From NOAA Fisheries comes these "fish facts" you may or may not not know about migratory fish. And the collection is interesting and informative for fish lovers and anglers alike. They are as follows:
1. Sea-run fish are also referred to as diadromous, meaning that they spend part of their life in freshwater and another part in saltwater. Diadromous fish are either: Anadromous, spending most of their adult life at sea, but returning to freshwater to spawn, or Catadromous, spending most of their adult life in freshwater, but returning to the sea to spawn.
2. River herring are actually two different species of fish: alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis).
3. To scale through rapids, river herring don’t jump over them like salmon. They swim very fast and in short bursts.
4. Alewives prefer to lay their eggs at night in slow-moving water while blueback herring prefer to spawn over rocks during the day and in fast-moving water.
5. During the 1800s people ate most of the harvested alewives because they preserved well in salt or when smoked. As refrigeration became mainstream in the 20th century, the demand for alewives for human consumption decreased and was replaced by other fish species.
6. Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) can grow to approximately 14 feet long, weigh up to 800 pounds, and live to about 60.
7. Atlantic sturgeon are cartilaginous, meaning their skeleton is mostly cartilage, not bone.
8. Atlantic sturgeon mouths are protrusible. They can be thrust out because their jaws are not really connected by any skeletal structure to their skulls. This allows them to essentially vacuum up prey items located on or in the bottom sediment. Sturgeons also have super muscular stomachs that are strong enough to crush and break up food for digestion. Handy, since they don’t have any teeth!
9. Unlike Pacific salmon that spawn once and die, Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are iteroparous, meaning they don’t die after spawning and can therefore spawn more than once.
10. Depending on the size of the female, Atlantic salmon produce about 2,500 to 7,000 eggs. That’s about 600-800 eggs per pound of body weight! Why does it depend on the female’s size? Typically, larger females produce more eggs.
11. In Norse mythology Loki is a trickster god who tricked Hodr into killing the much-adored Baldur. To escape the wrath of the other Norse gods, Loki transformed into a salmon. Thor foiled Loki’s escape by catching him near his tail. Thor’s grip was so strong it created the salmon’s caudal peduncle, the narrow part of the fish's body where the tail fin attaches to the body.
12. Archaeological evidence seems to confirm what mythology touted -- that salmon have been venerated for tens of thousands of years. The French Abri du Poisson, or “Fish Rock Shelter”, is adorned with a famous prehistoric bas-relief carving of an Atlantic salmon some 25,000 years old. It’s one of the oldest known representations of a fish, the only known sculpture of a fish from the Paleolithic era, and the shelter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
13. Atlantic salmon in a various languages:
o Mi’kmaq (Micmac): Plamu
o English: Atlantic salmon
o Norwegian: Laks, Lax
o Swedish: Lax
o Finnish: Lohi
o Dutch : Zalm
o Danish : Atlantisk laks, Laks, Skaellaks
o Icelandic: Laxa, Lax
o Greenlandic: Kapisillit
o Gaelic/Irish: braddan and bradan
o Ancient Celtic: Iach
o French: saumon atlantique
o German: Echter lachs, Lachs, Las, Salm
o Spanish: Salmón, Salmón del Atlántico
o Portuguese: Salmao, Salmao do atlântico
o Greek: Salomós
o Turkish: Alabalik
o Polish: Losos, Losos szlachetny atlantycki
o Czech: Losos atlantsky
o Russian: Losos
14. American eels (Anguilla rostrata) are catadromous. Their eggs hatch in the Sargasso Sea and the Gulf Stream delivers them to river systems along East Coast of North America. This journey can take up to 12 months. They will grow and mature in rivers until they journey back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. For some this journey can be close to 3000 miles! During their journey they don’t eat and after they spawn, they die.
15. American eels not only absorb oxygen through their gills, but also through their skin! This help them travel over land, particularly in wet grass or mud.
16. During their riverine “yellow phase,” American eels are nocturnal, swimming and feeding at night. They prey on a variety of things like insects, fish, fish eggs, crabs, worms, clams, and frogs. They’ll even eat dead animals. Eels are strong and can move forward and backward quickly and easily. This helps them pull, twist and spin to tear apart large prey.
17. American eels -- like all eels -- have a leptocephalus larval stage where their bodies are long, very thin, and nearly see-through. Some scientists think that leptocephalus larvae mimic gelatinous zooplankton like jellyfish, ctenophores, siphonophores, and salps to escape predation. Why? Many gelatinous zooplankton species have stinging cells for defense and/or little food value. Leptocephalus larvae curl in response to life-threatening situations so they look like noxious gelatinous zooplankton. Mimicry like this could provide leptocephalus larvae a leg up on survival -- a cool ability when more than 99% of marine fish die during their early life stages!
