Left to its own dynamics, the Allegheny River still might be a great fishery, but only through management does it become what we want it to be. It is not that Mother Nature can not take care of things. The problem is that other things caused by mankind are working on the river, often not for the better, especially decades past.
Here in Warren County we do not see the worst that civilization has done, and to a lesser extent still is doing, to spoil the Allegheny River. Problems increase moving downstream. However it is improvements in water quality which are driving the need for an updated management plan for the river.
A Three Rivers Management Plan is currently in the public comment stage. The Three Rivers consists of the Allegheny River, Monongahela River, and the Ohio River, the latter which is formed by the joining of the first two at Pittsburgh. Comments will be accepted until April 30.
This is one of three proposed management plans for the three main river systems in Pennsylvania, along with the Susquehanna River and the Delaware River.
The proposed Three Rivers Management Plan addresses identified and ongoing needs, and attainable goals. It is designed to increase public awareness of the rivers system, and to stimulate involvement in management. Hopefully it will bring together a group that will include various stakeholders including state agencies, federal agencies, academic institutions, conservation groups, anglers, and other concerned citizens.
Management will deal with fish passage, water quality, fish health, commercial dredging, degraded habitats, and invasive species such as the threat of Asian carp moving into Pennsylvania. Research is hoped to include scientists from academic institutions and other government agencies.
Dealing with the threat of invasion by Asian carp is right at the top of listed priorities. Other top priorities to be implemented within a year of the management plan include fish health, the Fish Consumption Advisory Program, expansion of surveys of popular sport fishes, and special regulations.
Proposed management actions concentrate on the more popular sport fish, walleye and smallmouth bass. Top priorities, management actions that would be initiated within two years, include continued study of walleye, smallmouth bass, and sauger using sited that have been used for this kind of survey over the past several years, plus the establishment of more sites. Channel catfish and flathead catfish will be studied as both species have been increasing in abundance and in popularity among anglers since water quality has improved. Special regulations in the section from the Kinzua Dam to the mouth of Conewango Creek for trout will be continued.
At the second priority level, meaning initiation within three years, will be determining the extent and degree of natural reproduction for muskellunge in the Upper Allegheny River.
Third priorities, which will be initiated within four years, include an evaluation of the trout program in the special regulations section, including angler use. Surveys of angler use and opinions in general will be initiated. Stock assessment reports for walleye, sauger, and smallmouth bass would be prepared. Angler studies have already been done at the Susquehanna River and the Juniata River.
Walleye stocking was discontinued in the Allegheny River in 2007, and biologists suspect that natural reproduction us sufficient to support the fishery. However, there is still concern than natural reproduction might not support the high quality fishery anglers have enjoyed in the Middle Allegheny over the past few decades.
Doubtless this issue is of the highest priority to anglers in Warren County, as well as Forest County and Venango County.
Anglers have had a ready supply of comments and complaints about fishing in the Allegheny River. With the request for public comments on the management plans for our major river systems, anglers have the perfect opportunity for their comments to be heard, and to mean something.