way.

The carp are coming, folks. They’re coming to the Upper Missouri, to the inland waters of Minnesota, to fisheries all along the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers, to the Great Lakes, and almost certainly many other waters as well.

When, oh when, will we learn to listen to Jeff Goldblum characters in movies? He also warned us in the remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”  But did we listen? Noooooooo.


Anti-Fishing NPS Sets Sights on Everglades National Park


If you don’t know that the National Park Service (NPS) is no friend to fishermen, you haven’t been paying attention.  Check out the links at the bottom of this article to learn what the anti-angling bureaucrats have been doing in regard to access to public lands and waters.

Now, the NPS is considering changes to management of boating in the back country of Everglades National Park. You can bet that those who want to reduce access will be working their hardest to make it so, both inside the agency and out.

That’s why it’s vital for anglers to make their voices heard.

Here’s a media alert from BoatUS about how to get involved:

WHAT: The National Park Service (NPS) is considering changes to how boating in the back country of the Everglades National Park is managed, including significantly expanding Pole/Troll zones where only electric trolling motors and push poles would be permitted for use. Also under consideration are special boater education permit requirements beyond what is required by the state of Florida. To learn more about and comment on the plan please visit:

NPS is holding a series of public meetings on the proposed changes.  If access to this part of the Florida Bay Back Country is a part of your boating and fishing, we urge you to attend one of these meetings to learn more and voice your concerns.

WHEN: Here are the meeting dates:

Thursday, March 21, 5:30 PM: Everglades City School, 415 School Drive, Everglades City, Florida

Monday, April 8, 5:30 PM: Int’l Game and Fish Association – Fishing Hall of Fame, 300 Gulfstream Way, Dania Beach, Florida

Tuesday, April 9, 5:30 PM: Edison State College, Collier Campus – Building J7007, Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples, Florida

Wednesday, April 10, 5:30 PM: Murray Nelson Government Center?– 102050 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, Florida

Thursday, April 11, 5:30 PM: Florida International University – Stadium Club, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, Florida

WHY: It is important that the National Park Service hear from boaters about how you enjoy the park and access the areas you want to visit.  

HOW: If you are unable to attend a meeting, you have until May 12th to submit your comments online at:

 WHO: Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is actively engaged with the NPS regarding recreational boating access to Everglades and other parks around the nation.

 And here are those links to confirm that the NPS is no friend to fishermen:

Angler Groups Keep Fishing for Biscayne Bay Access.

National Park Service Didn't Get the Memo About Reconnecting.

Some in Congress Fight Back for Angler Access at Cape Hatteras.


Funds Needed to Combat Invasive Species in Nebraska, but 'Nobody Cares'

In Nebraska, those who care about protecting the state’s waters from invasive species are trying to raise awareness and obtain funding to do battle. The legislature tasked the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission with the job, but provided no money.

As proposed in Legislative Bill 63, introduced by Sen. Ken Schliz, $1.2 million from taxes generated by motorboat sales or leases would fund a program to monitor and control aquatic invasive species.  

“What it comes down to is that the bill's sponsors feel that this allocation of sales tax revenue on boats is the best way to get the measly $1.2 million to at least get some education programs going, start some inspections, and maybe get a few wash out-stations set up at some lakes around the state,” a source told Activist Angler.

Teeg Stouffer, executive director of Recycled Fish, was one of those testifying on behalf of the proposal in a committee hearing.
“There were a bunch of testimonies for our bill and none against it, so these Senators would really have to have an agenda to not pass it out of committee and onto the floor,” he said.

He also made another observation, one that troubles, but does not surprise me:

“When I walked into the hearing room at 1:05, I was the first one there for a 1:30 hearing. Perhaps 1 out of 10 seats wound up being filled in the room.

“Meanwhile, there was a sea of people clogging one hallway --- more than could fit in a hearing room. That’s the difference between a hearing on a gay adoption bill and a natural resources bill.

“The thing that's a shame to me is that most people will never have anything to do with gay adoption, but we all drink water, eat food, and power our homes. Zebra mussel infestations could decimate our irrigation systems and heap more hardship on our farmers, which translates to higher food prices. Zebra mussels could 10x our water bills, and 10x our power bills. Nobody knows. Nobody cares.”