Since I had the day off and the weather forcast was favorable, I
decided that come hell or high water (quite literally in this case) I
was going collecting. I was after three fishes: Campostoma
anomalum (my outside tanks are growing algae), Cyprinella
lutrensis (especially for George Arndt, who wants some easy
minners), and, since it occurs with the other two, Etheostoma
I also wanted to take the opportunity to sample Silver Creek, which
I was told some years back was a good site. All of the activity
took place near Yazoo City, which those of you who attended the
convention will surely remember. Silver Creek was my first stop.
This is on the OTHER side of the Yazoo River, and is definitely in
delta territory. I was somewhat discouraged by the intensove
agriculture in this region, but was encouraged to find that the creek
in question consisted in large part of cypress swamp. Alas, after
1/2 hour of slogging thought the mud, not one fish was either seen
or netted. The steam bed was very treacherous, owing to the
activities of beaver. At least twice I set foot upon what appeared to
be solid ground, only to crash through a tunnel and get a good
dunking in the process! This excursion was not a total loss
though, as I collected several plants for George, including a floating
plant which I have never seen before. The plants were butterfly
shaped, about an inch across, and had numerous short roots
which trailed into the water.
AFter looking at another location, which appeared equally bad, I
then ventured into known territory. I wanted to visit the fossil site to
collect some specimens for Bob Sinclair. Bob, some of you will
remember, attended the Jackson convention. He unfortunately
trailed the main group to the fossil site, and reported that he found
"a thousand footprints, and holes where fossils were picked up". I
promised him I would mail him some. But this time, all I found was
a layer of mud. Maybe later in the season... So I moved on to
Short Creek. This was the second location we visited in August,
which was barely a trickle and yielded no fishes whatsoever. Now,
however, it was a swollen torrent. No way I could get into that.
So I tried Thompson's Creek which is not too far away and has
always been a good spot. I stood on the wooden bridge (no
guardrails - this is Mississippi after all!) for a while and spotted
several aggregations of minnows. I had finally found a good spot! I
picked a likely looking spot to try out my new minnow trap - one of
those vinyl coated Wal-Mart jobs. I had lost my wire minnow traps
a couple of years before in a neighbor's pond after getting
embarrassingly drunk. Anyway, I did get some minnows, but
discovered that the minnows found it more convenient to eat the
dog food through the mesh, rather than swimming inside the trap.
Next time I'll suspend the bait in a nylon stocking in the middle of
the trap, so they'll HAVE to swim inside to get to it. I thought
initially that all the minnows were red shiners, but now that I have
them at home most of them are some species of Notropis instead.
Of course a couple of longears had to investigate the inside of the
trap and thus became my capives as well. As luck would have it, a
large stoneroller was trapped inside with them!
After chowing down on the stream bank I put my dipnet into action.
I caught several more Cyprinids and a single E. whipplei. Some
ways upstream the creek narrowed, and there was a single rock
about the size of my head in the middle of it. A quick swipe with
my dipnet and Hey Presto! Rainbow darters like I've never seen
before! These guys were truly spectacular. The rainbows found in
this area are very different from caeruleum elsewhere - they may
even constitute a distinct species. In any event, I collected a
dozen darters from around this one rock. The females were
swollen with eggs. In one lucky netfull I found five darters!
That was enough for me - I immediately headed for home. The
stonerollers were divided up among all the outdoor tanks as algae
control agents. Now that the photoperiod has increased the plants
I had collected on a previous trip were doing very well too. I have
had much better luck than Wm. T. Innes in that regard. The
rainbows were put into a tank filled with 30-40mm pebbles which I
gathered just for this purpose. I looked in on my sand darter tank,
and found that one A. vivax which I collected last year had expired.
I knew it was bound to happen as he hadn't been eating. All the
other darters were as ravenous as ever, and the rough shiners
which shared their tank had turned a beautiful shade of orange.
What a neat minnow N. baileyi is! They remind me of nothing so
much as N. chrosomus - I would not be at all surprised if they were
in the same species group.
All the darters went into the same tank. It was interesting to see
that all the rainbows settled into the rocky area just underneath the
OPF, while the lone whipplei preferred the sandy area which I
provided using swimming pool filter sand from Home Depot. Just
as they are found in nature!
So in conclusion, I found all three of my target species. And no, I
am NOT going to share the rainbow darters! So don't ask! George,
I can ship your fish whenever you are ready for them (after they
pass quarantine, that is). And I have some tank-acclimated plants
for you as well. Just say the word.
Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a wet sidewalk,
my first instinct is to laugh. But then I think, what if
I was an ant, and she fell on me. Then it wouldn't seem
quite so funny.
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