NANFA-L-- The Mad River March...

Subject: NANFA-L-- The Mad River March...
From: Todd D. Crail (tcrail-in-UTNet.UToledo.Edu)
Date: Sun Nov 21 2004 - 22:53:17 CST

Greetings Listizens,

Yesterday, I was down Columbus way to visit with my Sister and
Brother-in-law. And no, not to see Michigan get spanked and sent home...
but instead, to listen to Lewis Black rant in person for an hour Friday
night. In fact, I tried to time my drive the opposite direction of the
Wolverine invasion of the Buckeye capital. ;)

The gang here in Toledo had kicked around the idea of doing a mussel trip on
the Blanchard today... But it rained this week, there's no corn in the
fields, the field tiles are straight shot water and silt conduits, so the
streams were all chocolate milk. It didn't even rain hard. And having
contrasted the Maumee Watershed with two others this weekend... There really
needs to be some changes going on around here. The people of this state
treat the Maumee like an unwanted stepchild, I swear. And _in spite of_
monsterous potential, to boot!

Anyway, my sister lives pretty close to the Darby (crown jewel of Ohio
streams) and I noticed that while it had filled up a bit, it was still
manageable and CLEAR. So I got this big idea... Why not drive on over to
the Mad River (sorta on the way home), which is western Ohio's premier
"headwater", a system I had not sampled yet, and see what was shakin'?

Ohhhhhhh... Clear, nice waters! :)

The area is mostly hilly glacial alluvium (rocks n junk) due to a large
section of Devonian limestone that just didn't want to give it up like it's
surrounding counterpart substrate (the glacier scraped into the Ordovacian
here). It consequently split every glacier that ever rode through and the
action left all sorts of glacial effects - kames, eskers and small moraines.
The rocky soils really aren't that great for farming, and water goes
straight into the ground, percolating out as it should into the streams.
Vahry nice-ah. And not only on the clarity plane... A lot of the water has
spent a considerable time-in-55 degrees under ground, which allows heat
sensitive species to hang out all year round. I wouldn't be suprised if we
had seen 2000 mottled sculpin today.

I got home, phoned up new NANFA member and my right hand brailman, Jeff
Grabarkiewicz, said "Dude. Headwater fish. Lots. 8 am." The plan was

Our first stop was on Macochee Creek, just outside of West Liberty, Ohio,
and about 200 yards east of the Piatt Mac O Cheek Castle. It's not really a
castle, but a reaaaaally big house built in the 1800's (we have such an old
history here!). If you want to see them, they look like this... Kinda

Anyway. It's late in the year and Macochee Creek was hauling along as it
does all year long. It has a beautiful gradient and lots of rocky riffles
and pools. I can't wait to sample it in the spring. It must be one big
darter factory. However, we're starting to really cool down, so the only
stuff living in the shallow riffles and fast glides are sculpin, with
occassional other species hanging in the birm, out of the current. Our
first seine haul, we nabbed a nice brown trout that would have been best
seen over a campfire smothered in butter... but the state has its rules
about these particular exotics, so no removal program was enacted

In short... we got bored quick. We were after redside dace, State
Endangered tonguetied minnows and brook lamprey... and this wasn't showing
any sign of those species. Further upstream!

We drove around a bit, following the course of the stream. We finally came
to an area that seemed to have a better gradient, with a large riparian
woods intact, which we hoped would yield some bends and consequently, some
nice slow pools with undercuts and wood, etc. instead of the racing rocky
riffles and glides we were looking at. There was a really nice pull off
with their mailbox-in-the site, and made it the perfect place to park. Out
we hopped... Oh yeah. That's what we were looking for.

We made our way along, nabbing some nice SRBD, a brook stickleback and the
most beefy blacknose dace I've ever seen. Some of the blacknose dace
lateral stripes were so brassy, we had to double check to see if they were
blacknose or redside as they rolled up under leaves when we lifted the
seine. Rainbow darters were in full non-nuptial color (you'll have mail
here soon Laura :) and of course, there were sculpin everywhere. The big
boys (sculpin) were in the riffles, the little guys were in undercuts and in
the leaves.

We came to a nice cut behind a large downed tree, with all sorts of good
stuff making habitat. The habitat was very three dimensional, with lots of
suspended leaves and sticks making a lattice through the pool. We barrelled
in there, out came some more SRBD, but also... a couple very nice tonguetied
minnows. Pay dirt! We tried to get a good shot of the mouth, but its
profile will need to do:

We came to a particular sand and leaf mound-in-the top of a pool... I said
"There's got to be a brook lamprey in there", which Jeff later admitted he
thought I was hitting the crack pipe again. So we kicked it once, nothing.
But I realized the slippery nature of what we were trying to rise out of the
comforts of sand... So we ganged up, set the seine downstream from us, and
both kicked the snot out of the sand pile. Viola... the American brook

We still hadn't nabbed any redside dace, which is what I was most interested
in finding for my home aquaria. On we pressed into the next segment's pool.
We came to a nice sandy glide that had some woody stuff... We went to push
between the bank and the wood, when a huge school of long-looking fishes
flew into the seine. "Up! Up! Up!" Ahhhh... the redside quota was reached
and passed in one seine haul. There must have been 50-75 in that school!

Realizing that the ol' flow-troll-on-a-rope was-in-capacity, we decided to
end our adventure on this stream segment. I can't wait to go back. We
commented as we were walking out on how wonderful it was to work a stream
like this, and how homey all the tree cover and such makes the experience.
Jeff and I refer to places like this as "church". And it was definately one
of those places...

