[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

NFC: I collected natives once --- some notes --LONG

   I collected native fishes once ... and then I
confess I did it a whole bunch more times .One of
Robert Rice's stories in TFH on dollar sunfish caught
my eye and I joined up . I still didn't go collecting
for some years . It first happened in March/April of
2000 in the Arkansas Ozarks at a little creek called
Sugar Loaf . My biggest shock was how easy it was with
nothing but a Wallmart kick or dip net . To be sure ,
there were some minnow types I wasn't having much luck
netting . But there were darters . One or two uglyass
sculpins and some southern red belly dace . Since I
only had a 20 gallon open  I discarded the sculpins
--latter got to liking them-- kept 2 srbd and just
under 20 darters .
   Kept the natives in a large bucket over-nite in
their own aerated water . Added aquarium water to the
bucket next day . After a little while moved the fish
to the tank . Nice . A few colored up male darters and
some roly poly plump females . Next day a few male
darters seemed to be repelling other darters from
their areas .Had about 3 inches of old aquarium gravel
in the tank . That evening spawning tube showing on
males and females . Action going on all over the tank
. Had been checking Petersons Field Guide . Seemed to
be a mix of rainbow--Etheostoma caeruleum-- and
orangethroat--Etheostoma spectibile uniporum-- darters
and something I didn't get an ID on . The uniporum are
not suposed to be here but its what they looked like
.Decided to watch a particular larger male staking out
a front corner because I could see him best . He was
making dashes at younger males entering the area but
also discouraged a few females from getting near .
Cant remember any more which species he was . An
especially sexy looking female wandered over and he
made nice nice . Look at me babe . Then he did that
kinky darter sex thing and jumped on her sort of piggy
back . Shimmy shimmy shimmy shake . That taken care of
he jumped off . She then  disappeared under the gravel
.Nose first. After a few seconds she popped up an inch
or two away . She left but he stayed to look after
that corner .-- I didnt understand all the diving I
was seeing . The shimmy shake thing is supposed to
create a depression in the gravel where the eggs and
milt are deposited and then covered . So, what is all
this diving ?-- Infiltrators started making forays
into the area . Mostly younger males I thought but
maybe a female or two in the bunch . They overwhelmed
the defending male and at least 3 times I saw darters
dive right where the female had dived . ??? Were they
feeding on eggs or maybe trying to sneak cross
fertilize eggs ? I saw that male mate again and he
also dived where the female did before she even came
back up. ?? Does fertilization take place during the
shimmy shake or the dive or both ? Must be some darter
people can explain it . 

 The first collecting season was relatively dry . I
learned the topography of the local creeks .Where the
good holes were , where the good riffles were . It
really got easy . I learned to look for fingers of
water jutting off to the side of the creek where young
fish hid out in the shallow calm water . The good
fingers had openings no or little wider than the kick
net . Id sneak up on the mouth of the finger of water
from downstream to make sure the fish stayed in the
finger rather than all running out into the main
stream . If the mouth of the finger was much larger
than the kick net I would herd the fish along as best
I could until the finger narrowed . Then blocked it
with the net . Then did a waltz around the net while
holding the top of the net handle with my own finger
tips to get as far up the finger , while walking on
dry gravel , as I could . Then Id enter the water and
shuffle back to the net .In this way I would collect
fast moving minnows without using a seine net and
nonexistent helpers . The drawback was that they were
almost always young specimens which gave me a headache
trying to identify . It never dawned on me that I
could use two kick nets at once to block a larger
finger until I watched Ray Wolff's video on winter
collecting . He used one kick net in each hand side by
side thus getting double coverage . 
  Late in the year creeks would dry to the point where
in some areas only holes had water in them . There
would be water a few inches under the gravel which
kept the holes full and somewhat fresh . These holes
were like collecting in your local fish shop . Lots of
stranded fish but the latter in the year the more
stressed these fish were .In crooked creek near
Yellville I worked a hole knee deep populated mainly
by a lot of whitetail shiners--Cyprinella
galactura--and gambusia . The whitetail shiners were
of mixed sizes or ages . All of the larger ones were
infested with parasites including anchor worms and
some fungus . The younger ones seemed to be in good
shape . Was it because the larger ones were old and
feeble ? I don't know . Late in the year I had found
slender madtoms--Noturus exilis--in holes so I looked
for them here . I kicked some larger rocks around on
the bottom . I found 4 dead slender madtoms . What had
killed them ? They were all young , about 3 inches .
They weren't still water fish but they adapted and
thrived in little outdoor ponds and aquariums with
little circulation . The creek had been down for about
a month . The only thing I can think is that they
couldn't compete for available food . Maybe ?
I've kept 6 inch slender madtoms in a 55 with 1 inch
daters and have never seen these madtoms eat the
darters or other small healthy fish even when they
bumped into the madtom's mouth . Insects , worms and
such were voraciously consumed .
   Next year I have to start all over again . The
several flash floods this year have completely changed
the creeks . Deep holes are filled in . Riffle areas
are not riffles . Where I found abundant madtoms and
sculpins I find none . The exploration goes on .
  This may already be too long for the list . Get to
your favorite mart , get a net and get going . Just
think if you could get those expensive tropicals
imported in perfect spawning condition from the shop
.What an advantage native collectors have .What a
positive experience to get out there and find your own
aquarium stock and what fascinating life forms our
native fishes are .
   If you cant find an experienced collector to learn
from , Konrad Schmidt-- KonSmidt at msn_com -- had an
excellent video at a very reasonable price detailing
almost every imaginable aspect of collecting native
fishes . If you live in the frozen north look into Ray
wolff's -- chapiqu at wctc_net --tape on collecting in
Wisconsin's winter wonderland . No need to wait for
spring he says .

Bill Hoppe
Yellville Arkansas
In my day a computer was a human job tital . If my computer had wheels I wouldnt be able to get it out of the driveway. That's why my car sets braindead in the yard while my 1973 brainles chevy pickup just keeps rolling . At least IT gets me to the creeks .

Do You Yahoo!?
Check out Yahoo! Shopping and Yahoo! Auctions for all of
your unique holiday gifts! Buy at http://shopping.yahoo.com
or bid at http://auctions.yahoo.com