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Schuylkill River
2009 Schuylkill River Smallmouth Bass
Young of Year survey results

In July, 2009 Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Area 6 personnel surveyed the Schuylkill River to determine smallmouth bass young of year abundance (spawning success) from spawning that occurred in spring 2009. Such surveys have been ongoing for 19 years and have consisted of backpack shoreline electrofishing at three sites, 300m in length. The three locations were:
  • Bridgeport, Montgomery Co.
  • River Rd., Muhlenburg Township, Berks Co.
  • Cross Keys Rd. near Temple, Berks Co.

In 2009 an additional seven sites were surveyed to get a more precise estimate of young of year abundance in the river. Locations of the additional sites were:

  • Pawlings Rd., situated west of Audubon, Montgomery Co.
  • the Spring City-Royersford bridge, Chester Co.
  • Towpath Park near Kenilworth, Chester Co.
  • Union Township boat ramp near Monocacy, Berks Co.
  • Fritz Island, located downstream from Reading, Berks Co.
  • the former Five Locks boat ramp near Hamburg, Berks Co.
  • Port Clinton, Schuylkill Co.

As anticipated due to high spring flows, smallmouth bass young of year production in the Schuylkill River in 2009 was poor. High flow negatively influences spawning success through male bass abandoning the nesting sites, sediment deposition on bass nests, or simply by the eggs and fry being swept downriver. As the chart below shows, 2009 yielded one of the lowest measures of young of year since 1986. An average of 0.8 (3 historical sites) and 0.3 (10 sites total) young of year smallmouth bass were captured per 50 m of electrofishing.

Historical YOY catch rates

In terms of individual sites, the Bridgeport boat ramp site contained the most young of year smallmouth bass with 21 being captured, while the Spring City, Towpath Park, Union Township, Five Locks, and Port Clinton sites contained the least number of smallmouth bass with none being captured at each site. In addition to smallmouth bass, the following species of fish were documented at the sites specified.

Summary of fish species captured

The site that contained the greatest number of species was the former Five Locks boat ramp site with 14 species collected. Some notable catches of species other than smallmouth bass included a good population of margined madtoms at the former Five Locks boat ramp site. These are often generally referred to as stone cats by anglers who collect them for bait. Also at that site, 6 young of year chain pickerel were captured. It should be noted that the above list of species were observed while electrofishing only the shoreline of the river. It is highly probable that additional species would have been documented at each site if the survey purpose had included electrofishing the main channel of the river.

Although smallmouth bass young of year abundance in the Schuylkill river in 2009 was very poor, in two of the previous four years spawning success was above average. The year 2007 produced a record year class, with the amount of smallmouth bass young of year collected being more than 5 times the yearly average over 24 years of surveys. This indicates that good fishing for smallmouth bass should continue in future years even though the present young of year class was below average.

-- Area 6

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