Sunday, June 24, 2012

Best Fish Populations On The Three Rivers Identified

By Bob Frye Pittsburgh Tribune Review

When the world’s top bass fishing pros descended on Pittsburgh for the Bassmaster Classic and Forrest Wood Cup, they spent a lot of time trying to figure out where the best fishing was located. Now, that information is at hand.

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologists have, for the past 25 years, been sampling fish populations in the tailwaters below the various locks and dams on Pittsburgh’s three rivers. There’s been a special emphasis on the “big three:” smallmouth bass, walleye and sauger. This year, the commission took the data it collected over the past year and put together a list of hot spots.

If you want to target smallmouth bass, for example, three rivers biologist Bob Ventorini recommends the areas below Dashields dam on the Ohio River, the Grays Landing dam on the Monongahela and lock 2 near Highland Park on the Allegheny. Those sites had the highest abundance of bass on each river.

Of those, Grays Landing looks really good, he said in a report of his findings.
“The catch rate of legal (12 inches or larger) smallmouth bass at Grays Landing was remarkable, one of the highest catch rates on record for legal-sized smallmouth bass on the Three Rivers,” Ventorini wrote.

If you want to target walleyes, he recommends the areas below the Dashields and Emsworth dams on the Ohio. It was at Emsworth where biologists handled the biggest walleye caught in their surveys, a 31-inch, 10-pound, 5-ounce bruiser. That area also gave up about twice as many legal walleyes per hour as is called for in a quality fishery, according to the commission’s walleye management plan.

For sauger, all of the rivers are equally good, Ventorini wrote, though the Monongahela has been the most productive in the entire state over the past 25 years. There are other species besides the big three swimming in Pittsburgh’s rivers, of course, and biologists collect some — freshwater drum, rock bass and white bass — in abundance. For that reason, and because they can provide lots of recreation, Ventorini also identified hot spots for those.

The Emsworth pool on the Ohio and Elizabeth pool on the Monongahela are loaded with freshwater drum, he said. He recommended anglers use crayfish to catch them. The Elizabeth pool is a good place to target rock bass, he added, and the Dashields pool is good for white bass.

Next year, biologists plan to sample some new sites — the Montgomery lock on the Ohio, the Charleroi lock on the Monongahela and the Natrona lock on the Allegheny.
Will those reveal some new hot spots? It will be interesting to see.

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