our first stop everyone met at Eagle Creek, which is a Mahoning River
Tributary and part of The Ohio River Drainage. Our location placed us
between Southington and Newton Falls, Ohio. After introducing myself
and going over preliminary rules of stream etiquette " with the
group, we split up in three pods to survey at least 150 yards of the
stream for fish and other aquatic life. Eagle Creek, as always, greets
visitors with plenty of densely shaded streamside forests, keeping water
temperatures cooler than most streams I visit in the area, where some
areas of the stream allow for penetration of more sunlight. Since the
weather forecast was calling for a rather cool and partly cloudy day,
most of us brought some kind of jacket or extra t-shirts.
I want to point out that the mosquitoes of Eagle
Creek don't care what the temperature is, because they will be there
waiting for blood, and as usually is the case. Those venturing into
the stream became a nice tall drink of red wine for these aggressive
little guys! I'm glad I didn't forget the organic repellent! I'd rather
smell like a life-size citronella candle than to walk away donating
half of my blood to the local mosquito blood drive!
Once we were mosquito proof, it was time to become
waterproof! With waders on, cameras and nets in hand, we made our way
into the steadily flowing waters of the small river. I was hoping that
we would find some calm pools in the stream where we would witness some
amazing breeding behavior and colors of Common Shiners and Central Stonerollers.
This was not to be the situation, however, because recent rains swelled
the local waterways, and most of the existing calm pool habitats simply
became part of the higher water "run" habitat which was Eagle
Creek this day! I volunteered to keep an inventory of the species found,
so as the three groups began netting the waters, I did my best to see
what each catch yielded!
Because of the rather turbid and somewhat less than
clear waters, some of the color patterns and markings on the fishes
became washed out. This was not to hold true with the greenside darters,
however, as they were as visually dazzling as ever, displaying bright
sparkling emerald green fins, deep brown mottled markings, and even
some deep blues along the length of the body! It looked to me as though
an expert pen and ink artist delicately sketched in the patterns on
this little animal! As I assisted in holding up the viewing container
in which the fish were placed, it was satisfying to see the amazement
on the faces of those who have never witnessed anything like this so
close to home!
What's more, when Nick Zarlinga (NANFA member and
Aquatic Biologist-Cleveland MetroParks Zoo), explained to the group
some of the physical make up and behavior of such fishes (Nick refers
to fish behavior as "Fishanalities" "), many thought this in itself
was intriguing. Few would realize, unless it was explained to them,
that a darter's body is suited perfectly for the fast moving and riffle
habitat where these fish prefer to reside. Add to this, who would take
notice of the design of its mouth as a determining factor as to what
it likes to eat!
After a few photographs, and more admiration, the
darter was gently released. Other findings in the catches included the
odd-looking grass pickerel, mottled sculpin, and a very large blackside
darter. Eagle Creek is a haven for blacksides!
After approximately an hour and a half of netting
fish and realizing what was in Eagle Creek, we made our way back to
our vehicles to regroup for the next site--Rock Creek near Rock Creek,
Ohio, of course! By the way, the species tally this day for Eagle Creek
was 15. Since the water was high and many habitats washed out, this
wasn't too bad!