FDR and its Sustainability

Sustainability: "forms of progress that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." This is particularly the best definition for the word sustainability, first given by the "World Commission on Environment and Development."

This is a powerful word; a very important one! Our World should be sustainable in many areas for future generations, but unfortunately it's not. It's a matter of fact that future generations will have problems with overpopulation, water supply, energy, etc. Even though these are serious problems that need to be solved, today's post is specifically about aquatic sustainability: how we should fish without putting the aquatic biodiversity at risk for the future.

To better visualize how critical this problem is nowadays, when it comes to aquatic life (in this case, fish), I have chosen the FDR park (Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, located next to the AT&T station, next to the Sports complex in South Philadelphia) as the subject for this topic. Over the years, locals have been reporting badly how fishing was much better years ago; how fish were bigger and more abundant at the lakes. Doesn't the same apply for everyone, almost everywhere else? As fishermen, I'm sure you already heard something like: "It used to be better before!", "There was more fish in the past...", "It ain't like before anymore...", "Everyday there are more people fishing here..." Not to mention when people start complaining, right? "They take too many fish...", "People harvest too much...", "Fish are taken during spawning seasons..."

If you never heard one of these before, just think for yourself: pick a location that you have fished constantly for three years (or more), and think approximately how many fish you got each year (consider the number of sessions you did). Did the number increase considerably over the years? Or did it decrease? Was the number of bites less or more? What about the fishermen: were there more people fishing year after year? Did it remain the same?

Well...I think it's evident that aquatic sustainability is one of the biggest problems fishermen face nowadays. After all, what are we going to FISH after ALL THE FISH IS GONE??? If you agree with me in this subject, I believe it's time to think a little bit more consciously about the future. Don't even talk about our children or grandchildren...some of the bodies of water that we fish these days may be "fishless" in our generation! The FDR park is a good example of how our waters are not sustainable these days. Below is a picture that I've posted in a previous post, which I'll use for references here:

So, I went there today with my friends Rob and Stephen. We packed our assortment of baits (lures - top water, plugs, spinnerbait, swimbait; eels; nightcrawlers; chicken livers; chicken hearts; corn; you name it!) and hit the road! I arrived there with Rob at 7:45 a.m., fishing first at the big lake (#2). Got two little bluegills there on nightcrawlers, which I wanted to use as bait for Snakeheads or Bass. Small sunfish could be seen swimming around, which is a good sign for the FDR park. However, after that, no fish was ever spotted.

After Stephen arrived, we moved to many locations. We went throughout #4, stopped by the end (down) of #5, went to #3, and made a final stop at the Gazebo at #2. By that time, it was around 12:40, and NO OTHER FISH was spotted at all. It wasn't a matter of following lures or going after baits: there was basically no fish swimming in the water at all. The water of the FDR is mostly very shallow, hitting 4-4.5 feet deep at its deepest - which is at #2. In all other sections of lakes, the fish can be spotted by naked eye; therefore, "stalking" can be done.

After many casts with different lures, still fishing (bottom), mid-water fishing with a float, and changing the bait constantly... No Snakeheads, no Catfish (the Boat and Commission should have stocked the lake with young Catfish this year), no Bass, no Crappie, no nada.

It was a beautiful day, indeed. Therefore, I can't say I was disappointed in going there with my friends. The company was awesome as usual, and the ambient was very pleasant. However, I can't say that I didn't feel a pinch of sadness by the lack of fish in the lake. Even though temperatures dropped dramatically in the past day, some fish should still be swimming around. It seems that Sunfish will be the only survivors of that lake - the warriors, as always.

We met a couple locals on our trip today. As soon as we started talking to them, we heard sad words from one of them: "It ain't like before. We don't catch them like we used to. I gave up on Bass fishing..." Believe it or not, the person shifted from Bass fishing to Carp fishing, and he had more success with the Carp during his past 4 sessions there than with Bass. He pledged that he had caught a 20lb Carp from lake #2, which is very believable.

But then...what can be done to minimize the damage we fishermen have done to our rivers/creeks/lakes/etc? Here goes some ideas to help with aquatic sustainability:

1. Always follow the law: The Boat and Commission has a set of laws for harvesting Bass. http://fishandboat.com/fishpub/summary/inland.html

2. Have common sense: There are no sets of laws for Snakeheads because they are an invasive species in PA. As the Boat and Commission describes - "Anglers suspecting they have caught a snakehead are encouraged to NOT release it, and report it to the Commission at 610-847-2442 or via email." The Boat and Commission encourages it, but it's not a MUST. Therefore, if you want to preserve the species in the FDR park, don't take fish when they are spawning, or undersized fish, etc. Letting them go is not agaisnt the law.

3. Watch your health: most fish in PA are not edible due to a high concentration of heavy metals. From the fish I've tested in the FDR park (sunfish and crappie), the results came back really bad. Therefore, by speculation, I can assume that results for Bass and Snakeheads there as bad as well. Before harvesting a fish to eat, be informed of its nutritional values. In other words, know if they are edible or not. Anyone can run a heavy metal test using a heavy metal test kit, and be more cautious about consuming bad fish. After all, chronic diaseases should be avoided at all costs.

These are only three advices that helps with sustainability. Please note that I'm not agaisnt harvesting legal fish! However, I do motivate "Catch and Release". Unless for research, bait purposes, and food, I release all the fish I get.

Anyways...here are some pictures of today's trip. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of fish (only one - a little Sunfish. Haha):

Waking up early to watch this scenery is really gratifying.

The lakes at the FDR Park are naturally beautiful - a very pleasant environment to fish at.

Picture of a bridge next to lake #4. Don't ask me where the purple thing came from...

Rob and Stephen looking curiously at the water. Two good companions for fishing!

Look at the size of this wonderful creature: so small, and yet so powerful and resistant.

Note that there's a number 6 on this updated map of the FDR park. I've never noticed it myself, but there's another lake next to the gold course at the FDR park - maybe a lake full of fish? I guess I'll have to find out about it later...

Best of luck for all of us!

Long days and Pleasant Nights,


Leo S.


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