Thursday, April 25, 2013

The message of the smallmouth bass

Read the 2013 smallmouth bass report
The smallmouth bass, a prized freshwater sport fish of the Shenandoah and many other rivers of the Commonwealth, is sending us a loud and clear message -- the same pollution that is killing fish is damaging water quality and the Chesapeake Bay.

You may remember smallmouth bass deaths and lesions in the North Fork of the Shenandoah in 2004. The very next year fish died in a 100 mile stretch of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. In 2008 fish deaths and disease were reported in the Cowpasture River.

Smallmouth bass don't do well in polluted waters, hence they are an early indicator of declining water quality. Many fisheries biologists believe a toxic brew of contributing factors is decimating this sensitive species. Among the factors are high nitrogen and phosphorus levels in rivers and streams spur the growth of parasites and feed algal blooms that raise pH levels while reducing oxygen in the water. Rising water temperatures and endocrine disrupting chemicals also appear to play a role.

Smallmouth bass fishing isn't just a sport and popular leisure activity, it is an important part of Virginia's economy. Some 2,200 jobs with wages totaling about $74 million annually are supported by smallmouth bass fishing. It also generates about $17 million in state and local taxes.

The good news is that something can be done about it and smallmouth bass have actually made a comeback in the Shenandoah River (see page 9 in the report). Read the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Smallmouth Bass Report: Angling for Healthier Rivers to learn more about what needs to be done. Let your elected officials know that clean water is important to you and our communities. Get involved with groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Friends of the Shenandoah River to find out what you can do in your home and community to protect and improve water quality. The smallmouth bass, and all of us, depend on clean water.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Shenandoah Mountain Wildflower Tournament

A rare Lady Slipper
The Virginia Master Naturalist Headwaters Chapter, Friends of Shenandoah Mountain, and Virginia Native Plant Society - Shenandoah Chapter are cosponsoring a Shenandoah Mountain Wildflower Tournament on May 11, 2013. Get outside and see beautiful spring wildflowers on Shenandoah Mountain at various locations in the George Washington National Forest. Areas of exploration include North River Gorge, Wolf Ridge Trail, Braley Pond, and Reddish Knob.

Groups will explore and find as many different types of wildflowers as possible and photograph (do not pick them) each one. The best photos will be featured on the website of Friends of Shenandoah Mountain.

For more information about times, where to meet, what to wear and bring, and to register  online visit Shenandoah Mountain Wildflower Tournament.