CONSERVATION AT WORK
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is committed to protecting and conserving PA's natural resources. Check out some of our latest projects to protect our waterways and wildlife.
TIMBER RATTLESNAKE MANAGEMENT
PFBC biologists study Timber Rattlesnakes in Pennsylvania, searching for these snakes in places they've been found and tagged dating back to the 1990s and early 2000s. They capture and quickly assess snakes to look for major injuries or snake fungal disease, measure the snake and count the subcaudal scales to identify its sex. If it’s a female, they also check to see if she is pregnant or recently had a litter.
As the agency with jurisdiction over reptiles and amphibians in Pennsylvania, the PFBC sets regulations to manage native species. Timber Rattlesnakes are among the Commission's most managed non-game species. Read more.
BEFORE AND AFTER ON SCHWABEN CREEK
Why do we install stream habitat structures?
Here’s a great before and after to show improvements on Schwaben Creek, Northumberland County. The before photo taken in February 2022 shows a 5-foot-high eroding stream bank. A modified mud sill was placed in June 2022, and the after photo was taken in November 2022.
The modified mud sill provides overhead cover habitat in pools and stabilizes the stream bank to prevent sediment erosion. The larger sloped bank catches excess phosphorous and nitrogen, which is important to water quality and stream health.
Staff built 31 PFBC habitat improvement devices over 1,900 feet on this project located within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Partnerships to complete this project included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Northumberland County Conservation District, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy.
WOOD TURTLE CONSERVATION
PFBC biologists have been working since 2012 to learn more about the wood turtle population in Pennsylvania. They conduct regular population assessments to gather data and populate a regional database that helps scientists track the trends across the wood turtle’s range.
To track wood turtle locations and populations, the PFBC surveys portions of streams in the spring. Staff and partners walk the stream beds and floodplains to find turtles. Once they find a turtle, they capture it to perform a basic assessment. Scientists visually inspect, weigh, measure and photograph the turtle. They also mark the turtle to help identify it in future surveys. Read more.
PYMATUNING RESERVOIR FISH HABITAT STRUCTURES
PFBC staff and volunteers placed 50 short vertical plank structures and 100 porcupine crib juniors in Pymatuning Reservoir on May 17. These structures provide cover for aquatic animals and help create micro food webs that attract large gamefish.
Tip of the cap to our partners: Pymatuning Lake Association, Jamestown Area School District, Conneaut Lake Middle School, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Crawford County Conservation District, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Venango Conservation District.
PLACING ROCK STRUCTURES AT GLENDALE LAKE
PFBC crews used heavy equipment and the Commission's rock barge, which can haul up to 20 tons, to place rock structures along remote shorelines at Glendale Lake, Cambria County. These rock structures protect shorelines from further erosion and create additional habitat for various fish species.
The PFBC is partnering with DCNR Prince Gallitzin State Park and the Cambria County Conservation District on this large-scale fish habitat project.
ROCK CROSS VANE AT PLUNKETTS CREEK
Structures like rock cross vanes help establish pool habitats for the fishery. Plunketts Creek, Lycoming County, is a naturally reproducing trout stream, and this section runs completely dry during long periods of dry weather during the summer months. Modified mud sills, log-framed deflectors and rock vanes were also installed in the stream channel to provide over-head cover and run habitat.
The PFBC partnered with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Lycoming County Conservation District to install these structures on Plunketts Creek in 2021 and 2022. The project aims to improve stream habitat, stabilize eroding banks, restore the riparian buffer and reconnect the flood plain on 3,000 feet of stream frontage owned by PGC.
Crews also removed a levee to restore flood plain connectivity and establish a riparian buffer of trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Flood plain connectivity is important for flood stage water to have an area to distribute a large amount of water. The act of distributing flood stage water on the flood plain lessens its velocity and erosive forces in a natural way.
The final construction phase will be completed in 2023. PGC worked with the DEP and Army Corps to obtain permits for restoring Plunketts Creek.
FLEXING OUR "MUSSELS" - STOCKING PENNSYLVANIA-RAISED MUSSELS
In some western Pennsylvania waterways, mussels have endured more than a century of environmental destruction.
In 2017, the PFBC came to their rescue, and this year brought mussel reinforcements to Dunkard Creek in Greene County on the PA/WV border.
The Commission grew the mussels in the Union City Aquatic Conservation Center (UC ACC), which was converted from a State Fish Hatchery and retrofitted with mussel propagation systems with funds from a 2009 fish and mussel kill settlement.
In October, Commission staff, with the help of DEP, gave just under 500 juvenile Plain Pocketbook and Fatmucket Mussels a new home in Dunkard Creek. And over the next year, the Commission will grow and stock another 40,000+ mussels to invigorate mussel populations and improve waterways across the state.
PFBC anticipates future stockings of greater numbers of mussels, more species and working toward eventual recovery of state endangered and threatened species.
Below is an estimate number of each mussel species raised at the UC ACC.
|SPECIES||JUVENILE <2mm||JUVENILE 2-15mmm||JUVENILE >15mm||TOTAL|
Close-ups of Plain Pocketbook and Fatmucket Mussels raised by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Group photo of staff from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission,
Department of Environmental Protection and volunteers.
SPRUCE CREEK HABITAT PROJECT
The PFBC and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy partnered to improve stream habitat, stabilize eroding banks and restore the riparian buffer on Spruce Creek, Huntingdon County.
The PFBC owns approximately 800 feet of stream frontage on Spruce Creek. The acquired property previously consisted of a parking lot, three house buildings and concrete wall structures. This section of Spruce Creek lacked in-stream habitat due to too much sedimentation and an over-widened and shallow channel.
