or Healthy Fish
By Ken Penrod
I grew up in Portage , Pennsylvania , a
small, coal-mining town in central Pennsylvania . I learned to fish by the time I
could walk—and I started hunting two years before legal age.
There was a
small creek that ran through town. The bed-rocks were orange and
the water provided an unsavory aroma. We thought that was
normal. We didn’t blame the coal mines. We were silent—and
As I grew
older and wiser I began “bucking” the system. I wanted to know
“why” we allowed such resource destruction. I soon learned that
it’s all about money.
similar problems in this day and age—and it’s all about the
money. Timber operations all over the country destroy water
quality. The lumber company owners rape the land, take the money
and love on. We pay for that in one way or another. Coal mine
operators rape the land and ruin our streams and rivers. They
take the money and move on. We pay for that. We are still paying
to Maryland in 1961 and by
1982 I was operating a fishing and hunting guide service. I
remembered how it was in
when I was a youngster and I vowed to make a difference from my new
home. I have a long list of conservation and environmental
accomplishments. I/we have much more to do.
So, I ask:
“what the hell is happening to our rivers and streams?” Consider
Rivers has declared the Susquehanna River in
Pennsylvania as “The Most Endangered River in America .” Agricultural runoff and
inadequate wastewater treatment is blamed.
south branch, Potomac River , as well as the main stem, contain a
significant population of male, egg-bearing smallmouth bass.
Estrogen, flushed down toilets is blamed.
of the Shenandoah River lost 80% of all adult smallmouth
bass due to an “environmental” occurrence.
Susquehanna River and the
River suffered a large
fish-kill (mostly smallmouth bass) due to an “environmental”
(5) The Potomac River , smallmouth bass population is suffering
from an environmental occurrence that causes lesions on bass.
Another “environmental” thing.
algae bloom on the tidal
Potomac River during 2004 was the worst I’ve
ever seen during my 40-year tenure. “Nitrates” are blamed.
algae bloom on the upper
Chesapeake Bay during 2004 was so prolific that
most commercial watermen could not pursue their livelihood.
areas of the Chesapeake Bay have “dead zones.”
fishing in the tidal James and Chickahominy Rivers is not a shadow of what it once
Smallmouth bass fishing in the upper James
River is, well, almost endangered.
So, what are
we doing about it? Consider the following:
Environmental Protection Agency—isn’t.
Waters Act” isn’t.
resources” agencies are in over their heads on scientific
environmental agencies are a joke.
Republican administrations of
Maryland , Virginia and Pennsylvania are “F” rated on conservation and
environmental matters—and I’m a republican.
all sewage treatment plants in the Susquehanna, Shenandoah,
Potomac and James River basins are inadequate, overwhelmed
or poorly operated. It’s cheaper to pay permit-violation
penalties than it is to upgrade the facilities.
You and I
just don’t care.
number seven that bothers me most. We complain, but that’s it!
We grumble about the news of water quality degradation but
that’s all. Many of us drink the very water that can’t sustain
fish life. We “believe” that water filtration plants will
protect us. We all drink the “Kool Aid.”
is evidence that by the time the water from in the
reached Harve de Grace, every gallon has been recycled during
normal flow years. Another way of looking at that fact is: the
water you drink has probably been flushed-down someone’s toilet.
demand cheap chicken—just like we wanted cheap coal and cheap
lumber. We pay 59 cents a pound to eat it—we will probably pay
50-bucks a pound to recover from it. Yes—I’m blaming chicken
farms, turkey farms, hog farms and cattle farms for much of our
water quality demise—as well as those in our various levels of
government for condoning this “Fleecing of America.”
“Agricultural runoff” is simply overwhelming amounts of chicken,
hog and cow dung, poured on fields in the name of “fertilizer.”
Guess where that dung ends-up? Are you drinking it? Are your
Eastern Shore is a virtual farm—but that entire farm
can’t grow enough grain to feed the chickens that are raised
question that comes to mind is: “why are they getting away with
this?” The answer is: ”money talks and chicken shit is money”
for state coffers and political ambition.
President Lyndon Johnson was embarrassed by the water quality in
the Potomac River —calling it a
“National Disgrace.” It’s time for another Lyndon Johnson. Send
a bottle of water from your river to your governor, our
president and our state representatives. Ask them if they are
comfortable with it. Send letters to your governor, and tell him
that your vote for the next election will go to the person that
promises “clean water reform.”
Purdue and Tyson families are making millions and millions of
dollars from their “cheap” chicken—while you and I, the
tax-payer, will spend billions cleaning up their mess. Make
Tyson and Purdue accountable. We may pay double today’s
prices—but that’s much better than what we do pay in the end.
looking for a team of persons that want to tackle this problem.
My e-mail is
Ken Penrod ’s Life Outdoors
Unlimited; a member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame; a
book author; outdoor writer and recipient of numerous
conservation awards. See his website at