Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Pennsylvania
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Pennsylvania Project

Linking fish health, contaminants, and population dynamics of smallmouth bass populations in the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania

May 2013 - April 2017


Participating Agencies

  • USGS Priority Ecosystem Science
  • RK Mellon Freshwater Research Initiative
  • PA Sea Grant

Since 2005, diseased smallmouth bass have been detected throughout the Susquehanna River and its tributaries raising concern regarding the overall health of smallmouth bass and the Susquehanna River basin. In a collaborative effort with Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, PA Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Geological Survey, and Penn State University, this project aims to investigate a wide-range of variables (i.e., fish health analysis, contaminants, population modeling, radiotelemetry, etc.) to gain a better understanding of factors that could relate to disease in smallmouth bass. Preliminary and initial sampling began during Spring/Summer 2013. For fish health analysis, adult fish were collected during pre-spawn conditions at 6 sites within the Susquehanna River basin to investigate variables that could potentially influence offspring health (i.e., gonad condition, contaminant load, etc.). Following adult collection, benthic invertebrates (particularly aquatic worms) were collected for detection of parasites that could infect young of the year smallmouth bass. Sampling was concluded with collections of young of the year smallmouth bass for fish health analysis. Research will now focus on processing samples collected and identifying focal points for future research needs with fish health emphasis on the young of the year smallmouth bass.