Native Fish and Streamlife Observation Outing, May 11th, 2002

The North American Native Fishes Association
Cleveland Aquarium Society
Mahoning River Consortium

by Rob Carrillio


Eagle Creek

Rock Creek

Stratton Creek


Fish List

Thanks to Nick Zarlinga

More Photos





Rock Creek

Our next site took us on a 30 minute drive to Ashtabula County, Ohio's small village of Rock Creek. Rock Creek, a tributary of the Grand River and part of the lake Erie Drainage, is where we explored the main stem of the river the town was named for: Rock Creek! If you are familiar with famous crimes or TV's Unsolved Mysteries series, this place is a small rural farming community, infamous for what I believe was an early 1970's slaying of a law enforcement officer by an accused bunch of local roughnecks. I don't know if the mystery of what happened to this officer was unraveled, but I do know the creek that runs through the town has a very diverse assembly of fishes including a pleasant surprise find today of a lamprey. Lamprey are one of the native fishes that have been swimming around since before the dinosaurs! It has changed very little since that time, millions of years ago!

Native lamprey

An interesting role lamprey play in the underwater environment here, is preying off of sick and dying fishes. Although it sounds brutal, this has its advantages! By doing this the lamprey help to keep the overall fish population strong and healthy, by "removing" those which may spread disease to others! They literally attach themselves to the weaker fish with their jawless and sucker-like mouth, and suck fluids from their prey, eventually killing them! I guess you can call them the "DRACULAS" of the creek!

"These fish", as Nick Zarlinga pointed out, are altogether so different from all other fishes." As Nick demonstrated, the fish is actually jawless! He also pointed out that it most notably resembles an eel and slithers along the bottom of the stream like a snake searching for food! Certain native lamprey species are endangered in Ohio, and are excellent indicators of batter water quality. Like most fishes which are either threatened or endangered, loss of habitat and poor water quality contribute to their declining numbers.
Nick Zarlinga describes lamprey species


Rock Creek not only houses a diverse population of fishes, it is also a very picturesque river. Tall and graceful sycamore trees, reminiscent of old Ohio riverside forests, line the banks, along with thick growths of various riverbank sedge grasses. The geology is equally fascinating. Glacial artwork is clearly evident near and in Rock Creek, with glacial moraines and what I describe as shale shelf " waterfalls in the stream! It's also a birdwatcher's best kept secret! I witnesseda live Baltimore oriole for the first time! It was bright orange and dark black. Who could miss it bouncing around from tree limb to limb. Ok, I'm getting carried away on other subjects of nature, which at Rock Creek is so easy to do. I guess that's just a part of native fish observation outings. One can't help but take in all the natural scenery at streams . . . even if you came just to look at the fish! HA!

After repeating my chore of keeping track of what species of fishes we found to find at Rock Creek, I sat down along the bank and simply enjoyed participants who waded through quite a distance of the river. Among other beautiful fish we netted this day at Rock Creek were deep and brilliantly colored rainbow darters (the name says it all!), logperch darters, which seemed to display the ripening colors of a banana, and another special guest star among an all star cast of fish--the spotted sucker! This fish keeps the bottom of streams swept clean!

As the day approached early afternoon, and after finishing my rest along the bank, I called everyone back to take a complete count of what we gathered. We totaled 24 species at Rock Creek! Not bad for an hour and a half of getting wet! We took a break to eat our sack lunches, gathered our gear, loaded the vehicles, and made way to what would be the last site of the day, at least for me! This site would be Stratton Creek. The drive would take us to the south east, about a 30 minute drive away.

Stratton Creek


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