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May fish swim in September on Susquehanna tributary

Early European settlers along the Susquehanna River called Alosa sapidissima the “May fish,” Maifisch, or Moifisch, depending on their country of origin. Today, they are simply known as American shad or shad.

History tells us that shad ran in such great quantities that church bells would ring wildly in river towns as the migratory fish made their way upriver in May, announcing the arrival of “poor man’s salmon.” Due, in part, to the construction of small mill dams, canal feeder dams, and large hydroelectric dams obstructing their route, the number of shad in the Susquehanna River and her tributaries has dramatically declined from their peak in the 1820s. Today, few shad make it up and over the four major dam obstacles in the lower reach of the river, even with engineered assistance, in search of their spawning grounds upstream.

The Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited, in partnership with Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, will be hosting a special public meeting and picnic on Wednesday beginning between 5 and 5:30 p.m. with a picnic dinner as part of Riverkeeper’s Nature Book Club to discuss “The Founding Fish” by John McPhee, a fishing classic that takes a historical and habitual look at the American shad’s decline. Pulitzer Prize winner John McPhee is the author of 29 books. He penned “The Founding Fish” in 2002, casting light on the anadromous fish – one that migrates up river from the sea to spawn – as far back in time to George Washington and Henry David Thoreau.

The public is invited to join in the discussion and picnic (hot dogs, chips, and drinks will be supplied – please bring a covered dish or dessert to share but no alcohol please). The meeting will be held at the Consolidated Sportsmen of Lycoming County campground pavilion. Turn towards the Loyalsock Creek at the event signs at the club’s archery range off of PA Route 87 just upstream of Pier 87, about 6 miles north of Montoursville. For more information, please contact Walter Nicholson, Susquehanna Trout Unlimited, at 570-447-3600.

walt.nicholson10@gmail.com or Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® Carol Parenzan at 570-768-6300 /midsusriver@gmail.com

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