Birmingham Alabama Outing, October 2002
Steven A. Ellis
Kennesaw, GA

Photos by Steven Ellis and Bruce Stallsmith (where noted)

On Saturday morning October 5, 2002, still stinging from the remarks of a certain young lady on the NANFA list concerning how our collecting trips are only made up of middle-aged men, several of us greybeards began gathering at the home of not-quite-middle-aged Stott Noble. Anticipating our arrival, Stott and his lovely wife laid out a wonderful Southern breakfast that included biscuits & gravy, eggs, and some of Stott's homemade sausage. What a feast!
Totally out of character, I was first to arrive, after flying down I-20 through a sea of cars headed for the GA/AL game, most of which sported dual flags bearing team logos. Next came NANFA President Bruce Stallsmith from Huntsville, AL, site of the 2003 NANFA Convention. Stott's brother-in-law, Kelly, made his appearance right after Prez. Finally, Casper (if they're not here in 5 minutes, let's leave without 'em) Cox rolled in from Chattanooga, TN. The reason for his unusual tardiness quickly became apparent, as he began to display some trophy mushrooms he had collected along the way.

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Casper Cox (Chattanooga, TN) lays out the excellent mushrooms he gathered
en route to Stott's house. (Bruce Stallsmith photos)

After breakfast, Stott's tiny daughter Suzanne also shared her plastic toy food with us. She's already learning her way around the fish world. As we stood gazing into the living room aquarium, she pointed to a fish and said, "That's a longear sunfish." Her ID was correct. Way cute kid! She was not pleased at being left behind. After condensing the caravan down to three vehicles, we headed out to the first site of the day.

By popular (that'd be you, Traci!) demand,
this trip did include young,single females.
This is Suzanne Noble.


Little Cahaba River at Cahaba Beach, Jefferson Co., AL

Cahaba River, at that point, was a clear stream with a moderate current, flowing over smooth stones. It provides part of the drinking water for the City of Birmingham. In the open water we found tons of Alabama hogsuckers. While the others enjoyed excellent success kick seining in the riffles, I chased blackspotted topminnows near the surface of the deeper pools along the shore. Stumbling over a submerged log, I accidentally splashed the digital camera, fogging the lens for the remainder of the day. I had only taken a few pix before that blunder. Fortunately, Prez brought a film camera along.

Little Cahaba River, looking upstream. The rope swing is visible at left
center, not far from where I "bathed" the camera.

Little Cahaba River, looking downstream

Suddenly, we heard a familiar voice from the shore, and out of the bushes stepped young Dave Neely (Tuscaloosa, AL). Twenty-something Dave has been feverishly working on his doctoral dissertation, and it had been some time since any of us had seen him. Rescuing our trip from being yet another gathering of the ancient ones, he broke out the backpack shocker and started making the fish dance.
The quest begins...L-R - Casper, Bruce Stallsmith (Huntsville, AL), Stott Noble (Birmingham, AL)


The first catch...L-R -Casper, Stott, & Prez
Casper & Stott attempt to rival SE radio's Rick 'n Bubba as the "two sexiest fat men in the world." You make the call.
According to the date, some would-be artist left this message under the bridge almost a year to the day from our visit


It was apparent by the rope swing hanging from a nearby tree that one of the larger pools also served as a swimming hole for the locals. One of them arrived just before we left, putting the swing to good use. His dog (looked like a black Lab, but I'm sure it was a Fish Retriever!) joined him for a swim. Later, a couple of mud-splattered ATV riders stopped to watch us from the bridge.
Casper (left) fills his cooler as one of the locals trains his "Fish
Retriever." (Photo by Bruce Stallsmith) Stott (left) and Steven Ellis (Kennesaw, GA) look on (Photo by Bruce Stallsmith)
At that location we found:
largescale stoneroller (Campostoma oligolepis)
Alabama shiner (Cyprinella callistia)
tricolor shiner (C. trichroistia)
blacktail shiner (C. venusta)
silverstripe shiner (Notropis stilbius)
riffle minnow (Phenacobius catostomus)
creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
Alabama hog sucker (Hypentelium etowanum)
black redhorse (Moxostoma duquesnei)
blackspotted topminnow (Fundulus olivaceus)
mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis)
undescribed sculpin (Cottus sp. cf. carolinae)
green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
bluegill (L. macrochirus)
longear sunfish (L. megalotis)
redspotted sunfish (L. miniatus)
redeye bass (Micropterus coosae)
redspot darter (Etheostoma artesiae)
Alabama darter (E. ramseyi)
Mobile logperch (Percina kathae)
blackbanded darter (P. nigrofasciata)

We could have spent the whole day there, it was such a great spot. It was close to 4PM by the time we reached our second stop.

