Armstrong County fisherman gets rare catch in Allegheny River
It sure doesn't look like anything you'd expect to find in the river.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District was asking visitors to its Facebook page Thursday to help identify a large, long-nosed creature a fisherman said he caught in the Allegheny River near Lock and Dam 9, south of East Brady in Armstrong County.
"This fish looks like a prehistoric creature, but it was caught at Allegheny River Lock 9," the corps wrote. "Does anyone know what type of fish it is? If you do, name that fish."
Fisherman Aaron Thompson posted pictures of himself with his catch on the Steel City Anglers Facebook group. According to his post, he caught it Tuesday morning.
"Allegheny lock #9 this morning!!! Super pumped!!!" Thompson said.
Thompson was using a picture of himself with the fish as the cover image for his Facebook page. He couldn't be reached for comment.
Most of those commenting on his post were saying that what he caught was a paddlefish. Andy Shiels, director of the state Bureau of Fisheries, confirmed it was a paddlefish — and a "big" one at that.
"That is awesome, still some surprises in the river from time to time," Brandon Berry said on the Steel City Anglers page.
Paddlefish are a threatened and protected species. They were believed to no longer be present in Pennsylvania, according to the Fish & Boat Commission.
While there had been efforts to reestablish the species in the Pennsylvania portions of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, Shiels noted the agency stopped its efforts several years ago, around 2010-11, because it wasn't getting the populations results it had hoped for.
Despite stocking, the fish weren't able to achieve a self-sustaining population, according to a summer 2016 report.
Paddlefish can move long distances to spawn, are long-lived and require eight-to-10 years to reach sexual maturity.
Asked what bait he had used, Thompson replied that paddlefish eat plankton and that it was a "completely accidental catch."
He said it took about 20 minutes to bring in, and that he released it "without harm."
"I tell people all the time that picture is all you need," Thompson said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BCRittmeyer.