Celebrated as one of the nation's best trout fisheries, the Upper Delaware is also well known by anglers for a variety of other fish. An overview of the Delaware River's overall fish population was heard at the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) session, August 1st in Narrowsburg.
Jerre Mohler, Delaware River Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, presented graphs developed by various studies. Trends must be used rather than actual fish counts due to limitations of federal funding.
Among points raised:
• The Delaware was once known as the king of American Sturgeon. A big decline has been seen in the lower Delaware since 1991. Frequent collision with large ships in the lower Delaware have contributed to their mortality. Although listed as a federally endangered species (except in the Gulf of Maine where it is "threatened"), there is hope the species may be rebounding.
• Striped Bass was overfished and led to a moratorium in 1987. Restocking followed and now they are in abundance. A Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission survey for 1996-2012 shows the species is holding its own.
• Even though Striped bass do appear to influence the number of American shad, shad are still showing an uptick in their numbers in the Delaware as being monitored by the Delaware River Fish & Wildlife Mgt. Co-op. There have been very low commercial landings of American Shad in recent years, as commercial anglers target the larger and more profitable Stripers.
• Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout are abundant on the West Branch. There are about 75 miles of good Trout fishing on the Upper Delaware. Trout, 15 to 18 inches long are common, and over 20 inches are not unusual. Most of the stocking involves Brown Trout. Mohler stated that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) does a Trout electro-fishing survey annually on the West Branch. The further you go upstream, the number and weight of the fish increase.
Trout thrive in cold water. This point has been raised repeatedly at UDC meetings over the years, concerned that enough water be released from New York City reservoirs in the summer to spare the fish and angling industry.
Andy Boyer, UDC's Town of Highland representative, suggested that an additional Trout tagging be done at Callicoon, where cold water reaches its limit. Mohler said that given the lack of federal or state funding, a university may be a good source to seek funds for a graduate student to do the research.
• Walleye, although not native on the Upper Delaware, are a popular catch and one of the best to eat, he said.
• Small Mouth Bass are also popular; this species is also introduced and not a native. Small Mouth Bass population is holding its own.
• Muskellunge was also introduced to the Delaware, which can be bad news for Trout and Shad, he said. The fish is popular among anglers at Lackawaxen, Andy Boyer, UDC's Town of Highland representative, added.
Page 2 of 2 - • Eels have not been significantly impacted by water withdrawals from industrial water users in the Estuary. The eel population is in decline coast-wide but appears to be healthy and holding its own in the Delaware.
• Fish species in general have suffered great losses in the estuary where they become impinged on screens at power plants or other facilities. As many as 616 million die a year in this way, an economic loss of $25 million to $50 million, he said.
Town of Hancock representative Fred Peckham remarked that the loss may be more meaningful if we could compare it to the total fish population.
The UDC meets on the first Thursday at 7 p.m. at 211 Bridge St., Narrowsburg, NY. The office may be reached at (845)252-1322.
Editor's note: This is a second version, correcting earlier items about the American shad and American eel.