Crews installed log cross vanes and log-framed deflectors to provide run and pool habitats, overhead cover and bank stabilization. The riparian zone was restored from the previous hard surface parking lot and buildings to 115 trees and shrubs and a wildflower pollinator garden.
PFBC Voluntary Wild Trout Permit and DEP Growing Greener funds were used for this project. Additional partners included Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Little Juniata River Association.
THREE RIVERS BLUE CATFISH RESTORATION PLAN
Efforts to restore Blue Catfish to the Ohio River basin in Pennsylvania are underway.
The Tionesta State Fish Hatchery received eggs in the summer to become the first hatchery in Pennsylvania to raise Blue Catfish. PFBC staff stocked 40,000 Blue Catfish fingerlings in the Ohio River in October, and additional stockings will occur each fall from 2023 to 2026.
The Three Rivers Blue Catfish Restoration Plan
aims to establish a self-sustaining, naturally reproducing population of Blue Catfish in the Ohio, Monongahela and lower Allegheny rivers. Blue Catfish are native to the Three Rivers but were eliminated from Pennsylvania in the early 1900s due to pollution and habitat alteration.
Blue Catfish will only be stocked in the Three Rivers. They are not native to the Atlantic Slope basins in Pennsylvania, including the Delaware, Potomac and Susquehanna rivers and Lake Erie, and are considered highly invasive outside of their native range.
LITTLE PINE CREEK HABITAT IMPROVEMENTS
This section of Little Pine Creek, Lycoming County, has severely eroding stream banks that measure 16-18 feet tall by 300 feet in length. It's over-widened, void of natural habitat, and susceptible to further erosion that would send large amounts of sediment into the downstream reservoir.
In partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, the PFBC Stream Habitat Section placed logs, root wads, down trees, stone, and boulders to help restore this section of Little Pine. The vertically eroding bank was stabilized using a saw-tooth modified mud sill, and the bank was graded to a 3:1 slope. At the base of the saw-tooth modified mud sill, a willow brush revetment, also referred to as live staking, was buried in. The willow cuttings have the ability to grow into new trees for additional stabilization. In total, the structure reclaimed 20 feet of lost eroded stream bank and stabilized a length of 300 feet.
The before picture shows the vertically eroding wall. The during photos show the saw-tooth modified mud sill and the willow brush revetment. The saw-tooth modified mud sill will provide overhead cover habitat for fish species and basking areas for reptiles and amphibians, as well as stabilize the eroding stream bank. The remediation shown in the after photo is a 3:1 sloped bank that was seeded with a riparian buffer wildlife mix and covered in straw mulch.
RAYSTOWN LAKE HABITAT PROJECT
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Friends of Raystown Lake, PA Lake Management Society (PALMS), and the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership (RFHP) to improve recreational opportunities at the popular lake in Huntingdon County.
PFBC staff installed sawtooth deflectors to create a wind and wave break wall that will help improve a highly eroded shoreline. These rock deflectors will provide habitat for various fish species and improve macroinvertebrate colonization. Anglers will be able to target this area as a fishing hot spot for bass, walleye, panfish, and other species that will utilize the rock habitat throughout the year.
The structures will also improve water quality by reducing sediment and nutrients entering the watershed and allow a natural riparian buffer to reestablish on the lake shore behind the rock.
This project was funded by a $24,000 grant from PALMS.
Additional habitat projects are scheduled for September and 2023. Projects like these would not be possible without conservation-minded partners like Friends of Raystown Lake, Raystown Lake, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, PA Lake Management Society, and National Fish Habitat Partnership.
Figure 1. A PFBC habitat barge installs sawtooth deflectors at Raystown Lake, Huntingdon County.
Figure 2. Sawtooth deflectors protect shorelines from wave action and will allow native wetland and upland plants to reestablish the buffer area along the shore.
STREAM HABITAT WORK ON SPRING CREEK
The PFBC's Stream Habitat Section is working to restore a section of Spring Creek, Centre County, near the Shiloh Road access.
The before photo shows an over-widened section of Spring Creek and vertically eroding stream bank along the access road and biking trail. The erosion has resulted in lost fish habitat and increased sedimentation.
The after photo shows the installation of PFBC-designed log-framed deflectors. The deflectors will provide cover habitat for fish and basking areas for reptiles and amphibians, as well as stabilize the eroding stream bank and biking trail. The deflectors also immediately narrow the over-widened channel, which will help establish stream flows that allow natural stream transport of sediment to prevent deposition to the stream bottom. The deflectors were planted with a wildlife pollinator mix and covered in straw mulch.
The PFBC partnered with the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited to conduct the project, which is being funded by PFBC Voluntary Wild Trout and Enhanced Waters Permit and DEP Growing Greener. All of the work performed was approved and permitted by PFBC and Department of Environmental Protection.
COLLECTING EASTERN LAMPMUSSELS
PFBC biologists recently collected some Eastern Lampmussels while sampling the West Branch Susquehanna River near Williamsport. Eastern Lampmussels are a rare species in the Susquehanna River watershed with limited distribution.
Mussels are indicators of water quality and can inform us if something is wrong long before other species can. If you like fishing or boating in Pennsylvania's streams, rivers, and lakes, then you like freshwater mussels!
MINSI LAKE TURTLE BASKING PLATFORMS
Minsi Lake in Northampton County got some new turtle basking platforms and porcupine cribs, thanks to help from the Northampton County Junior Conservation School and Friends of Minsi Lake.
Water turtles use these platforms to bask in the sun, which helps them stay clean and healthy.
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