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Susquehanna River American Shad
Shad passage operations for 2014 on the Susquehanna River began April 4 at Conowingo Dam, with the first American shad passing on April 24. Early Spring river flows were very high and cold. This negatively impacted fish-way operations by reducing effectiveness and in a few occurrences shutting fish-way operations down until flows receded to safer and more effective operating levels. In addition, water temperatures stayed below 50°F for the early part of April, which was also not conducive to good shad movement.

The uppermost passage facility at York Haven began manned operations on May 20 and the first observed American shad passed the next day, May 21. The York Haven fishway opened March 31 this season with manned operations starting within four days of Safe Harbor passing 1,000 American shad.

Fish passage operations for 2014 concluded during the second week of June; beginning with Conowingo stopping fish-way operation on June 7 and ending with the conclusion of observed fish passage operations at York Haven on June 13. However, resident fish passage operations continue at Holtwood through early summer and at York Haven through late fall.

Running totals linked to weekly reports of fish passage operations at the four hydroelectric dams on the lower Susquehanna are provided in the table below.

2014 Passages
  Fish Passage Facilities (downstream >>> upstream)
Date / Event Conowingo Holtwood Safe Harbor York Haven
Final Count 10,425 2,528 1,336 8
Last date of operation June 7 June 8 June 11 June 13
June 13 - - 1,336 8
June 7 10,425 2,528 1,303 8
May 31 9,622 2,394 1,249 7
May 24 9,263 2,386 1,230 5
May 17 9,261 2,386 1,220 -
May 10 4,039 245 188 -
May 3 2,196 82 13 -
April 26 120 - - -
1st shad April 24 April 27 May 1 May 21
1st day of operation April 4 April 9 May 1 May 20
Susquehanna River fish lifts/ladders
Susquehanna River Fish-Way Operations
There are fish passage facilities (fish-ways) at each of the four Hydroelectric Dams on the lower Susquehanna River. Conowingo, Holtwood and Safe Harbor Dams, the first three moving upriver, have fish lifts or elevators. York Haven Dam, the fourth dam, has a vertical slot fish ladder. Fish lifts work by using water currents to attract the migrating fish into a channel. Crowder gates close to crowd the fish over the hopper bucket, and the bucket is lifted vertically to the level of the reservoir upstream. The water and fish in the bucket are then dumped into an exit trough which leads the fish to the reservoir.

All of the fish-ways were constructed with viewing windows where biologists count the migrating fish. Click here to see a movie clip of gizzard and American shad moving past the viewing window at Conowingo Dam, this is recorded, not live.

Further upstream, the Fabri-Dam at Sunbury is scheduled to have a fish ladder built when state funds become available. Hepburn Street Dam in Williamsport has a ladder in place, which will be upgraded in the near future.

Fish passage operations begin at Conowingo on April 1, or when water temperature reaches 50F. Fish passage operations upstream are triggered by counts of migrating fish at the next dam downstream. Reports of fish-way activity, numbers and species of fish passed are provided by the dam operators to the Fish and Boat Commission on a weekly basis and are updated regularly and reported on this website (see table below). Very high flow events can disrupt normal fish passage schedules and operations, however, by following the weekly updates, observers can get a feel for the beginning, peak and end of the run. Fish-way operations cease around mid-June to coincide with the apparent ending of the run. Declining numbers of fish counted and temperatures increasing to ranges above that of spawning shad trigger the closing of the fish-ways. Dam operators, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission work together to determine fish-way schedules.

Summary of Shad Passages -- Final Counts
YEAR Conowingo Holtwood Safe Harbor York Haven
2013 12,733 2,503 1,927 202
2012 22,143 4,238 3,089 224
2011 20,571 21 8 0
2010 37,757 16,472 12,706 907
2009 29,272 10,896 7,994 402
2008 19,914 2,795 1,252 21
2007 25,464 10,338 7,215 192
2006 56,899 35,968 24,929 1,913
2005 68,853 34,189 24,425 1,772
2004 109,360 3,482 2,109 219
2003 125,135 25,254 16,646 2,536
2002 108,001 17,522 11,705 1,555
2001 193,574 109,976 89,816 16,200
2000 153,546 29,421 21,079 4,675
1999 69,712 34,702 34,150 --
1998 39,904 8,235 6,054 --
1997 90,971 28,063 20,828 --
Conowingo was built in 1991 but didn't pass fish until 1997.
Holtwood and Safe Harbor came online in 1997, York Haven in 2000.
Related topics
Prior year passage reports
2002 2003 2004 2005
2006 2007 2008 2009
2010 2011 2012 2013
Migratory Fish Management and Restoration Plan for the Susquehanna River Basin – SRAFRC
Biologist reports
Shad Index
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