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Report says Ohio River fish in good biological condition

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By The Staff

CINCINNATI, Ohio - In new reports issued by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, Ohio River aquatic life, as evidenced by fish populations, was, with few exceptions, found to be in good biological condition.

ORSANCO has completed several studies on the Ohio River summarizing the results of biological testing conducted at different sites throughout the river. To date, ORSANCO has completed its first comprehensive five-year biological survey covering the entire Ohio River, its 19 pools and 981 miles.

During the summer of 2009, ORSANCO biologists completed four pool surveys on the Ohio River. A pool consists of a section of the river from one navigational lock and dam to another. The rating of each pool is based on an examination of the number of fish species, type of species and the ecological structure of the fish assemblage at the site. Pools studies were conducted in Belleville pool (near Marietta, Ohio); Markland pool (near Cincinnati); McAlpine pool (Louisville, Ky.) and the "Open Water Section" (near Paducah, Ky.).

Fish are collected by a method called nighttime electrofishing, a technique that uses a special boat to generate a mild electric current that temporarily stuns and disorients fish which are then netted, examined and returned unharmed to the water. On larger bodies of water like the Ohio River, electrofishing surveys are most efficiently carried out at night when fish move into shallower waters to feed.

Belleville Pool

The Belleville pool is bordered by the states of Ohio and West Virginia. It is 42.2 miles long, extending from Willow Island Locks and Dam just east of Marietta, Ohio, to the Belleville Locks and Dam which is located just southwest of Belleville, W. Va. The pool receives water from several major tributaries including the Muskingum, Little Kanawha, Little Hocking and Hocking rivers. The watershed is dominated by deciduous forest, pasture lands and rowcrops.

In 2009, ORSANCO biologists collected fish from 15 randomly selected sites. They collected 3,583 fish representing 51 species.

Overall, the results of the study revealed that the Belleville pool is in fair biological condition. Notable catches from the survey included a large muskellunge, the only individual of its species collected during the 2009 survey, as well as multiple flathead catfish larger than 30 pounds. Common mudpuppies (large aquatic salamanders) were also observed in the Belleville pool during macroinvertebrate sampling.

Markland Pool

The Markland pool is bordered by the states of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. It is 95.3 miles long, extending from Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam near Neville, Ohio, to Markland Locks and Dam near Carrollton, Ky. The pool receives water from several major tributaries including the Licking, Little Miami and Great Miami rivers. The watershed is dominated by forest, pasture lands and rowcrops.

In 2009, ORSANCO biologists collected fish from 15 randomly selected sites. They collected 3,107 fish, representing 46 species.

Overall, the results of the study suggested that the Markland pool is in 'Good' biological condition. A notable catch from the survey included multiple shortnose gar. These species are not typically observed this far upstream, above river mile 720.

McAlpine Pool

The McAlpine pool is bordered by the states of Kentucky and Indiana. It is 75.3 miles long, extending from Markland Lock and Dam near Carrollton, Ky., to McAlpine Locks and Dam which is located near Louisville, Ky. The pool receives water from several major tributaries including the Kentucky, Little Kentucky and Salt rivers.

In 2009, ORSANCO biologists collected fish from 15 randomly selected sites. They collected 2,051 fish, representing 45 species. The results of the study revealed that the McAlpine pool is in good biological condition. Notable catches from the survey included relatively high numbers of pollution-intolerant sucker species known as redhorses.

Open Water Section

The Open Water Section is bordered by the states of Illinois and Kentucky. It is 62.5 miles long, extending from Smithland Locks and Dam just northeast of Smithland, Ky. to the confluence with the Mississippi River near Cairo, Ill. Lock and Dam 52 and 53 fall within this section of the river. The Open Water Section receives water from several major tributaries including the Cumberland, Tennessee and Cache rivers. The watershed is dominated by deciduous forest, pasture lands and rowcrops.

In 2009, ORSANCO biologists collected fish from 17 randomly selected sites. They collected 2,060 fish, representing 52 species.

Overall, the results of the study revealed that the Open Water Section is in fair biological condition. Notable catches from the survey included paddlefish, silver carp, yellow bass, shortnose gar and blue catfish - all of which are rarely collected above the lower third of the river.

Additionally, Atlantic needlefish were collected during the survey. This is a rare, invasive species in the Ohio River, and 2009 marks the first time this species has been collected by ORSANCO.

All reports can be found on the Web by visiting www. orsanco.org/watqual/aquatic/biological.asp.

Printed copies may be obtained by contacting ORSANCO at (513) 231-7719.