18. Early records indicate that striped bass (Morone saxatilis) were once so plentiful that settlers used them to fertilize crops. But in 1649, the practice was banned by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
19. The striped bass is Maryland's state fish.
20. Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) are anadromous and inhabit inshore waters along the North American Atlantic coast. In winter these waters are frequently ice-covered with temperatures as low as 28°F. Rainbow smelt don’t freeze because they have antifreeze proteins and glycerol -- a kind of alcohol -- in their blood, liver, muscle, and other tissues that prevents freezing.
21. Rainbow smelt are said to smell like freshly cut cucumber.
At their recent meeting, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave final approval to the 2018-19 hunting/trapping seasons, and a lot more.
The first bit of news is that the agency increased the antlerless deer allocation from 804,000 licenses last season, to 838,000 for the upcoming seasons.
Locally, Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 5C remained the same at 70,000. Other local WMU’s include: 5B, 58,000 (57,000); 5D, 28,000 (30,000).
The board also voted to issue 125 elk licenses (26 antlered, 99 antlerless) for the 2018 hunt, whose drawing will be held July 31. Only one application may be submitted each license year.
In other news, the board adopted a split, five-day antlered deer season for 2018-19 (Nov. 26-Nov. 30) and a seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 1-8) in 20 WMU of 1A, 1B, 2A, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5B. The adoption retains the two-week (Nov. 26-Dec. 8) concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer season in WMU’s 2B, 5C and 5D.
Final approval was also given for concurrent antlered and antlerless deer hunting seasons in WMU’s 2B, 5C and 5D during most seasons. The first part of the archery season will also run from Sept. 15 to Nov. 24 in those particular WMUs.
In other actions, the board is now allowing Pennsylvania hunters who hold a senior lifetime hunting license to be exempt from buying a pheasant hunting permit in the 2018-19 license year. Adult hunters will still need to purchase the permit and junior hunters will need a free permit in 2018-19. This requirement became a regulation on May 13, 2017 to make the pheasant propagation program more cost-effective. The annual cost of this program says the PGC, was reduced from about $4.7 million to about $2.3 million due to the permit that generated more than $1.1 million to help offset the propagation costs. The PGC says nearly 43,000 hunters purchased a pheasant permit and about 4,300 of them, were senior lifetime license buyers.
The PGC Board also approved the statewide use of semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel single-projectile ammunition to hunt deer, bear and elk in 2018-19. For elk, the shotgun needs to be 12-gauge or larger.
Historically, the PGC has permitted the use of semi-auto shotguns for deer and bear within the special regulations areas near Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
And lastly, the PGC Board removed the requirement to obtain a baiting permit for private property landowners in southeastern counties. There are, however, bait requirements. Bait used is limited to shelled corn or protein-pellet supplements; bait accumulation must not exceed five gallons at any time; bait only can be used from two weeks before the opening of the first deer season to the close of the last deer season; automatic mechanical feeders must be used; and the feeder must distribute bait during hunting hours, and no more than three times a day.
Prior to this, private landowners in the Southeast Special Regulations Areas had to secure a permit before using bait on their lands. And bait-hunting is often the only way to reduce burgeoning deer herds in those areas that destroy property, cause Lyme disease and costly automobile-deer collisions.
With shad making their way up the Delaware River to spawn, this is the time to hit the river to catch some of these hard fighters with soft mouths. And if you want to win some money at the same time, today’s the deadline to enter this years Bi-State Shad Fishing Contest that gets underway today and closes Sunday, April 29.
According to Eric Fistler, contest organizer, this year’s top prize will be about $15,000. There are also 10 monetary prizes for the heaviest shad and other prizes for youths up to 15, youths between 16-19, Seniors 65-74 and Seniors 75 and up in age.
Since we didn’t have the benefit of receiving the contest press release before the contest, today, April 26, is the last day to register by calling Fistler at 610-762-0440. Registration fees are $40 for adults and $30 for youths ages 15 and under.
For more information check www.shadfishingcontest.com.
SHAD HOTLINE REPORT
The Delaware River Shad Fishermen’s Hotline (610-954-0577) is reporting decent catches of shad, even some roe’s.
The other night, Steve Meserve of the Lewis commercial fishery in Lambertville, netted 5 bucks, two roe, a sucker and 12 gizzard shad. With the Delaware River water temperature finally beginning to rise, shad fishing should turn on.
FISH & BOAT COMMISSION DEPARATELY NEEDS A LICENSE INCREASE
At its recent quarterly business meeting, the Pennsylvania Board of Fish and Boat Commissioners reaffirmed its decision from last fall to reduce spending by $2 million beginning in July if the General Assembly does not act on legislation to raise license fees.
