NANFA Field Trips to Salacoa and
Saturday morning was beautiful. I have been amazed all year long at the way almost all of our collecting trips have been attended by really nice weather, but this was one for the books. I met up with Casper Cox around 9:30AM at Salacoa Creek near Fairmount, GA. Mr. Steve Brannon owns a rural lumber yard that adjoins the creek, and he gave us permission to park there and access the creek from his land. It seems like a small thing, but it's really a relief to work from private property when you've got expensive cameras and other gear.
The water was very clear over a substrate of rocks and sand, but it was quite cold at first (kinda made me remember Hocking Hills!). When I saw that Casper didn't die from water shock, I plunged in behind him. The first five minutes were challenging, but the view made up for it. Right away, we saw lots of Alabama shiners, tricolor shiners, rainbow shiners, redbreast sunfish (and a few longear), redeye & spotted bass, black redhorse, and many blackside darters. I saw a group of about 6-8 large drum, but they would not let me get closer than about twelve feet.
For the first time, I used a point-and-shoot underwater disposable camera. I got the pictures back yesterday and only found a few decent shots. However, I was pleased with the experiment. Right away I discovered that motion is a real problem, not only the moving fish, but the inevitable camera movement due to the oversized trigger mechanism. Flash would have been helpful too, although I chose my shots with as much sun overhead as possible.
About 11, Bruce Stallsmith joined us, and we broke out the seine and dipnets. The collecting was good, with 24 species logged. One lone topminnow was captured and it immediately became the subject of a debate. I am convinced it was Fundulus catenatus, but the other guys believe it was F. stellifer. Even without my glasses, I offered to eat the specimen in question if I was wrong. This fish (temporarily called, F. controversius) is in preservative awaiting a trip down to Andy Borgia for positive ID. If I am wrong, I hope the fellows will allow me to substitute another fish for my meal instead of the one presently marinating in formalin. (-:
After a break for lunch, we headed SW to the 2nd site, Raccoon Creek. This location is between Cartersville & Dallas, GA. Here we were joined by Sharon Allsup from Winston, GA. (You really appreciate someone who brings along Frappucino for snack time!) Casper was the only one who snorkeled at this site, so the rest of us chose the opposite fork to begin collecting. The fish were not as easy to come by in this stream due to much deeper pools, mud, snags, and a host of unwelcome gambusia. As the sun moved lower in the sky, the fatigue factor also came into play. Until then, the locals were strangely absent, but they began to appear as we prepared to leave. Sharon, Bruce, and I walked past a young genius sitting in the dirt, straddling a large tent peg, and pounding it in with a rock...an accident waiting to happen.
Anyway, we caught many of the same species as well as bronze darters and a single riffle minnow. We netted some huge F. stellifer, which I should have held up to the little guy we caught earlier in the day for comparison. The digital pictures turned out better with the use of a backdrop, but they are bag shots, so there's still some distortion. I'm working on a homemade viewer for the next outing.
HERE is Sharon Allsup's account of the trip