Youghiogheny River From Confluence, Pa to Indian Creek Fayette and Somerset Counties

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1 Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Biologist Report Youghiogheny River From Confluence, Pa to Indian Creek Fayette and Somerset Counties August 2012 Electrofishing Survey Originating in the mountains of northern West Virginia, the Youghiogheny River flows north for 134 miles to its junction with the Monongahela River in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, the Yough as it is known, flows approximately 74 miles from the outflow of the Youghiogheny River Lake dam near Confluence to its mouth. In the vicinity of Ohiopyle State Park, the Yough traverses through some of the most rugged and scenic areas in the state. The river is popular with anglers and whitewater enthusiasts alike. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) manages the river in six sections, river characteristics and biota tend to be similar within each managed section. For this survey, Sections 02, 03, and 04 were surveyed using daytime boat electrofishing. This section of river is more difficult to sample fish than most others for a variety of reasons. One site was surveyed in each of the three sections. The purpose of the survey was to evaluate the results of fingerling stocking of brown and rainbow trout, which were stocked in Sections 02 to 05 of the river, as well as to assess the river s other resident gamefish populations particularly smallmouth bass. Due to the bottom release from the Youghiogheny River Lake dam, a coldwater fishery is available year round in portions of the river. Section 02 of the Yough begins at the junction of the Casselman River and continues downstream to the mouth of Ramcat Run (1.3 miles). Much of this section consists of long, flat pools and gentle riffles. During our survey, the influence of the Casselman River was quite apparent, as water clarity was lower and temperatures were higher on the right descending bank of the river, below the mouth of the Casselman. Consequently, the trout that were captured were limited to the middle and left descending side of the river. Table 1 summarizes the gamefish and panfish species captured during electrofishing in Section 02. Table 1. Length and frequency distribution of sampled fish in Section 02. Species Number caught Size range (inches) Smallmouth bass Rock bass 1 2 Rainbow trout Hatchery Adult stocked Rainbow trout Fingerling stocked Catches of smallmouth bass have dramatically improved in Section 02 of the Youghiogheny River. The previous survey in 1994 documented a catch rate of around 7 fish/hr with no fish over 15. In 2012 almost 35 fish/hr were captured with 5 fish/hr over 15. Bass were aged using scales and fish from age 0 9 were captured in Section 02. Overall growth of bass was slow due to the coldwater influence of the reservoir bottom release. On average it takes 6 years for a bass in Section 02 to reach the legal length of 12. The statewide average for smallmouth bass to reach legal length is 5 years.

2 Figure 1. Comparison of smallmouth bass catches in Section 02 in 2012 and Few rainbow trout were captured in Section 02 in both 1994 (1 trout) and 2012 (4 trout). Gear and habitat limitations restrict the areas that can be effectively surveyed in Section 02. The best habitat in the pool that was sampled was generally on the Casselman River side, where water temperatures were not suitable for trout. Only a portion of the shallow but colder water on the Yough tailrace side of the pool was able to be sampled using our electrofishing raft. Electrofishing raft provided by PA DEP used to sample the Youghiogheny River in Section 03 of the Youghiogheny River begins at the mouth of Ramcat Run and continues downstream to the SR 381 bridge in Ohiopyle (9.2 miles). This section contains a mix of pools, rapids, and runs and is a popular float with anglers and kayakers. Table 2 below summarizes the gamefish and panfish species captured during electrofishing in Section 03.

3 Table 2. Length and frequency distribution of sampled fish in Section 03. Species Number caught Size range (inches) Smallmouth bass Rainbow trout Fingerling stocked Brown trout Fingerling stocked Mixing of the waters of the Casselman and Youghiogheny Rivers likely occurs in the Ramcat Riffle which is just downstream of the launch area near the mouth of Ramcat Run. Uniform water temperatures occur throughout Section 03 allowing for survival of both naturally reproducing smallmouth bass and fingerling stocked brown and rainbow trout. Figures 2, 3, and 4 below show a comparison of smallmouth bass, rainbow, and brown trout catches in Section 03 of the Youghiogheny River. Figure 2. Comparison of smallmouth bass catches in Section 03 in 2012, 1994, and Figure 3. Comparison of rainbow trout catches in Section 03 in 2012, 1994, and 1989.

4 Figure 4. Comparison of brown trout catches in Section 03 in 2012, 1994, and Fisheries Biologist Aide Josh Reffner holding a fat Youghiogheny rainbow As one can see from the previous graphs, smallmouth bass catch rates and size distribution, rainbow trout catch rates and size distribution, and brown trout size distribution has improved in Section 03 since the previous surveys. Improvements in water quality in the river as well as special regulations for trout have likely led to these changes. Age and growth data was also collected for smallmouth bass and trout in Section 03. Smallmouth bass ranged from age 1 10 and reached 12 between 6 and 7 years of age. Uniform, colder water temperatures in Section 03 are likely the reason for slow growth of bass. Rainbow trout from age 1 6 were captured in Section 03 with the majority of the fish captured being 3 years of age (2009 year class) and averaging approximately 16 at the time of capture. The few brown trout captured were ages 2 and 4.

5 Area Fisheries Manager Rick Lorson weighing a 23 brown Section 04 of the Youghiogheny River begins at the SR 381 bridge in Ohiopyle and continues downstream to the mouth of Indian Creek (11.2 miles). This section is famous for its rapids and is heavily used by whitewater enthusiasts. Much of the section from Ohiopyle falls downstream to the Bruner Run takeout is difficult if not impossible to effectively and safely survey with our equipment. However, the lower portions of the section contain long flat pools and gentle riffles and are much easier and safer to work. Table 3 below summarizes the catch from Section 04 at our sample site near the mouth of Indian Creek. Table 3. Length and frequency distribution of sampled fish in Section 04. Species Number caught Size range (inches) Smallmouth bass Largemouth bass 1 10 Rock bass Pumpkinseed 1 4 Smallmouth bass catch rates and size distribution has increased dramatically in Section 04. Almost 50 fish/hr were captured in 2012, with 15 fish/hr over 12, and 4 fish/hr over 15. In 1989, only 9 fish/hr were captured with just under 2 fish/hr over 12. No fish over 15 were captured in 1989 (Figure 5). Figure 5. Comparison of smallmouth bass catches in Section 04 in 2012 and 1989.

6 Fisheries Biologist Aide Joseph Cocco with a pair of healthy smallmouth from near the mouth of Indian creek. Smallmouth bass were aged from scales in Section 04. Fish ranged in age from 1 11 and reached 12 between 5 and 6 years of age, demonstrating faster growth moving down river. Despite consistent stocking of fingerling trout in Section 04 of the Yough River, no trout were captured during the survey of Section 04 in Water temperatures during the summer are likely too warm to support a substantial population of trout year round in the lower portions of Section 04. Management options for the section may include splitting the section into two new sections and continuing to stock only the upstream portion. However, no management action will be taken until completion of the remainder of the Youghiogheny River survey (Sections 01 at Confluence, and 05 and 06 from Indian Creek to McKeesport) in NOTICE: Anglers and boaters using the Yough River should be aware that the invasive aquatic alga, didymo was documented there in 2012 and are urged to take precautions against its spread. Additional information pertaining to on this finding with recommended precautions can be found in this link: Thank you for taking necessary steps to prevent spread of this unwanted invasive. Mike Depew Area 8 Fisheries Biologist

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