Monongahela River Fishing

Monongahela River fishing

Monongahela River
Biological Monitoring Study
Navigation Lockchamber Surveys at Braddock, Maxwell, and Grays Landing Locks and Dams This report summarizes the findings of the 2010 navigation lockchamber surveys of the Monongahela River at Braddock, Maxwell, and Grays Landing Locks and Dams (L/D), which is part of Area 8’s continued monitoring program of this river (Click here for the 2009 Biologist Report of nighttime boat electrofishing surveys). Area 8 last conducted lockchamber surveys of the Monongahela River in 2003 (Click here for the 2003 Biologist Report of lock chamber surveys), this report includes a comparison of 2003 and 2010 results.

For over a century, the Monongahela River experienced widespread water quality degradation and ensuing near loss of its fisheries. Combined state and federal efforts that began in the 1970s, however, eventually led to tremendous improvement in the Monongahela’s water quality. Improved water quality resulted in gradual recoveries of sport fisheries, also accompanied by range expansions of numerous native species that were once locally exterminated and overall increases in fish population abundances. The best documentation of the Monongahela River’s recovering fish populations can be found in lockchamber survey findings. Since 1957, 94 lockchamber surveys have been conducted on the Three Rivers, including 36 on the Monongahela River. Notwithstanding these dramatic improvements, water quality problems continue to impact Monongahela River fish populations, primarily from industrial (coal mining and gas well development), municipal (sewage and landfill operations), and non-point sources (agricultural, suburban and urban run-off).

For the 2010 lockchamber surveys of the Monongahela (Figure 1), the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s (PFBC) Fisheries Management Division Area 8 and Three Rivers biologists (Figure 2) were assisted by biologists from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ District 1 (WVDNR), Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) (Figure 3), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region III Freshwater Biology Team (USEPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District (USACE) (Figure 4), Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Southwest Regional Office in Pittsburgh and Office of Water Management in Harrisburg (PADEP), California University of Pennsylvania (CalU) (Figure 5), West Virginia University (WVU), Duquesne University, and Marshall University.

Figure 1. Fleet of state and federal agency research boats at a Monongahela River lockchamber survey. Figure 2. PFBC’s Three Rivers crew (boat in foreground) and Area 8 crew (boat in background) at Braddock. Figure 3. ORSANCO Biologist John Spaeth (boat operator) and his enthusiastic crew of interns (left-to-right; Emily Heppner, Josh Vogel, Jamie Wisenall, and Danny Cleves) at Braddock. Figure 4. USACE biologists Bob Hoskin (left), intern Cory Walker (center), and Rose Reilly (right) processing sauger and gizzard shad at Braddock. Figure 5. (Left-to-right) Matt Kinsey (PFBC Three Rivers fisheries biologist aide), Dr. David G. Argent (CalU Professor of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences), Alyssa Baxter (PADEP water pollution biologist), Tyler Brown (CalU student), and Dan Dascani (CalU student) separating gizzard shad from shiners at Braddock.

All fish collected during the lockchamber surveys were enumerated and measured for total lengths and weights. A comparison of 2003 and 2010 findings are summarized in the following tables (Table 1 Grays Landing, Table 2 Maxwell, and Table 3 Braddock).

The results also include numbers of “remarkable species” collected. PFBC biologists thought that for a meaningful data interpretation and straightforward measure of biological integrity, fish species inherently more valuable, or “remarkable”, should be considered. Remarkable species, then, regarded appropriate for this evaluation consist of the following:

  1. Nongame fish species either previously (e.g., mooneye, Pennsylvania-Threatened until 2010) or currently (e.g., ghost shiner, Pennsylvania-Endangered) protected in Pennsylvania;
  2. Important sport fish species maintained by natural reproduction (e.g., smallmouth bass, walleye, and sauger); and
  3. Fish species classified by ORSANCO as intolerant of pollution (e.g., smallmouth redhorse; Figure 6).

Remarkable species summarized in Tables 1, 2, and 3 are depicted in red text.

Figure 6. Pollution intolerant smallmouth redhorse collected at Braddock. This species was initially collected at Braddock in 1985, and were found there during every successive lock chamber survey. They have not been collected at Maxwell or Grays Landing. Table 1. Summary of 2003 and 2010 results of lock chamber surveys at Grays Landing.
# Collected Black crappie Black redhorse Bluegill 42 1, 381 Bluntnose minnow 423 Brook silverside 52 Channel catfish 73 465 Channel shiner 118 806 Common carp 10 113 Emerald shiner 12, 986 21, 336 Flathead catfish 28 Freshwater drum 124 393 Ghost shiner 207 401 Gizzard shad 35 24, 181 Golden redhorse Golden shiner Green sunfish 228 Johnny darter Largemouth bass Logperch 12 Longnose gar 29 Mimic shiner 146 Mooneye Pumpkinseed 25 Quillback Rainbow darter River carpsucker Rock bass Sauger 11 Silver redhorse 13 Silver shiner Skipjack herring Smallmouth bass Smallmouth buffalo Spotted bass Striped bass hybrid 14 Tiger muskellunge Walleye 16 White bass 36 White crappie Yellow bullhead Yellow perch 18 Total # Collected 13, 823 51, 280 Total # Species 28 33 # Remarkable Species
Table 2. Summary of 2003 and 2010 results of lock chamber surveys at Maxwell.
31 372 77 98 80 194 85 2, 907 32 6, 099 9, 001 615 151 89 4, 354 117 10, 887 15 97 580 Paddlefish
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