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West Branch Susquehanna River
Section 06
 
Smallmouth Bass Survey
July 21 – 23, 2008

Fisheries Management Area 3 staff conducted night electrofishing surveys on the lower West Branch Susquehanna River during July 21 – 23, 2008 to assess the adult smallmouth bass population. A total of 132 smallmouth bass were caught during 4 hours of night electrofishing at the three historic sample sites (Montoursville, Watsontown, and Chillisquaque; Figure 1). The bass ranged in size from 4 to 20 inches in length (Table 1) and most individuals were quite robust.

The 2008 catch rate of age–1 and older (> 5 inches) smallmouth bass (32 bass/electrofishing hour) was similar to last year (Table 2). Additionally, the 2008 catch rate of large bass (> 15 inches) was also similar to 2007 and the long-term average (Table 2).

Smallmouth bass
A nice smallmouth bass captured during the 2008 survey

The good catch rate of age–1 smallmouth was encouraging and suggests that the species produced a strong year class in 2007 with good recruitment to age–1. Age–1 smallmouth are those individuals that range from ~5-7 inches in Table 1. In addition, the good numbers of 8 – 11” bass will hopefully provide 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 inches during age–4 and 15 inches by age–6.

Also captured during the survey were 31 walleye ranging in size from 15 – 29 inches. A few walleye are usually captured during sampling, but the 2008 catch of 31 is nearly double the above average captures documented in 2006 and 2007. We are interested to see if this upward trend in walleye catch rates continues over the next few years.

Walleye
A nice walleye captured during the 2008 survey

Four muskellunge ranging in size from 37 – 47 inches were captured also during the 2008 survey. All four individuals appeared to be in good condition.

Musky
Fisheries Biologist Aide Mike Swartz with a nice muskellunge captured on the West Branch during 2008

Table 1. Length-frequency distribution of smallmouth bass captured during 4 hours of night electrofishing on the West Branch Susquehanna River at Montoursville, Watsontown, and Chillisquaque during July 21 – 23, 2008.

Length (inches)
Smallmouth Bass
4 1
5 8
6 36
7 26
8 5
9 13
10 11
11 9
12 7
13 4
14 4
15 4
16 1
17 0
18 1
19 1
20 1
Total 132

 

Table 2. Comparison of mean smallmouth bass catch per hour (CPH) during night electrofishing surveys in the lower West Branch Susquehanna River from 1990 – 2008.

  Sample Year
Smallmouth Bass CPH 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1998 2005 2006 2007 2008 Average 1990-2008
Smallmouth >5 Inches 28.7 5.7 67.4 16.9 49.5 15.8 56.4 10.8 16.4 80.7 34.3 32.1 34.6
Smallmouth >12 Inches 2.1 0.9 9.2 5.3 10.1 3.5 5.5 2.8 3.3 9.8 5.4 6.1 5.3
Smallmouth >15 Inches 0.6 0.6 1.3 3.2 5.3 2.0 2.8 1.5 2.1 6.5 2.2 2.0 2.5

 

Figure 1. Historic smallmouth bass sample site locations on the lower West Branch Susquehanna River.

Sample site locations

 
-- Area 3

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