A recently released biologist report from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission indicates an increase in the number and range of fish present in the Monongahela River.
The report is based on a study done at the Braddock, Maxwell and Grays Landing locks and dams in 2010.
In the recent past, the Monongahela River was wrecked by industrial waste and pollution. The trend toward improvement began in the 1970’s and has, for the most part, continued until today.
Perhaps most remarkable has been the continuing appearance of threatened fish like the endangered ghost shiner and pollution intolerant species like the smallmouth redhorse.
The largest number of fish and widest range of species were found at Grays Landing, near Masontown, Pennsylvania. (Google map.)
While freshwater drum (sheepshead), carp and channel catfish continue to be increasingly prevalent throughout the river, I found the appearance of numerous flathead catfish and longnose gar at Grays Landing particularly notable.
Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, sauger and striped-white bass hybrids (whipers) were found throughout the waterway. Numbers of spotted bass are apparently also appearing with frequency. During the 2003 survey, not a single spotted bass was found at any of the sample sites. This time around, a total of 247 spotted bass was found spread throughout the three lockchambers.
Massive increases in the number of baitfish found each site indicates that the forage base has greatly improved throughout the Mon. This has surely contributed to the apparent boom in fish populations.
But all is not well. The decades of continued improvement in the fishery may come to an end at any minute, as waste is once again being dumped into the river at alarming rates. Bromide levels continue to rise in the Mon and tests done at the drinking water authority Fredericktown in the last few years reportedly showed high levels of harmful trihalomethanes. It remains to be seen what conditions in the Monongahela River will be like in the future.
You can read the Monongahela River Biological Monitoring Study report online at: http://www.fish.state.pa.us/images/reports/2011bio/8x04_01mon.htm