Better Water in Mon

DNR: Based on fish caught

Morgantown Dominion Post
28 September 2013
By Tom Terrarosa

Based on the number of fish caught in the Monongahela River, state officials conclude the water quality has improved.

Frank Jernazik, with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, reported this finding Friday during a press conference held by B.A.S.S. Nation of West Virginia to highlight the Northern Qualifier fishing tournament.

The tournament will be held Oct. 5-6 on the Monongahela River, near Pricketts Fort.

Among other topics of discussion were the improved quality of the Monongahela River and the economic impact fishing has on the Morgantown area.

“This is a great fishing comm u n i t y, ” said Tim Mitchem, president of B.A.S.S. Nation of West Virginia. “We want people to know about it.”

Jernazik was among the first to speak and said the improvement to the water quality in the Mon has been significant. He explained that can be measured by the increase in numbers and types of fish present compared to years ago.

“It is my pleasure to talk about the improvement in water quality,” Jernazik said. “In the late 1970s the catch-rate for large bass was 0.05 fish per hour. Today it is 0.18 fish per hour. So we have a 3.5 times increase in success rate.”

Jernazik explained that more fish being caught means there are more fish in the river; and if there are more fish in the river, this means the quality of the water is improving.

According to Metchem, area coal companies have done a great job cleaning up the remnants of the mines, leading to a decrease in the pollution caused by their drainage into the river.

Metchem said that this has played a large role in the improvement of the Mon River’s water quality.

B.A.S.S. tournament

Participants in this tournament must be part of the B.A.S.S. Nation organization. Fishermen can join clubs in their area, Mitchem said.

Those clubs hold mini-tournaments and funnel the best fishermen, both on-boat and off-boat, into the regional qualifiers.

The Northern Qualifier tournament has about 90-110 participants each year. About half the field from each regional qualifier will advance to the state tournament in Summersville. In the northern region, that means 27 boaters and 27 non-boaters will advance.

The entire Mon River from where it begins near Tygart Lake to the last lock in West Virginia is open for tournament fishing. Pennsylvania waters are off-limits.

One issue many of the speakers touched on was the closing of the Mon River locks. Jernazik said the closure of the locks limits use of 13 miles of the river, leaving only 17 miles left for fishing by those in boats.

For the tournament, the locks will be temporarily reopened, but several speakers advocated working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reopen them indefinitely.

Barry Pallay, president of the Upper Mon River Association, said the Mon River and its locks and dams have been critical to commerce in the Morgantown economy, and he believes the locks need to be left open to fully capitalize on that commerce.

“Please support efforts to reopen the locks,” Palley said to those in attendance.

Mitchem said he has done calculations using economic indicators to determine the impact fishing has had on the local economy. He estimates that since 2002, tournament fishing on the Mon River has brought about $6 million to the local economy.

That would include fishermen who visit the area for a tournament and spend money at hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

Other speakers were Jim Summers, vice president of B.A.S.S. Nation; Randy Huffman, cabinet secretary of W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection; Bill Raney, president of the W.Va. Coal Association; and Miranda Kessel from CONSOL Energy.