Virginia Regional Report for Spring/Summer 1999

by Michael Thennet

4/12/99 - Video Presentation at the Monthly Potomac Valley Aquarium Society (PVAS)Meeting, Fairfax, VA.

Yesterday evening I gave a video presentation and a tools of the trade demonstration on native fishes and collecting techniques respectively, to the Potomac Valley Aquarium Society at their monthly meeting.

The video shows my five aquariums comprised of a dace, darter, sculpin and two Enneacanthus setups. The quality of the video is fairly good but the recorded narrative is pretty poor (especially after a few cold ones) so I just turned the volume down and winged it. I was surprised how easy the video was to talk to. There were plenty of questions. I was surprised to see so much interest from tropical fish hobbyists.

After the video discussion, I broke out the tools of the trade (seine , dipnet, minnow trap, portable airpump...) and described VA regulations to show just how inexpensive and easy it is to collect legally in our local watersheds.  I called a volunteer from the crowd to help me hold the seine for demonstrations.  Hopefully this helped rid them of their apprehensions of such activities. I stressed that fish collected for home aquaria should NEVER be returned to the wild.

After that I moved in for the kill and distributed some NANFA pamphlets, national convention invitations and business cards (with my e-mail address) to those who were interested in possibly joining NANFA and attending upcoming collection trips. I even sold five raffle tickets to the attendees.

All in all, it was a good experience for myself and hopefully I captured the interests of at least a handful of the twenty or so attendees.

If you are involved with a local aquarium society which has regular meeting you should have some great opportunities for talking on native fishes, collecting and creating some awareness. They are always looking for speakers. Videos help immensely and so do the tools of the trade.


4/18/99 - Field trips to Ware Creek, Fort AP Hill, VA, Rt. 17 and the Po and Ni Rivers, Thornburg, VA, Rt. 606

Shane Linder, Steve Carruth, Scott Wilson, Michael Galewski and myself set off for Ware Creek in Caroline County, near Fredricksburg, just North of Fort AP Hill on Rt 17 East toward Tappahanock. After a light breakfast, short discussion and distribution of information concerning the upcoming national convention and possible future collection trips we set off for Ware Creek.

Ware Creek is part of the Rappahanock River drainage. The creek seemed a little higher and more turbid due to the recent rain. It varied between eight to fifteen feet wide. Some pools were up to three feet deep. The water temperature was around 65F. Ambient temperature was 65F. Water chemistry was not tested, but last fall this spot registered a pH of 6.5 with minimal hardness. The substrate was fine to medium gravel with sparse vegetation in the form of water loosestrife in places where light could make it through the tree canopy. Much of the vegetation seemed to be overgrown and choked with hair algae and silt, possibly due to runoff.

Here we sampled creek chubs, fallfish, rosyside dace, satinfin shiners, tessellated darters, bluegill, warmouth, tadpole madtoms and surprised what looked to be a juvenile chain pickerel.  Productivity at this location had greatly decreased compared to last fall, possibly due to a beaver dam upstream which we had noticed last October 98. Also, the increased presence of so many bluegill was unsettling. With this in mind, only eight cyprinids were kept. The tadpole madtoms were gravid females which prompted their quick ID then return to the creek since no male was collected.

After a few hours of sampling Ware Creek, the group moved onto Matta, Po and Ni rivers on route 606 a few miles south. These three rivers eventually converge to form the Mattaponi River. The Mattaponi is part of the York River drainage. The Matta was "POSTED".  The Po and the Ni rivers were accessible but the Po was being fished by locals and only the Ni was collectible at the point of the road. It was at these locations I was hoping to sample the Bluespot/Diamond Sunfish.

Here, the Ni had formed a swampy bog full of tannin stained water with native lilypads, and downed trees (beaver activity). The substrate was leaf litter and fine sand. After just 5 minutes of seining and dipnetting we sampled many bluespot sunfish, chain pickeral and fairy shrimp. The bluespots looked incredible in their full breeding regalia. They are some of the most beautiful fish I have ever seen. Four subadult to adult bluespots went home with new Maryland NANFA member Steve Carruth and I myself kept two juvenile specimens, a few fairy shrimp and one bunch of ludwigia. All other specimens were returned after positive ID. Again, I cannot overstress the importance of conservative collecting, especially during the Spring. Next time I am at this location I will remember to bring my test kits.

Possible locations for upcoming NANFA Virginia collection trips are listed below:

- Cedar Creek, Strasburg, VA - Sycolin Creek, Leesburg, VA - Sallee Creek, Richmond, VA - Any Creek in Hanover County, Culpepper, VA - Any tributary of North Anna River, Thornburg, VA

7/25/99 - Field trip to Cedar Creek, Strasburg, VA off of Rt. 55

For our second trip Bruce Hahn of Arlington, VA acted as host and guide for a trip to his track of land at the Cedar Creek and Mulberry Run confluence (N. Fork Shenendoah drainage). In attendance were David Snell, president of the Potomac Valley Aquarium Society (PVAS), Barbara McClorey, Andrew, Mark Cook, Mike Aloa, Bruce Hahn and myself.

The location was beautiful. Cedar Creek was crystal clear, lined with cliffs and loaded with underwater structures and caves. The day began with a little angling prior to actually entering the water and collecting with seines and dipnets. Species angled were Green Sunfish, Redbreast Sunfish, Rock Bass and Smallmouth Bass.

After a little angling we headed upstream slowly sampling the pools and riffles. The species present were Eastern Silvery Minnow, Bluntnose Minnow, White Sucker and Spotfin Shiner. The following were juveniles collected in among vegetation: Fantail Darter, Yellow Bullhead, Redbreast Sunfish, Green Sunfish, Smallmouth Bass, Rock Bass, Largemouth Bass and Mottled Sculpin.

It was at this time that I had my first chance at snorkeling in a stream. It was amazing! Especially around structure such as vegetation. Various species of fish shared the underwater gardens as a refuge and territory. Prey hungout with predator, of course not too closely. Juveniles hid among the foliage. I was truly amazed that above and out of the water my shape would cause fish to scatter and hide. Once in the water, they considered me structure or cover, coming in many cases just a few inches from face and body.

Following lunch and the fish cull, I passed out NANFA new member packages and provided a few copies of American Currents to the non-member attendees. At that point, some attendees visited Turkey Run (N. Fork Shenendoah drainage), located two miles away. Due to an already dry season, the run had become small pools where fish population had become concentrated. Here the species easily sampled were the Rosyside Dace, Blacknose Dace, White Sucker, Largemouth Bass, Fantail darters and Mottled Scuplins.

From Turkey run some more of the attendees had to leave and the rest of the group made its way to Paddy Run about five to six miles away where Rosyside Dace and Blacknose Dace were sampled. Then it was off to Orndorf's Trout Farm which is the same trout farm that stocks our local Four Mile Run in Arlington, VA. The farm had many different spring fed stream/reservoirs filled with Rainbow/Golden (xanthic form) trout organized according to their stage of maturity. Here, Bruce was able to order an almost 3 lb. trout (pay by the pound) for dinner that evening.

All in all it was a highly productive day for all involved. I would like to thank Bruce Hahn and all the others who helped make this trip enjoyable. I am really looking forward to the next field trip, whenever and wherever that may be.