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Entries in Maryland (13)

Monday
Sep152014

What's Ailing Susquehanna River Smallmouth Bass?

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission photo

Despite its refusal to declare the Susquehanna River impaired last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says that it will continue intensive sampling of what was once a world-class smallmouth fishery.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission asked for the designation, as fingerlings continue to die, adults carry ugly lesions, and eggs show up in the testes of male fish. Additionally, an estimated 80 percent of the bass seem to have disappeared from the central part of the state, where the North and West Branches meet, down to Conowingo Dam in Maryland.

The 2014 plan calls for analysis of fish tissue for pesticides, PCBs, and metals. Also biologists will look at insects, mussels, and other invertebrates, as well as sample the water for sediment, pollution, and pesticides.

At 464 miles, the Susquehanna is the largest river to drain into the Atlantic, and its massive watershed of 27,500 square miles includes portions of New York and Maryland, as well as nearly half of Pennsylvania.

“Over the last two years where we tremendously enhanced our examination efforts, DEP has learned a great deal about the health of the Susquehanna River,” said Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo.

 “It is important to continue these efforts so that DEP can create policy and regulation based on facts and sound science.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes that a “perfect storm” of conditions have contributed to the sick and declining smallmouth population, with pollution from farms and sewage plants, low dissolved oxygen, rising water temperatures among the contributors. These stressors make the fish more susceptible to bacteria, parasites, and diseases that might not have affected them in the past.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Wednesday
Aug062014

Maryland Launches Campaign Against Invasive Catfish

Photo from Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has launched a statewide campaign to minimize the impact that invasive blue and flathead catfish are having on state fisheries.

“Increasing in population and range, both blue and flathead catfish now are abundant in the Chesapeake Bay, threatening the natural food chain of our ecosystem and causing concern among fisheries manager,” said DNR Deputy Secretary Frank Dawson.

The new outreach strategy will help anglers identify and catch these invasive species, and, resource officials hope, will encourage them to keep the fish instead of releasing them. As a part of the campaign, more than 150 education/cautionary signs will be placed at access areas and kiosks across the state. Additionally, the state will help promote Maryland’s fledgling commercial catfish fishery.

“Blue and flathead catfish are long-lived, voracious predators,” added Tom O’Connell, DNR fisheries chief. “They grow to enormous size, have many offspring, and dominate other fish populations wherever they take hold.

“We want everyone to aware of this significant problem and to know that it is illegal to transport these fish between bodies of water in Maryland.”

Both species were introduced by anglers into the Chesapeake Bay watershed during the 1970s and 1980s. Today, blues are in most of the bay’s major tributaries. Flatheads are in the Lower Susquehanna and the Occoquan Rivers and recently were identified in the non-tidal Potomac near Willamsport. The state record blue, weighing 84 pounds, came from the Tidal Potomac in 2012.

And they are present in huge numbers. Biologists conducting a survey for stripers in Mattawoman Creek found their nets clogged with catfish. A Port Tobacco commercial fisherman collected 300,000 pounds in one haul.

Also, stomach sampling reveals that the catfish will eat just about anything that they can swallow, including blue crabs.  “Looking in the guts of these fish, we find really astounding differences in the range of species they consume, suggesting that, if left unchecked, they could potentially start to impact our ecosystem,” said Peyton Robertson, director of the Chesapeake Bay office for the National Oceanic and  Atmospheric Administration.

Thursday
Jun122014

Pollution Reduced, But Goals Not Reached for Cleaning Up Chesapeake Bay

Progress is being made in reducing the pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay, according to a report. But the news is not all good, as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) announced, “Many jurisdictions fell short in implementing practices that reduce pollution from agricultural sources and urban and suburban polluted runoff.”

In 2010, the Bay states--- Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia --- and the Environmental Protect Agency set pollution limits that would restore water quality in the Bay, as well as the rivers that feed it. Additionally, the states made two-year milestone commitments to take specific actions to ensure progress was being made to achieve the agreed-upon pollution reductions.

Reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants exceeded 2013 goals, but “our analysis shows that implementation of some important practices like forested buffers and urban stream restoration lag behind what is necessary to achieve long-term goals,” CBF said.

What’s at risk if those long-term goals aren’t achieved? The list is long. For starters, there are the multi-million-dollar bass fisheries in the Bay’s many tributaries, with the Potomac being the most notable.