The statement by the Board comes as a fifth newspaper – the Erie Times-News – issued a formal opinion last week supporting the PFBC and calling on legislators to approve an increase in license fees, which haven’t risen in 13 years. The editorial boards of four other newspapers – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2/13), Scranton Times-Tribune (3/20), Lewistown Sentinel (3/23), and Harrisburg Patriot-News (4/12) – have also issued opinions supporting the agency’s request for financial relief.
“We have tried for the last four years to impress upon the General Assembly the need for a license fee increase, but legislation has stalled each time in the House of Representatives,” said Board President Rocco Ali. “We are now at a crisis point and must proceed with the plans to cut costs beginning in July.”
The current plan for achieving the $2 million reduction in operating expenses would involve closing two warmwater hatcheries and one trout hatchery. The plan would reduce the number of trout stocked in 2019 by 7.5 percent and would result in severe reductions to the PFBC’s cooperative nursery program.
“The price of a general fishing license was last raised in 2005,” added PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “Since then, we have continued to provide the same level of services to our customers while seeking an increase from the General Assembly. Just last week, another editorial board came out and said our arguments for an increase are justified. But unless legislators act, we must cut expenses to remain financially solvent.”
Contact your state representatives and urge them to vote an increase if you want Pennsylvania’s most popular trout fishery to be maintained.
Weather permitting, this weekend brings a smorgasbord of hunting and angling opportunities.
Spring gobbler hunting season opens April 28 in Pennsylvania and at the same time, shad have started their spawning run up the Delaware River. And right behind them, striped bass are entering the lower Delaware River and all along the New Jersey shore during their spring spawn run.
But that’s not all. Recently stocked trout streams have become fishable now that water levels have receded after two days of rain. So sportsmen can essentially have foul and fish when going afield and stream. And this week sees portions of Jordan, Little Lehigh, Hokendauqua, Little Bushkill and Switzer creeks stocked.
Local trout action will pick up now that streams came down said Willie Marx at Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon. Marx said Lehigh River trout action was slow due to high, swift water. But he hears a few anglers are picking up a few on minnows and nightcrawlers along the slower edges of the river in Northampton below the dam. Indian Creek has lots of leftover trout per one customer. As for Leaser Lake, it’s still yielding some catch-and-release muskies and panfish, but few trout. One customer reported catching a couple trout where the creek enters the lake at the North launch area. As for Delaware River shad, he had good reports until the rains came last week.
The Delaware River Shad Fishermen’s Shad Hotlines (610-954-0577/0578) echoes Marx’s’ report saying the Delaware River is high, stained and running cold (46 degrees). A few shad, however, are still being caught on large, brightly colored spoons, says the hotline reporter. And Steve Meserve of the Lewis Fishery in Lambertville, hasn’t had much luck in his commercial shad netting operation.
As for stripers, On Water Magazine reports Raritan Bay in new Jersey is hot for stripers right now. Both shore and boat anglers are catching linesiders with some up to 30 pounds, the latter on stretch lures and Mojo’s. Beach guys are luring them to hook on clams, worms, bunker chunks, metal-lipped swimmers and 4-inch shads.
Capt. Phil Sciortino at The Tackle Box in Hazlet, NJ, said from shorts to 30-pound stripers are all over the bay. And everything from bait to plugs to rubber shads are hooking them.
Giglio’s Bait & Tackle in Sea Bright reports the bay is yielding some big fish that are very clean and free of sea lice. And the shop is surprised action is so good with the water being so cold. They report the bass are falling for bone-colored SP Minnows and chartreuse metal-lipped swimmer lures.
Fisherman’s Den in Belmar, NJ., also says the bay is hot for anglers using Mojos and shads. It appears the fish are spreading out from the shallows where bait and plug guys were having fun catching them, but the area is crowded with anglers. They have also received reports of a few small stripers in the Belmar, NJ surf and that the bunker have moved into the back of the Shark River.
If you’re interested in learning some new fishing line-to-lure knots, check “animatedknots.com” and by clicking on the knot, it will show each step in tying it.
And if we ever get temperatures in the high 70’s maybe low 80’s, fishing action should really turn on.
For properly licensed junior hunters, Saturday, April 21 marks the annual youth spring turkey hunt in Pennsylvania. It’s a special opportunity for youth to get a shot at a gobbler before the regular statewide season opens April 28.
And when junior and adult hunters go afield for the spring gobbler season that ends May 31, the prospects of connecting with a long-beard are good according to Mary Jo Casalena, PGC wild turkey biologist.
Said Casalena, “Turkey’s are coming through after a relatively mild winter. And they had a tremendous acorn crop last fall to help them with winter survival. That, plus a light fall harvest – preliminarily estimated at 11,780 – sparked by greater supplies of fall foods and fewer hunters afield, helped kindle increased expectations for the spring hunt.”
