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Frye: Pheasant and paddlefish news

| Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, 8:40 p.m.

A few odds and ends of note:

• There are some newly stocked pheasants out there for hunters.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission released birds Dec. 20. It wasn't a lot: just 5 percent of the year's allocation, and all hens, too. But Mercer County got 340, Armstrong, Indiana and Crawford 230 each, Butler 210, Westmoreland 150, Cambria 130, Beaver and Lawrence 100 each, Allegheny 80 and Washington 60.

The late pheasant season runs through Feb. 22. Some units are open to hunting cockbirds only, though, so check the hunting digest before you go out.

• Speaking of pheasants, the commission is euthanizing about 2,400 that were to be stocked elsewhere across the state.

Raised on the Loyalsock Game Farm, the birds were infected with avian cholera.

It's considered “the most significant infectious disease of wild waterfowl in North America,” according to the commission.

The agency initially planned to treat the birds then stock them but reconsidered given the potential risk.

• The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission was looking longer-term when it began stocking paddlefish in the rivers around Pittsburgh in 1991. The goal was twofold: to restore a native species to waters from which it had disappeared, and to someday create a fishery.

There are still no fishable populations of paddlefish in the three rivers, and they remain a protected species. But there finally may be some evidence of hope.

A report summarizing the paddlefish program put together by the commission and researchers from Cal (Pa.) notes that researchers discovered their first sexually mature female paddlefish on the Ohio River in 2005. That was significant because it was the first sign that natural reproduction was possible locally.

That has come to pass.

Researchers sampling the Allegheny River in summer 2012 found larval paddlefish — young resulting from natural reproduction — for the first time in perhaps a century.

“It is anticipated that continuing evidence of paddlefish natural reproduction will be found and that one day this charismatic fish species may provide recreational angling opportunities as it does in the Midwestern U.S.,” the report reads.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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