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NFC: collecting


Collecting: A Family Affair

by Robert Rice

When I first brought up the idea of a family collecting trip/vacation my wife rolled her eyes at me in that oh no not again way and said "I'll think about it ".You see I have a 3 year old daughter, a wife , and a 130 pound Rottwieller named Magnus and last but not least a 85 Toyota Tercel hatchback. So the logistics of fitting all the aforementioned living things along with our clothes and my collecting weapons seemed a little far fetched. As usual though, I did not let that stop me , I dug out maps of the Missouri Ozarks and began to scheme. My goal the Cardinal shiner or its cousin the Bleeding shiner.

After some serious thought I came up with a plan. If I could somehow tie this together with a day of trout fishing I was sure everyone would agree. So i made my move ,"Honey I said You know we ought to go trout fishing since we are so close to the Ozarks now" Suddenly a strike "Hmmm trout fishing in the Ozarks I've never trout fished before that sounds kinda fun lets go....." at last my carefully laid trap was sprung and the trip was on.

Then as luck would have it came the most ingenious twist in my plan. My n'er do well brother in law kept hinting we should go trout fishing .So I said sure, by the way do you still have your old station wagon? With that a home was found for my collecting gear and the date was set.

After a little research it was decided that Bennett Spring State Park would be our base of operations and to satisfy the wife a cabin was rented for the week .Now we were in business.

So the big day came the wife , the kid, and the big Dog were all folded carefully into my little car and we rattled and hummed the 4 hours to Bennett Spring State Park. Just as we settled into our cabin my brother in laws death wagon with its GM primer peeled paint job came lumbering in to let us know they were camping just down the road.As luck would have it my brother in Law also noticed our cabin had a full kitchen and he began checking out the food. I'm sure making mental notes on his menu choices. So after we fed everyone we made the trip into the state park and to the hatchery. I met a DNR Biologist and we talked for awhile about native fish.He seemed to only want to talk about trout (surprise). Did you know that we put in 2.25 trout for every tag sold the previous day? He told my wife with a smile? She was surprised," You mean all the fish come from here ?" Yep he said with pride . Most of the onlookers were very impressed I on the other hand was slightly nauseated.

On the drive back to the cabin my wife said ."So fishing here is like Amusement Park fishing anyone can catch a fish if they pay for it heck you should just fish in the hatchery? "Yep afraid so." .......she shook her head in disbelief.

Since we were supposed to be here on a trout fishing trip we planned our fishing trip tomorrow would be the trout day , the day after the hiking day (really scout for fish) and the last day would be our relax day before heading home (really collection day). So just before bed I plunked down the 35 $ for everyone's fishing licenses trout tags etc. then dozed off to bed.

I awoke at 5 a.m. left everyone else sleeping and went to the head of the spring and waited ,it was beautiful. I saw the sun rise , the smell of the crisp air was invigorating as it mingled with the spring water. I watched and took mental notes as I had set myself a 1 hour time limit on these Amusement park fish. Eventually a few other fishermen made it in time for the starting whistle and we were off. In typical park fashion about half the people had strikes their first cast and in the course of my hour I caught several trout keeping 4 large ones for the table that night.

I made it back to the cabin around 7:30 a.m. just in time for my brother in law to make it over for breakfast. It was agreed that today should be trout day and everyone should take their try at this amusement park fishing! So I spent the day changing lures and offering tidbits of advice to my wife and child as they tried their hand at trout fishing .As it turned out my daughter caught the big fish for the afternoon and made the trip a success it really was a great day.

That evening we poured over maps and decided Rubiduox creek outside of Waynesville in Pulaski County provided the best opportunity to collect. After we had finalized plans we watched the evening news with some chagrin as they announced a cold front was screaming in from the north and in 48 hours it was gonna be a Noah type day.So instead of 1 day scouting and 1 collecting we were now down to 1 day collecting.

We left at 7 a.m. and arrived on site at 9 a.m. to say this was an extraordinary site would be an understatement .It is attached to a city park with a playground and all the stuff to keep kids happy . Then there is a winding 200 yard gravel bar that leads to the secluded creek. Its waters are a mix of spring and river waters and support a brown trout population which the locals protect with vigor.As a matter of fact they have designated much of the creek as catch and release trophy trout waters.

As I approached the bank darters scurried in all directions and I began to foam at the mouth. Within a few moments we had pulled out the seine and begun to make a pass with my dog taking the role of the beater driving the fish to our nets. The creek itself is about 15 feet wide with the first two thirds being a gentle slope that drops of at the base of a limestone shelf where it gains it's maximum depth of @ 6'. We were working the first two thirds in about 3 feet of water over gravel riffles in a moderately fast stream with a measured water temp of 61 F.The air temp was mid 80's and about perfect.

When we pulled our first seine up my brother in law gasped it was literally filled with 3-4 inch silvery fish with red heads. We had found the bleeding shiner! We now had a new problem what do you do when your first seine full fills all your storage buckets!

Well within 30 minutes we were no longer collecting but were identifying and packing. We found the predominate minnow to be the Bleeding Shiner (Luxilus zonatus), other species included Plains Top minnow ( Fundulus sciadicus), the Central Longear Sunfish (Lepomis Megalotis) and a variety of sculpins that were released. We also found Orangethroat Darters (Etheostoma spectabile ) in abundance.

After several detours we took our catch home they seemed to be fine but within 48 hours the bleeding shiners began to show fungus that resisted treatment with CLOUT and over 80% died within 10 days. A very frustrating end to our trip and I hope the launching point of better follow up care of captured species. Those that survived are doing excellent feeding well on frozen brine shrimp and blood worms and have really livened up the 55 gallon tank they inhabit.

Overall the trip was a big success and my Wife calls it our best vacation ever .We plan on doing a repeat in the spring of 1995 until then good-bye and good fishing!

All material within this document is copyrighted to the author Robert Rice unless otherwise noted. I am the National Membership Director of NANFA (North American Native Fish Association) an organization devoted to the keeping native fish in the aquarium.