Once back, we started to sort out the fish to go home, and make our
toungetied and brook lamprey's "captive" stays as short as possible. While
getting our photos before release, a truck pulled up and a friendly gent
stepped out and greet us (50'ish). It was his dad's property and he was
interested to see what we found in the creek (but was also there to get his
arrow from deer hunting the night before). I don't think he was ready for
what he was going to see :)

We did the "here's the pretty dace and rainbow darter" dance... He seemed
somewhat familiar with them. Then we had the pleasure to tell someone that
they did, in fact, have a seriously imperilled animal living on their
property, and he was quite impressed and wanted to learn to ID it, so when
they collected "minnows" for bait, they put them back. That was such a neat
experience... it didn't really settle in how cool it was until we were
sitting-in-lunch 30 minutes later. It was especially neat because of how
proud he was of the conservation measures his family had taken to let a lot
of their land revert (young successional forest), especially along the
stream, and that it had conservation effects they were not aware of. I also
have the 1980's and 1990's data for this segment of stream... It's in waaaay
better shape now. I wish I would have known that while there to issue the
appropriate "attaboy".

Then... we pulled out the show stopper. The lamprey _really_ got his
attention! We explained how this species was much unlike the sea lamprey
(he's an avid fisherman as well), the differences and such, and about the
conservation of the species. That got him really excited about the stream,
and he couldn't wait to tell his dad. I wish I had a "business card" to
hand him, in case he would have liked some follow up. Making some is going
to be priority 1 when I get back from Thanksgiving.

On we went, and had pretty much spoiled the rest of the day :) We stopped
in the Mad River proper and added a couple species, but we were kinda like
"blah". One species was the bigeye chub, and that, for Ohio, is cool. Big
specimen too! There is only one record of this species in the OEPA data for
the Mad River, and that was from back in 1984. Oops. I think Dr. Cavender
is going to want to smack me again. We should have photo vouchered.
Well... we saw two, anyway.

Bored with seeing the same stuff haul after haul after haul (never thought
I'd be sick of seeing sculpin)... I suggested we go scout about instead. We
headed downstream a bit where Ol' Binks locked his keys in his car a couple
years back-in-an outing. We decided it looked the same as where we had
been. Can't wait to get back there when stuff is back out of wintering
locations! Also scouted out a park in West Liberty right on the Mad River,
which will be a great place to have a NANFA get together, for a cookout or

So... with 2 hours of daylight left, I made the suggestion we try and grab
some hornyhead chubs from the headwaters of the Auglaize River, a tributary
of the big ol' Muddy Maumee Madness and Mess. Hopefully, we'd be far enough
up stream that the tiles wouldn't have caught up to us. At our first
intersection with the stream, it looked like it was moving, but not high,
and certainly not turbid. By the time we got to our point of entry three
miles down the road, it was nearly flooded, and quite a bit more muddy.
Five miles down the road from there, on our way home... It was-in-bankful
and chocolate milk. Amazing!

Anyway, this will definately be a place to visit when water levels are
normal. It has enough of a gradient that it sweeps the silts out of there,
or they're just not as abundant-in-this point to make a problem. We
encountered hornyhead chubs by the pound, which is pretty rare in the Maumee
Watershed, and hope to see a cast of suckers (esp creek chubsuckers) and
such once we're able to work the pools, which were high fast glides today.
And again, the bioload in the Maumee is just unbelievable. It is sooooo

A quick stop-in-the Kewpee (the hamburger joint) in Lima, and we were-in-
home by 7:00. I don't know how the heck we go as long as we do in the
summer. But then again, I never have the energy to type up a report in the
summer either :)

Total Species Viewed (26)

Macochee Creek -> Mad River -> Great Miami River -> Ohio River
Auglaize River -> Maumee River -> Lake Erie

Macochee Creek just east of Mac O Cheek Castle
Water Clear and ~50 F, Rocky Glacial Alluvium
8' Seine, Todd Crail, Jeff Grabarkiewicz
Brown trout (1 - looked real tasty :)
Creek chub (~25)
Blacknose dace (Abundant)
White sucker (3)
Rainbow darter (5+)
Mottled sculpin (Abundant)

Macochee Creek in the Headwaters
Water Clear and ~50 F, Fine Glacial Alluvium
8' Seine, TC, JG
American brook lamprey (1 - limited sample in habitat)
Creek chub (~20)
Central stoneroller (2)
Tonguetied minnow (5) (State Endangered)
Southern redbelly dace (~15)
Blacknose dace (Dominant)
Redside dace (~25 in one scoop :)
White sucker (2)
Brook stickleback (2)
Green sunfish (10)
Bluegill sunfish (5+)
Rainbow darter (10)
Johnny darter (1)
Mottled sculpin (Abundant)

Mad River-in-SR 68
Water Clear and ~50 F, Rock, Sand, Hornwort
8' Seine, TC, JG
Creek chub (10+)
Blacknose dace (20+)
Redside dace (3)
Bigeye chub (2)
White sucker (1)
Spotted bass (1)
Rainbow darter (5)
Mottled sculpin (Abundant)

Auglaize River near Westminster, OH
Water Cloudy and ~50 F, Sand and Clay
8' Seine, TC, JG
Creek chub (50+)
Central stoneroller (5+)
Redfin shiner (2)
Golden shiner (1)
Hornyhead chub (Abundant - Nearly Dominant)
Common shiner (Dominant & Intergrades)
Striped shiner (Dominant & Intergrades)
Bluntnose minnow (Abundant)
Blacknose dace (2)
White sucker (1)
Blackstripe topminnow (1)
Rock bass (1)
Fantail darter (1)
Johnny darter (2)
Orangethroat darter (3)

The Muddy Maumee Madness, Toledo, OH
It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

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: Fri Dec 31 2004 - 12:42:52 CST