A 3-inch fingerling walleye was caught in the Cuyahoga River in Ohio earlier this month.
The fingerling was captured by a crew from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District during a water-monitoring survey of the river 10 miles south of Lake Erie.
The catch is significant because the Cuyahoga River is historically one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Efforts to clean up the river have been going on for years.
“Fish are our benchmark, our canary in the coal mine,” said Jane Goodman, executive director of Cuyahoga River Restoration. “If the fish are abundant, healthy and diverse, then that is a good sign.”
The crew used electro-shocking to stun the fish. After collection, the crew counted the catch onshore and separated the fish by species. The fish were examined, weighed and then released back into the river.
Twenty-seven species of fish were collected by the crew, which said several species were “pollution intolerant.” Those species included the walleye, golden red horse and green side darter.
While the fish species show that the river’s quality is improving, there are still challenges, officials say, such as a 5-mile shipping channel that is basically stagnant water.
“We’re happy, not thrilled,” Goodman said. “Once we give the smaller young fish some habitat to grow in, it’s going to keep getting better.”