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Susquehanna River & Lower Juniata River

Angler Survey and Smallmouth Bass Tag study

Southcentral Pennsylvania
April 1 through October 31, 2007

Aerial photo of the Susquehanna River
Aerial photo of the Susquehanna River
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Fisheries Management Division has partnered with the Penn State Statistical Consulting Center, the Penn State Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, a professional economist from Colorado State University, and other state agencies to conduct a river angler creel survey and a smallmouth bass tag study on the Susquehanna River (Sunbury to Holtwood) and Lower Juniata River (Port Royal to Duncannon). These studies are currently underway, and the Agency has reaped much benefit from the professional contributions of our technical partners.

However, the most essential contribution to such agency initiatives has always been that of the Pennsylvania angler, our most important and essential partner. We welcome all anglers, from all walks of life and all viewpoints, to provide us with their input and guidance on how we can best serve the anglers and boaters of the Commonwealth in managing the aquatic resources of these great rivers. Input is best received by cooperating with survey personnel if anglers meet them at one of the 91 public and private access sites they frequent.

Additionally, survey agents are placing postcards on vehicle windshields at access areas. The post cards contain a brief questionnaire that seeks information about an anglers fishing outing. Anglers can place a stamp on the post card and mail it in, or visit the web site listed on the card to conveniently provide a response.

Tagging instructions - click for poster in PDF formatAnglers catching a tagged bass can also contribute to our understanding of smallmouth bass movement and catch rate by clipping off the tag (not pulling the tag out) as described in previous press releases (May 17, 2007 and April 2, 2007) and promptly reporting the tag number and location of catch by calling a toll free number (1-877-778-3637). This telephone number is listed on the tag.

The Commission thanks proprietors of private marinas, boat clubs, and commercial campgrounds who have graciously partnered with us by allowing us to include fishing patrons who frequent their establishments in our survey. With such welcoming and cooperative partners we are excited about what Pennsylvania anglers share with us. We look forward to sharing results of this survey with the angling community in the future. We welcome all to meet our survey personnel, each have college level training in natural resource management and/or biology.

We hope to reap a variety of information from this survey. First, the survey is designed to estimate catch and harvest of sportfish by anglers fishing the Susquehanna and Lower Juniata rivers from April 1 to October 31, 2007. Angler catch, harvest, angler hours and angler trips expended for all species will be estimated. In addition, angler effort (angler hours and angler trips) expended for each species reported as targeted by anglers will be estimated.

Second, we hope to use angler effort estimates along with angler expenditure data to estimate the economic impact and economic contribution of freshwater fishing to the Commonwealth and to the riparian counties bordering these great rivers. Past studies suggest that healthy waterways with good fishing opportunities contribute significantly to the economy of the region.

Surveying anglers
Fisheries Biologist Aides (FBA), Kent Himelright (left) and Jerilyn Collenburg (right) conducting angler interviews in the vicinity of the Susquehanna River

As a third initiative, a pilot tag-recapture study is being conducted to estimate smallmouth bass exploitation on a portion of the Susquehanna River within the survey reach. Smallmouth bass represent one of the most sought after fish species targeted by sport anglers on these rivers. Additional information regarding the tag-recapture study can be found in the Commission press release Researchers to Land Smallmouth Data from Tagged Fish Survey.

The tags are orange in color but are often covered with a film of green/brown algae. Finally, and most importantly, an angler opinion survey will be used to learn how anglers feel about fishing quality and public access to these rivers.

Smallmouth bass with a spaghetti looking plastic tag called a Floy Tag
Smallmouth bass with a spaghetti looking plastic tag called a Floy Tag

On the Susquehanna River, the survey extends from the Fabridam at Sunbury, PA to the Holtwood Dam at Holtwood, PA; approximately 103 miles. The portion of the Juniata River included in the survey extends from the PA 75 Bridge at Port Royal, PA to the river mouth at Duncannon, PA; approximately 33 miles. These reaches collectively total 136 miles and encompass that portion of the Susquehanna River and Lower Juniata River where sportfish harvest is regulated with Big Bass regulations.

Uses of information derived from this study are anticipated to be as diverse as the study. As noted above, the economic impact and contribution estimates will be used to assign an economic value to these popular river fisheries. The catch, harvest, effort, and exploitation statistics derived from this survey will be used to characterize angler effort and angler harvest of river fishes. Further, exploitation estimates for smallmouth bass will provide fishery managers with information to guide decisions regarding harvest management on these rivers. These decisions ensure that year to year fluctuations in smallmouth bass density is minimized within the constraints imposed by natural events and human events beyond the agency’s control.

The human dimension questionnaire, which solicits feedback from anglers about fishing, fish management programs, and fishing and boating access, will provide details necessary to identify where management or access changes may be needed. Overall, this survey and associated biological surveys are intended to provide a comprehensive description of Susquehanna River and Lower Juniata River sportfishing and identify areas where fishing opportunities can be enhanced. We welcome you to enjoy Pennsylvania’s fishing opportunities on one of our Great Rivers near you!

Additional information regarding this survey can be found in the the Commission's press release Angler Surveys to Focus on Susquehanna and Juniata River Fishing.

-- John Frederick, Area 7 Fisheries Biologist and Robert Lorantas, Warmwater Unit Leader

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