Fisheries Management

Editor’s Note: Bill Bartlett is a very dedicated fisherman and conservationist. Some years ago, he helped rid St. Mary’s County of the bank traps that were killing otters, terrapins, cormorants, and other air breathing animals as a most unnecessary by-catch.

He is a most welcome contributor to our publication. As supporters of Chesapeake conservation you are welcome to express your views as well.)

A next good step in fisheries management is to move inshore to the rivers, streams and creeks. There should be some history of them either from records or ask some of the old timers. What we are looking for is what anadromous fish use the river today and what is the past history. Most likely it will be found that the fish are not there like they used to be. Maybe a count is needed to determine what is there today for the record. Next is to figure out why the loss. Are the fish being caught in the ocean? If they are then we need to correct that. Are they being caught in the streams as they move up to the spawning grounds? Are they blocked from returning to spawn? Where and how are they blocked? Is it a small thing in shallow water that can be removed? Is it a dam that needs to be removed? Are these fish being caught during their spawning run? This of course means commercial and recreational.

Who is going to do all this? If the private landowner so chooses they can remove fallen trees or rocks that block the fishes passage. If it is a dam then that will require the help of some agency to do the work or contract it out. If the situation is just a lack of fish then maybe we need some jump starts by having fish hatcheries to supply what they can. There could be fish ladders built so the fish can get around dams. These projects can all start with the local community, to the local government, to the state and then to the federal government.

Once it is determined that there are some fish returning of the known past history, then we watch for spawning. With spawning occurring we then need to know that the eggs are viable. If there is a problem then we need to test the water for contaminates that cause a fish die off.

I know some of you are saying that this is nothing new. And I know that we are doing it to some degree. The last check I had on dams was that there were 76,000 in the US alone. How many are blocking spring fish runs from the salt water to the fresh water? I know from some of you, you will want to hear this. Are we, and even can we keep up with the pollution that keeps coming more and more from impervious surfaces and all the oils, chemicals and excess nutrients that are invading our waterways? I don?t know that. We have more and more of things entering the water that make it so fish can?t thrive. We even have some drugs that we take as prescriptions that are producing malformed fish; fish that are both male and female.

As we continue to multiply (humans and in some cases animals: chickens, pigs and cattle) we are dumping more and more waste into the water. The sewage treatment plants seem to do a good job of removing some of the bad stuff but things like nitrogen and phosphorous are not removed enough at the present time and support the exponential growth of algae that goes through a process that causes dead zones in our rivers and bays.

Some of the species of anadromous fish are filter feeders like the river herring (blueback herring and alewives), American and hickory shad, which convert algae to fish flesh that we eat.

Other popular fish in my region are the yellow perch and the white perch. But the most important and most popular fish in my region is the striped bass, otherwise known here as rockfish. Leave them alone when they head up the rivers to spawn.

You may be saying right now how simple it all sounds or we are never going to get a handle on everything that we need to. At the present time we are evidently not doing the things we need to do and we are not keeping up with all the pollution. Will we ever? I guess that is the big question.

Bill Bartlett

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