The Susquehanna River is not exactly a chasm, averaging just a few feet deep in Harrisburg.
So, what the heck was a 35-inch, 20-pound striped bass doing there?
“It really is rare for something like this to happen,” said veteran angler Mike Sholley, who snagged the fish earlier this month near the Dock Street Dam. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Sholley, of Palmyra, has been fishing the river since he was a boy and said that never before had he caught a “striper,” a fish usually found in the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. But he’s caught four this year.
“For them to get all the way up here, it’s amazing,” he said.
Geoff Smith, Susquehanna River biologist for the state Fish and Boat Commission, said that several stripers had been observed passing upriver by the Holtwood and York Haven dams. The stripers, which can live in both salt and freshwater, also may have come downstream from Raystown Lake, a large reservoir in Huntingdon County where they’re stocked, or even from a hatchery on Brunner Island in York County, he said.
“There are likely not many striped bass in the Susquehanna River and tributaries, and the angler was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time,” Smith said.
Sholley and Smith agree that this season’s copious rains and relatively high water levels may have contributed to the unusual catch.
Smith said that Raystown Lake has been releasing more water than usual into the river, and Sholley added that higher river levels have meant cooler summertime water temperatures, which stripers prefer. Both agreed that ample stocks of smaller species, such as shad and herring, this year also may have attracted the predatory fish.
“They’ll stick around as long as the food supply is there,” Sholley said.
And they may still be around, as Sholley released the fish soon after catching them.
In a broader sense, Sholley said he was delighted to see the stripers because it says something positive about the health of the river. He’s out on the river nearly every weekend and, in fact, with a few river-loving friends, runs an online apparel company called Susquehanna Native.
“If a fish of that caliber can live in the river, right now the river is doing pretty well,” he said.
Author: Lawrance Binda