And how about this? Five-hundred million pounds of seafood are harvested each year from the Bay. Also, it’s one of the few places left in the world where an industry exists harvesting oysters from the wild.

Additionally, this unique ecosystem supplies as much as 1/3 of the nation’s blue crabs annually, and striper fishing carries an economic value to the area of about $500 million per year.

“We are not on pace anywhere to meet our 2017 and 2025 goals,” said Jill Witkowski, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. “If we’re planning to run a race, so far we’ve done a good job on our couch to 5k. But if we want to run a marathon, we have a long way to go.”

Runoff from farms is one of the biggest threats to the continued health of the Bay, as close to one-quarter of the land in its watershed is devoted to agriculture. Thus, it is the single largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution entering the Bay.

“While conventional tillage, fertilizers and pesticides can be beneficial to crops, their excessive use can pollute rivers and streams, pushing nutrients and sediment into waterways,” CBF said.

Key Findings:

• Maryland met or exceeded five of seven selected goals, including animal waste management systems, forest buffers, grass buffers, upgrading stormwater systems and septic regulations. It failed to meet tree-planting goals and didn't set a goal for urban forest buffers.

• Delaware reached or surpassed four of its seven selected goals, wetland restoration, cover crops, bioretention and urban tree planting. It fell short on animal waste management, grass buffers and septic system connections.

• Virginia met two of eight milestones evaluated: stream access control with fencing and urban stream restoration. It fell short on forest buffers, conservation tillage, composite agricultural practices, modern stormwater practices, urban nutrient management and composite urban practices.

Thursday
Jun052014

Snakehead Numbers Decline

Maryland DNR photo Good news from the snakehead front, as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that catch and distribution of the exotic predator in the Potomac River was lower in 2013 than in 2012.

In announcing the finding from the Tidal Bass Survey, biologist Joe Love said, “The 2013 observations represent the first decrease in catch and distribution since the species was first discovered in the Potomac River (2004). It is not clear whether the cause of the decline is increased angling effort or other factors.”

But angling effort has increased considerably in recent years, aided by initiatives from both DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Additionally, the state is providing more incentive for catch and harvest of snakeheads by instituting a state record program and including an invasive species category for awards in the Maryland Fishing Challenge.

Not all the news regarding snakeheads is good, however, as two adults were captured by electrofishing for the first time ever in the Wicomico River. Anglers had reported catching them there as early as 2011.

“It appears that it takes two years between angling reporting and collection by Maryland DNR’s Tidal Bass Surveys,” Love said.

Additionally, adult snakeheads were collected from the Patuxent, in numbers similar to 2012.

“Based on suitable habitat for northern snakehead and the population estimate, we calculated that there were about five per acre of suitable habitat,” the biologist explained. “Reports for Little Hunting Creek and Anacostia River ranged from four to nine northern snakehead per acre.”

The invasive fish also was collected “in relatively small numbers” from the Rappahannock, Rohde, Blackwater, and Nanticoke Rivers.

A small snakehead was captured in a trap from a ditched area that connects the Blackwater to the Little Choptank. This suggests that the fish could use this pathway to also colonize the latter, the biologist said.

Wednesday
Jan152014

More Appetizing Name Sought for Snakehead

Clients catch snakeheads as well as bass with guide Steve Chaconas on the Potomac River. Click on the photo to visit his website.

“Snakeheads are considered a good eating fish but who wants to order snakehead for dinner? 

“The Charles County Commissioners invite citizens to participate in a Snakehead Naming Contest. Beginning at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 7, go here and submit ideas for a new and improved name for the snakehead fish . . .

 “The first phase of the Snakehead Naming Contest runs for 30 days from Tuesday, Jan. 7, through Thursday, Feb. 6. At the end of phase one, a panel of judges will select three entries to move forward in the contest.

 “The second phase of the Snakehead Naming Contest begins Tuesday, Feb. 18, and ends Thursday, March 20. During this time, the public will be able to vote online for one of the three selected entries. Prizes will be awarded to three individuals whose entries receive the most votes.


“The final, winning name will be sent to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in hopes that the state will consider the name as the Snakehead’s new, ‘official’ name.”

 From Chesapeake Current