Less than a year into a four-year project to restore the population of a threatened fish found in southern Lancaster County, researchers released 700 newly spawned fish last week.
One hundred Chesapeake Logperch were released on Friday at Chiques Creek, in East Donegal Township, following an earlier release of 600 on Thursday.
“We are a year ahead of schedule,” said Jay Stauffer Jr., professor of ichthyology at Penn State University. “We didn’t think we would have fish ready to reintroduce the first year.”
It became possible because early efforts by a group of organizations resulted in a Tennessee lab — Conservation Fisheries Inc. in Knoxville — successfully spawning 1,500 Chesapeake logperch from just 16 at the beginning of April.
“It could have completely failed, had moderate success or have been wildly successful,” said Douglas Fischer, of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in June. “This was in the wildly successful part of the spectrum.”
The number of fish from the April spawning fluctuated as they grew. Researchers in Tennessee and at Penn State in Centre County had to figure out how to keep the remaining young fish healthy enough to survive in laboratory conditions until the time they would be reintroduced into their native waterways.
“We had to spread them out in the laboratory so we wouldn’t stunt their growth by overcrowding them,” Stauffer said.
In addition, the researchers didn’t know much about the fish, so they had to learn what diet would help them grown and how to get them to reproduce, he said.
During that time, Stauffer’s team of graduate students also searched for waterways where the fish could have the highest success of re-establishing their population.
The project is funded by a $500,000 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant for a group of organizations to try to revive the Chesapeake logperch population.
Nine Chesapeake logperch were found in a restored section of Peters Creek last June in Fulton Township. The 4-inch colorful fish is on the Pennsylvania threatened species list and is a candidate to be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
State and federal agencies want to avoid the federal list because it would mean restrictions on water projects, cleanup or otherwise.
Researchers will continue to monitor the fish through winter — keeping track of how they react to the environments and see their reproductive patterns before they introduce a new population of logperch next year.