People are often surprised at how many fish they see swimming in the creeks of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford watershed. Due to its urban setting and history of poor water quality, the TTF doesn’t really jump out as a must-visit fishing destination!

The truth is that there are fish living all throughout our creek — from the headwaters in Montgomery County down to the Delaware River – and lots of people fish throughout the year. Before you grab the rod and fire up the grill, let’s take a closer look at these fish.

July 10th, 2013 - Banded Killifish [2] - Tookany Creek

Banded Killifish. Photo by Leo Sheng.

July 10th, 2013 - Spotfin Shiner 3 - Tookany Creek

Spotfin Shiner. Photo by Leo Sheng.

The presence of fish and other animal life in our creek is certainly good news for our park ecosystem. Fish are an important source of food for organisms higher up on the food chain, like our resident Great Blue Herons. They are also an important indicator of water quality, letting us know that the creek water is clean enough to support wildlife. However, when talking water quality, it’s the type of fish we find that tell us more about the health of the creek than how many we see.

Different species of fish have different tolerances for water conditions and pollution. For instance, trout require very clean, cold water while sunfish can find a warmer, shallow pool in which to live. The TTF is home to fourteen known fish species, with colorful names like shiners, suckers, sunfish and chubs. Some species, like minnows and sunfish, are present throughout much of the watershed.

July 10th, 2013 - Bluegill - Tookany Creek

Bluegill. Photo by Leo Sheng.

The American Eel, more snake-like than most fish, is very mobile and able to wriggle out of the water over small dams and obstructions. Eel have even been found all the way up in small headwater tributaries in Montgomery County. Some species, like the Mummichog are more often associated with tidal areas, but still seem to do well farther upstream in the Tacony.

Most of these species are able to tolerate warm water temperatures, low levels of oxygen and moderate pollution levels. These are the characteristics of our urban streams. Exposure to the chemicals and toxins from street runoff and combined sewer overflows can lead to a build-up of toxins within the bodies of the fish.

The bottom line is: go ahead and fish the TTF, but we do not recommend that you eat what you catch!

As the City of Philadelphia works to clean up our waterways through the 25 year Green City Clean Waters Plan and our Delaware River Watershed Initiative partners take steps to improve our upstream creeks, we hope to see water quality improve and biological diversity return to our creeks. Our dream…and the goal set by the EPA…is to restore our stream to fishable and swimmable conditions. Until then, it’s catch-and-release for us.

July 10th, 2013 - Pumpkinseed - Tookany Creek

Pumpkinseed. Photo by Leo Sheng.

April 21st, 2012 - Redbreast Sunfish - Tacony Creek

Red Breasted Sunfish. Photo by Leo Sheng.

Special thanks to Leo Sheng for allowing us to use his photos. For a great write-up on fishing the Tacony and other Philadelphia area fishing spots, be sure to check out Leo’s Extreme Philly Fishing Blog.

May 5th, 2013 - Largemouth Bass - Tookany Creek

Extreme Philly Fisherman, Leo Sheng, with a Large Mouth Bass caught in Tookany Creek. (Can you spot the Big Black Pipe?)

Also take a minute to watch this great vimeo about a father and son duo who love fishing Frankford Creek!

Fishing in the TTF watershed: You’d be Surprised what you catch… from GreenTreks Network on Vimeo.

Also take a minute to watch this great vimeo about a father and son duo who love fishing Frankford Creek!

Note: A PA fishing license is required to fish in Pennsylvania waterways, you can purchase one here.

Additional Resources: Tacony-Frankford Creek River Conservation Plan

Ideas for Tacony Creek Park programs? Interested in becoming involved in your watershed? Call us at 215-744-1853.

More TTF fish below! All photos by Leo Sheng. Listed in slideshow order:June-8th-2013-Channel-Catfish-Frankford-Creek-1-300x225

  1. Channel Catfish on the Frankford Creek
  2. Common Shiner  |   Creek Chub
  3. Mummichog
  4. Common Carp on the Frankford Creek
  5. Someone lose their pet goldfish?
  6. White Perch on the Frankford Creek.

About Robin Irizarry

Robin Irizarry, Philadelphia Watershed Coordinator Robin leads TTF’s community watershed engagement and improvement efforts in Philadelphia, working with key stakeholders to engage and educate residents about watershed and stormwater issues. Robin has a background in ecological landscape design and woodworking. He grew up in Olney, exploring Tacony Creek. He and his family now live near the (Tookany) creek in Cheltenham. Contact Robin at 215.744.1853 or


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