Casalena says the forecast for this season has a statewide turkey population of between 210,000 to 220,000 birds, but remains below their peak of 280,000 in 2001. This is still better than a recent low of 192,612 in 2010, with increases in one and two-year age classes.
Last spring, hunters took 38,101 birds in the state’s turkey seasons. And Casalena expects a similar harvest this spring of between 36,000-38,000 turkeys. This is considering that Pennsylvania turkeys are coming off a tough year in which spring and summer rains in 2017 hampered poult survival in some areas of the state. But they were helped, said Casalena, by recent mild winters.
Last spring, the PGC says 5,049 turkeys were taken with a second spring gobbler license. This was from 20,529 hunters who purchased second gobbler licenses.
The PGC reminds hunters that the second spring gobbler license is only on sale prior to the start of the season. Once April 28 comes, it’s too late to purchase one.
Here are a few reminders from the PGC regarding the spring turkey season:
*Hunting hours from April 28 through May 12 are one-half hour before sunrise and ends at noon for the first two weeks.
*Hunting hours from May 14 through May 31 are from one-half hour before sunrise until one half hour after sunset.
*Only bearded birds may be taken and hunting is permitted by calling only – stalking is unlawful and unsafe.
*Hunting blinds must be manufactured with manmade materials and block movement from an observer outside the blind. It’s unlawful to use blinds made of natural materials such as logs, tree branches and piled rocks.
*Blinds that represent the fanned tail of a gobbler are unlawful to use in Pennsylvania.
*Fluorescent orange is recommended to be worn when moving.
*Successful hunters must immediately and properly tag the bird before moving it from the site. And the harvest must be reported within 10 days, while mentored youth and mentored adult hunters must file their report within five days.
With the mild winter we had, deer ticks are going to be plentiful. So spray with a tick repellent before going afield. But in the event you do pick one up, Tick Key Products and Mossy Oak have partnered in selling a pear shaped key that the makers claim to be 99.9 percent effective in removing ticks. They retail for $9.99 and may be ordered by going to www.tickkey.com.
TURKEY PHOTO CONTEST
The PGC is again sponsoring their second annual Turkey Harvest Photo contest for hunters who submit a photo of themselves with their 2018 bird and pertinent information. Winners will win one of two personalized engraved box calls for adult and youth hunters. Winners will be selected by voters on the PGCs Facebook page. The photo and details may be sent online to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the winners announced on Monday, June 4.
Saturday’s regional trout opener was either feast of famine for some anglers.
A friend and his son from Northampton fished the Hokey Creek in the borough and got skunked. A first for them in many trout openers.
Same story at Leaser Lake. After interviewing a half dozen anglers around the lake on the opener, not one caught a trout, and that included a few of the nine boats and one kayak on the lake at that time. The general consensus there varied from the muskies ate all the stocked trout, to the water was too cold, to the recent rain pushed food from the feeder creek into the lake so the trout weren’t hungry. But the main reason voiced by many was that the water was too cold.
If you're going up to Leaser or fishing the upper Jordan Creek and need bait, Bob's Taxidermy on Kernsville Road, a block west of Route 309, offers all the favored trout baits live and artificials.
A couple veteran anglers thought the Mentored Youth Day took out a lot of trout, even though each youngster was only allowed to keep two fish.
Stopping by the Coplay Creek in Egypt, the fishing was slow and one angler said a guy caught a 23-inch palomino that was one of two that was stocked in a particular stretch of the creek. The other was supposedly pulled out during the youth fishing day.
According to Willie Marx, owner of Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, the Lehigh River produced some sizable 20-inch trout on minnows and night crawlers. Portions of the river were stocked with rainbow and brown trout by the Lehigh River Stocking Association during the morning of the opener.
And while this was all going on, dedicated shad fishermen were finessing shad from the Delaware River. Willie said one customer said he caught six buck shad down around Lambertville. The Delaware River Shad Fishermen’s Hotline reports that despite 48-degree water temperature, shad have been caught from Lambertville upriver to Easton. Some boat anglers have been taking 10-20 shad per outing.
If you’re a striper fisherman, good news. They’re making their way up into the Delaware River during their annual spawning run. Here’s a southern report from Brinkman’s Bait & Tackle in Philadelphia.
“The striper run seems to be all happening down river. From the airport south there have been plenty of 12-20-inch fish being caught with bloodworms. I have only known of a couple fish so far picked up with bunker and clams. I was up to Bristol early in the week to watch a fisherman land two 15-inch fish and then I sent a friend up the next day and he caught two 12 and 17-inch bass. All caught with bloodworms. At the art museum they started to catch a few smaller stripers on shad bodies mixed in with some nice walleyes. Paul has been doing well on smaller stripers in the Delaware section of the river. Several guys back from Salem caught 10-20 fish with a mix of small stripers, white perch and channel catfish.
We’ll have a more in-depth striper report next week.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.