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West Branch
Susquehanna River

July 2006


Fisheries Management Area 3 staff conducted a night electrofishing survey on the lower West Branch Susquehanna River on the nights of July 24 and 25, 2006, to assess the smallmouth bass population. A total of 216 smallmouth bass ranging in size from 2-20” were captured during 2.8 hours of electrofishing at the three historic sample sites (Montoursville, Watsontown, and Chillisquaque; Table 1). The 2006 catch rate of age-1 and older (> 6”) smallmouth bass (66.6 bass/electrofishing hr) was the highest on recent record, and a considerable improvement from the catch rates in 2005 (Table 2). Additionally, the catch rate of smallmouth bass > 15” (6.5 bass/electrofishing hr) was also the highest on recent record.

The good catch rate of age-1 fish is encouraging and suggests that the smallmouth bass population inhabiting the lower West Branch Susquehanna River produced a strong 2005 year class in spite of the Columnaris outbreak that occurred in various portions of the Susquehanna River drainage last summer. In addition, the good numbers of 6-10” bass should provide for good angling as they grow and enter the fishery within the next couple years. On average, smallmouth bass in the West Branch Susquehanna River reach 12” at age-4 and 15” at age-6.

Smallmouth bass
Jason Detar with an 18” 4lb smallmouth bass

Also captured were 18 walleye ranging in size from 11-28” and a 40” muskellunge. A few walleye are usually captured during sampling, but the 2006 catch of 18 individuals is above average, and included fish of 24, 26, and 28 inches.

Walleye
Bruce Hollender with a 28” 7lb walleye

Table 1. Length-frequency distribution of smallmouth bass captured during 2.8 hours of night electrofishing on the West Branch Susquehanna River at Chillisquaque, Watsontown, and Montoursville on the nights of July 24 and 25, 2006.

Length (inches) Smallmouth Bass
2 1
3 -
4 5
5 35
6 50
7 44
8 17
9 20
10 14
11 3
12 1
13 6
14 2
15 2
16 5
17 3
18 3
19 4
20 1
Total 216

Table 2. Comparison of mean smallmouth bass catch per hour (CPH) during night electrofishing surveys in the lower West Branch Susquehanna River from 1991-1996, 2005, and 2006.

  Date
Smallmouth Bass CPH 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 2005 2006
All Smallmouth Bass ≥ 6 inches 5.4 57.0 16.6 34.5 15.8 40.1 15.3 66.6
Smallmouth ≥ 12 inches 0.9 9.2 1.6 10.0 3.5 5.6 3.3 9.8
Smallmouth ≥ 15 inches 0.6 1.3 1.6 5.3 2.0 2.8 2.1 6.5

Based on the high catch rates of smallmouth bass and the good numbers of large individuals collected during the 2006 survey, anglers should take advantage of the favorable conditions and try their luck fishing on the lower West Branch Susquehanna River.

 
-- Fisheries Management, Area 3

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