The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Currents

May 7, 2008

River of Many Fish – and More

Ashtabula River’s clean waters support rich diversity of flora and fauna

Although it has been centuries since the Indians named it, the Ashtabula remains a “River of Many Fish” – and much more.

Matthew Smith, Northeast Ohio Scenic River assistant manager, says 76 fish species have been documented in the Ashtabula River during the past 30 years.

Many of these fish are common to Ohio streams, but a few deserve special note. For example, the Ashtabula River is one of the few river systems in Ohio to have a thriving population of the northern bigeye chub. Smith says its presence is a testimony to the uniqueness of the river habitat. Additionally, four fish species of State Special Concern are found the river – the Great Lakes musellunge, black nose shiner, lake sturgeon and northern brook lamprey.

The upper portion of the river also supports populations of colorful small fish called darters, such as the green and rainbow. While these colorful fish aren’t of interest to sports fishermen, there are plenty of other species that are. They include steelhead trout, which are not stocked in the Ashtabula River but nevertheless make their way up the stream from Lake Erie.

Other sport fish include rock and smallmouth bass, crappie, blue gill, northern pike and channel catfish.

One of the issues with sporting fish in the lower reaches of the river is the fish advisory posted by the Ohio Department of Health as a result of PCBs and other contaminants found in that stretch. The remedial dredging project that began last year and is expected to wrap up this summer holds out the hope of creating a habitat that will no longer justify the advisory.

Regan “Sig” Williams, environmental scientist with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, says two advisories apply to the river. First is a general advisory issued for all fish caught in Ohio surface water. Second is the advisory specific to the Ashtabula River, which warns against eating fish caught from the lower river.

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