In the last week of June, staff at the Mountain Watershed Association were able to slide into their hip waders to join Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) in some fish shocking.
Fish shocking, also recognized as electrofishing, is an environmental survey performed in aquatic habitats. These surveys inventory fish, monitor water quality and assess the habitat. Information from these surveys can be utilized for watershed management decisions.
Fish shocking is performed first by studying water quality for factors like conductivity, in order to determine the appropriate charge to deliver without permanently harming aquatic life. In action, a sampler carries equipment with a wand that sends an electronic shock in a small radius of water that temperately stuns aquatic life, causing them to float to the surface. You then collect the fish using a net to be counted and measured.
Over three days, the crew surveyed around 20 previously unassessed tributaries in the Youghiogheny River watershed areas of Dunbar, Ohiopyle, and Mill Run. . For the majority of those days, fish species were sparse. This was totally shocking to Eric Chapman, Director of Aquatic Science at WPC, who quoted the trip as being the only time in his 15+ year career not to find a single fish all day. While we are still waiting on WPC’s report for results, there are many reasons for this lack of findings. It may be attributed to water quality, the size of the tributary, impassable barriers, or location.
We then traveled to Bear Run where a known population of naturally reproducing trout and other fish populations could be monitored. In Bear Run, we found populations of Pennsylvania’s state fish, the brook trout, and other species including brown trout and black-nosed dace.
The journey to each waterway was a beautiful hike. We look forward to reviewing these findings in order to continue developing a clearer depiction of our watershed. This report will be shared in development with the Youghiogheny River Conservation Plan.