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From: robertrice
Full-Name: robert a rice
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Our Hidden Jewels
by Robert Rice
It appears that many of our States fishermen and Naturalist are
overlooking a resource of beauty unparalleled in the world. This item is
exported and established in Europe and Asia where it has been winning
awards and fame. Yet here at home it is virtually ignored .

What are we missing you may wonder? Is it some rare unknown plant , an
exotic mineral, the latest batch from a micro winery? No, these gems are
our non game native fishes. When you say non game fishes most people say
"nothing to 'em. dull as dust". As an aquarist and amateur naturalist I
can tell you our natives are among the most beautiful and easy to keep
fish in the world .They rival most tropicals and a great many Saltwater
fish in color and diversity of body types.

Surprised? A great many people are, they have gotten the mistaken notion
that the only fish worth investigating are the game fish, and the only
fish worth keeping are the tropicals.

I spend allot of my free time collecting and studying our natives ,so my
idea of fishing is a bit different. While many of my peers labor away at
bass and trout I take a stranger turn. I spent hours mucking around with
seine and dip nets catching "bait" and more than a few puzzled looks.
"What 'cha catching there fella" I hear it often and enjoy getting the
chance to explain what most people have been missing.

You may wonder what does it take to get started in keeping non game
natives. For the novice to either collecting or keeping fish I recommend
the following a tank of at least 20 gallons setup and waiting for fish,
natives are extremely tolerant to temperature and water variables so
avoid the extremes and fluctuations and you'll be fine. You'll need a
fishing license and an awareness of local regulations regarding
collecting . The collecting gear I recommend is a 4 foot 1/8 th. inch
seine net, an 1/8 dip net (Try to avoid larger mesh as it can harm the
fish) .Additional items you'll want to bring include bug spray , buckets,
zip lock bags and a partner if you can talk someone into it make the

Once all your gear is in your ready for action .Pick a spot that is
convenient, away from sport fishermen , and looks like it's got a regular
water flow and jump in Now some people prefer to use waders. I am what
they call a Primitive Collector, shorts , tennis shoes , and my
testosterone aided attitude is all I use. My greatest joy is being waist
deep in mud as the water tickles my chin and I navigate my net past a
tree trunk .Others who are much wiser or have a more realistic self
perception (My Wife for instance) take a more civilized route waders,
sunscreen, picnic lunch etc. You of course will find your own way of
doing things as there is no one right way. The most important thing to
remember is be smart, don't take what you shouldn't , don't keep what you
don't want, and don't take what you don't have room for. The second most
important thing is not how you do it, but that you enjoy doing it.

After I have caught my prize I gently bag them in a zip lock bag with a
small amount of water and allot of blown in air. Pack them away from the
sun and repeat until happy. In my experience trips that are less than two
hours away from your home and your tanks are the best. Once at home open
the bags floating them in the tank for around 20 minutes until the
temperatures are equal then dip out your fish into the tank, never, I
repeat, never dump the water into the tank, that is the number one way to
transmit disease and parasites.

You'll find with a little care and attention your new additions will
quickly adapt to domestic life and will come up to greet you at feeding
time. In time with proper care and a little luck your catch may even
spawn in the tank. People often wonder what fish work well in an aquarium
so here are some that I have kept and really enjoy:

Orange-spotted sunfish (Lepomis humilus) 
This colorful little sunfish adapts readily to domestic life. It's been
recently introduced to the European pet industry. It will commonly spawn
in an aquarium. The breeding colors of the males make them one of the
most beautiful fish in the world. 
Central Longear (Lepomis megalotis) 
This beautiful and durable sunfish is attractive year round, eats
anything from worms to frozen tropical fish food to dried dog food soaked
in water. It is intelligent and will often eat out of your hand . It's
looks remind me of the discus and it's hardiness is unparalleled. 
Red Shiner (Notropis lutrensis) 
This colorful and very adaptable minnow with its red fins and bluish body
is an eye catcher in any tank. It readily eats flake food and is
sometimes sold in the pet industry as a "Redhorse Shiner". 
Southern Red Belly Dace (Phoxinus erythrogaster) 
This gorgeous little minnow is truly a world class fish. In England, they
have peaked in their domestic popularity, commonly winning national trade
shows, and with it's red belly and yellow fins it is no wonder! 
Of course there are many other central United States species that are
very well suited for the aquarium. However almost all of your sport fish
and cold water species are not. So do yourself and the fish a favor and
don't try it!

People have often asked me "Why are you such an advocate for native
fish?". I will tell you why, I believe we will not preserve things that
we do not love, and we cannot love things that we have not known. So that
is why I work to share with others, all the wonderfull native species we
have. In the hope that my great grandchildren can someday look across a
prairie stream and see a flash of color in the water and begin to wonder
aloud "What was that?" and start on their own journey to knowing.

Robert Rice
Help Preserve our Aquatic Heritage join the Native Fish Conservancy
 at our website  www.nativefish.org