Turkey Creek at Tapawingo Spring, Jefferson Co., AL

Our site at Turkey Creek put us right at the mouth of Tapawingo Spring. As the rest of the group worked downstream, Casper and I donned the wetsuits to use the remaining daylight for snorkeling. The right fork of the stream apparently led directly to the spring, as the water was ice cold! Casper was braver than I, so I thankfully yielded that side of the fork to him, while I took the wider fork of the main stream where the water was much more to my liking.
Multi-tasking in the field, Dave Neely does the "darter dance" while running the shocker at the same time. Kids, don't try this at home! L-R -Casper, Steven, & Dave Neely (Tuscaloosa, AL). (Photo by Bruce Stallsmith)
L-R - Stott, Casper, Dave, & Steven. (Photo by Bruce Stallsmith)

Casper must have caught some of the current on this one! L-R - Casper, Dave, & Steven. (Photo by Bruce Stallsmith)
Steven (left) & Casper snorkeling in Turkey Creek. (Photo by Bruce Stallsmith)


Time underwater just vanishes at an astonishing rate, and I'm afraid I kept the others waiting longer than I meant to do. It's kinda' like surfing the Web...who knows where the time goes? Being snorkelers themselves, they didn't beat me for it. I had taken along the underwater disposable camera, but the light was too poor to attempt any serious shots.
We collected/observed...
largescale stoneroller (C. oligolepis)
striped shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus)
silverstripe shiner (N. stilbius)
creek chub (S. atromaculatus)
Alabama hog sucker (H. etowanum)
black redhorse (M. duquesnei)
golden redhorse (Moxostoma erythrurum)
green sunfish (L. cyanellus)
bluegill (L. macrochirus)
longear sunfish (L. megalotis)
redeye bass (M. coosae)
spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
undescribed sculpin (Cottus sp. cf. carolinae)
vermilion darter (Etheostoma chermocki) [Fed. Endangered]
watercress darter (E. nuchale) [Fed. Endangered]
blackbanded darter (P. nigrofasciata)

Once again, we loaded up the cars and struck a path for a location that shall remain a secret in order to protect the soon-to-be-listed rush darters that live there. On the way, Prez and I listened to the radio to hear the Dawgs polish off 'Bama. Dave led us to the most unlikely looking place (he's got a real knack for that!), and in moments we were looking at the beautiful rush darters. It's a shame to think that suburban sprawl may put these little guys out of business. I really regretted not having the use of the camera at that point.

Visiting the soon-to-be-listed rush darter at unnamed site.
L-R - Dave, Stott, & Casper. (Photo by Bruce Stallsmith)


We observed...
largescale stoneroller (C. oligolepis)
striped shiner (L. chrysocephalus)
creek chub (S. atromaculatus)
rush darter (Etheostoma phytophilum) [Fed. candidate]

Weary and hungry, we returned to Stott's house to prepare for the evening feast. This guy can really cook! He made something called (I think) "beer can chicken." Since I don't cook anything beyond the survival level (I can burn water!), I'll leave it to one of the others to accurately describe the method. However it worked, it was delicious!

The evening was one of those late-summer gems for which the South is famous. We adjourned to the carport so that our noise would be out of the range of young Susanna, who was off to bed. The talk lasted well into the night, with the sort of twisted humor one might expect from a group of musicians, fishheads, artists, and scientists...somewhere between Einstein and Dr. Demento. Raccoons periodically approached from the darkness to inspect us. Rather than allowing Dave a much-needed break from his studies, I'm afraid we picked his brain for every bit of fish knowledge we could glean. We detained Prez just long enough to ensure that he'd be in trouble when he got home before we allowed him to split for Huntsville.

Since I had to leave early the next morning (work interfering with fish once again!), I retired to the nice couch Mr. & Mrs. Noble had prepared for me in the computer room, and went into screen saver mode. I left soon enough the next day to wade through the NASCAR traffic around Talladega and still make it to work on time. The others will have to fill you in on Sunday's activities. Wish I coulda' hung out longer!

Thanks, Stott!