Shad’s back, The

shad’s back, The

Larson, John

Susquehanna River Shad Project

A project to restore over 500 miles of historic American shad-spawning ground along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania is underway, and is slated for completion this June. The project, a decade in the making, entails building a series of “fish lifts” alongside four hydroelectric dams that, for most of this century, have blocked the shad’s saltwater habitat in the Chesapeake Bay from their freshwater spawning grounds upstream. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) hopes that with the completion of the project the annual population of shad will be restored to around two million. Though shad restoration projects are hardly novel these days, with 15 such programs afoot in river basins from Virginia to Maine, the Susquehanna project is by far the most ambitious.

Historically, the Shad fishery in Chesapeake Bay has been an important seasonal industry, and throughout the nineteenth century the number of shad migrating up the Susquehanna River seemed virtually inexhaustible. However, by the late 1800s over-harvesting and the polluting by-products of America’s rapid industrial growth began to take their toll on the American shad population and the integrity of their spawning ground. The advent of four large-scale hydroelectric dams during this century, physically blocking the shad’s progress upstream, had further exacerbated the problem, virtually wiping them out altogether.

By the middle of this century, however, water quality had improved and fish passage technology had advanced to the point where the long-term restoration of the shad spawning grounds was deemed feasible. Not that this was a new idea; in fact, one of the first dams built along the river, the Holtwood Dam in 1910, was originally equipped with a rudimentary fish-passing facility, though the design failed to convey the shad upstream. Beginning in the early 1990s, research funded primarily by the power companies that control the dams had given rise to the actual construction of fish lifts on three of the four hydroelectric dams along the Susquehanna-at Safe Harbor, Holtwood and Conowingo. And with the June 2000 completion of the final lift at York Haven, the long-term goal of returning the American shad to the Susquehanna, or rather the Susquehanna to the American shad, will be realized.

Tours of the fish lifts at Safe Harbor and Holtwood Dams will be conducted throughout the migratory season (April-June). Tour registrations can be made by contacting either Karen Chandler at the Safe Harbor Water Power Corporation, 717-872-0204, or the Pennsylvania Power and Light Holtwood Land Management Office at 717-284-2278.

Pittman-Robertson Trust Fund H.R. 3671, the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs Improvement Act of 2000, introduced this year by Representative Don Young (R-AK), Chairman of the House Resources Committee, is aimed at investigating the ongoing mismanagement of money used to administer the Pittman-Robertson Trust Fund. Established in 1937 and administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the fund distributes money collected from excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to state wildlife agencies for wildlife restoration projects, hunter safety programs and shooting range construction.

However, the fund came under attack last year when an audit, conducted by the General Accounting Office at Rep. Young’s request, revealed widespread instances of fraud, abuse and mismanagement involving tens of millions of sportsmen’s tax dollars. According to the National Wilderness Institute’s Rob Gordon, “Millions from these funds have been looted for everything imaginable…. They have looted tax dollars from these funds and spent them on inflated administrative costs, expensive furniture, inappropriate travel, human resources, and who knows what else.” There have also been allegations by two Fish and Wildlife employees that the Service tried to force them out of government service in response to their refusal to take part in agency misconduct.

Though under fire for these serious problems, the PittmanRobertson Fund has traditionally been an ally to the sportsman, having collected and distributed over $3.5 billion to state wildlife agencies over the years, and has been instrumental in the resurgence of many wild game populations.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Science

The new North Carolina Museum of Natural Science is slated to celebrate its grand opening this April, and will be offering an extensive series of field trips in conjunction with local eco-tour and outdoor expedition guides. Called Afield But Not Afar, this massive series focus on outdoor traveles and will highlight the broad spectrum of outdoor activities in North Carolinaincluding rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, swamp paddling and llama treks, just to name a few. And, yes, there will be a fly fishing excursion into the Great Smoky Mountains to Hazel Creek, one of the most highly acclaimed wild trout streams in the Southeast.

The trips are being planned throughout the state: in nearly three dozen state parks, five national wildlife refuges, two national seashores, three national forests and a national park. This is a good opportunity to experience the majestic diversity of North Carolina’s wild lands. For information, call the Friends of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, at 919-733-7450.

Women’s Fly-Fishing Retreat The Tincup Wilderness Lodge, a fly-in angling and wilderness getaway in the heart of the western Yukon, will be hosting a fly fishing retreat especially for women, June 17th-24th. Led by renowned angler Lani Waller, the retreat will offer basic instruction for the novice and more advanced courses for those already experienced with rod and reel.

The area streams and lakes provide excellent angling opportunities for grayling, lake char and trout, and the guest accommodations feature cozy private cabins with covered verandas and woodburning stoves. The main lodge offers a dining room, bar, outdoor hot tub, and even a lake-front sauna. In addition to fishing, there will also be alpine hiking, kayaking, canoeing, photography, wildlife viewing and gourmet meals from one of the finest chefs in the Yukon. For information contact Tincup Wilderness Lodge at 867-667-2202, or visit their website at

Copyright Hearst Magazines May 2000

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