|Read the 2013 smallmouth bass report|
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.