The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 29, 2013

Ken Maurer's Outdoors column: River is changing

By Ken Maurer
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — The river has been different so far this year. The main difference is there has been more water in it than usual, especially for July. The intense heat of a week ago warmed the water temperature to the usual summertime 80s, but there was a much stronger flow than usual, which probably helped with water quality conditions.

Smallmouth bass seem to being doing well. I and others have noticed an increase in the number of smaller fish both last year and to a greater degree this year. A biologist once told me that smallmouth have the capability of bouncing back rather quickly and perhaps we are seeing signs of this. I’m seeing more smallmouth in the 6- to 10-inch range and in the 10- to 15-inch range, possibly a sign of two good year age classes of fish coming on.

At the other end of the spectrum, the larger fish seem to be doing well, also. A couple of 5-pound fish and a good number of 4-pound fish have visited my boat this year. The October bite should be out of sight this year if the river doesn’t go haywire with high water.

I still get asked about the black spot thing. The black spots on bass pretty much disappear when the water warms up. It will reappear in late September and October when the water cools again. The river biologists are well aware of the situation. It seems there is nothing that can be immediately done about it, but it is being studied. The other thing about black spots is that it is not unique to this river. It occurs to some degree from the Great Lakes to Florida.

Another difference this year, pertaining to July, is that at the moment, bass are not as hard to catch as they have been the past few Julys. The past few years it has been difficult at times to catch smallmouths in July and August. The bite might well slow down as the water levels drop, temperatures rise and the clarity increases.

A strong flow seems to make the fishing for everything better. The river changes from day to day, and I have been out there one day and caught them quite well, then the next day you struggle to get bit.

It would be nice if we would keep getting some rain, especially upstream. It has been a long time since we’ve had a decent flow throughout the summer. Even with a decent flow, water temperatures in the 80s are going to happen and there is no fix for that in a river this size that I know of. Survival of the fittest is at work here, and only the fish that can survive these conditions will be around to reproduce.

I haven’t seen anything official yet, or maybe I missed it, but I have heard that they are going to reinstitute the stocking of walleye fry. Most of the stocking will take place in the lower reaches of the main river, but they expect those same walleyes to show up around the fabridam. A walleye can make it to the legal length of 15 inches in its second year, so we’ll see what happens. There must have been a tremendous natural hatch three or four years ago because last fall we caught a lot of nice, healthy looking walleyes in the 17- to 19-inch range. There was also a week or two where we caught a lot of walleyes in the low to mid 20-inch range, obviously a class of fish a year or two older than the others.

All of that was inspite of very low walleye young of the year numbers found by river biologists. Walleye fry stocking ceased from 2007 to 2012 to see if the walleyes could sustain their population naturally. I have a feeling we are going to see more big walleyes this fall.

The river is looking good and you almost can’t help but see bald eagles, so get out there and get a bend in your rod.

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