NANFA-- My first collection of the year

Mysteryman (
Tue, 22 Apr 2003 12:40:58 -0700

I'd say I'm off to a pretty good start!

I hit a semi-swampy area near my house. The area is latticed with dozens
of small streams which are really all the same stream, just split up
into numerous little branches which eventually reconnect. The substrate
is sand. There is a lot of vegetation on the edges of the streams, but
none actually in the water, except for an occasional clump on a sandbar.
This area also has a number of "permanent puddles" in it, which are
either fed by spring or seepage, and these are like little miniature
lakes of a sort. Rarely more than a foot deep, or more than ten feet
across, they don't look like they'd hold any fish. They do, though, and
I can ususally find Pygmy Sunfish in them.
Some of these puddles are just barely connected to a stream, and these
serve as spawning areas for ( Ptero ) Notropis signipinnis. While the
streams usually contain several adult fish at any given time of year
except the coldest part of winter, these spawning flats are usually
found to contain fry, hundreds of fry, about twice a year in the late
spring and early fall.
No signs of spawing yet, but the adults are out in force. I parked my
truck on the street, right by the culvert where the stream runs under
the road. This is right inside the city limits of Andalusia, Alabama, in
a rather fancy neighborhood full of snooty people who look at my old
rusty ford pickup with obvious disdain. Most of them have no clue about
what treasure swims through their backyards.
At any rate, I took my water sample bucket down the bank to the water. I
usually get a water sample from collection areas, you see. The scrub was
a little thicker than I remembered, but it was easy enough to get to the
water. Then something didn't feel right, and I started to slip, and I
heard an odd thrashing noise.
We have a saying around here: "never step over anything you can step
on." Well, I stepped over a log, and as a result I stepped right on a
Copperhead! Boy, was he mad! He tried to bite me several times, but
luckily he got his fangs stuck in my jeans and shoe. I managed to get
ahold of him before he managed to bite me, and I flung him away from me.
Well, after that little bit of excitement I got to work. Thanks to the
snake, I hadn't yet paid any attention to the creek. As I bent down to
fill my water jug, I could see the fish darting playfully in the
sunlight, and I couldn't believe my luck... there were dozens of
specimens in this one spot right by the street! Normally I have to go
hiking through the woods along the creek for a quarter mile or more to
find that many fish in a whole day. After Hurricane Opal, that's harder
than it sounds, what with all the fallen trees and such.

Heh.. I first found out that this fish lived here from a kid on a
3-wheeler. I was walking around there to scope it out as a possible
location for a paintball war. The kid was having fun, riding through the
creek. He stopped and asked me if I was looking for "Bull minners." I
told him that I didn't even know what one was. He told me that I'd
probably see some if looked hard enough. He was right. Eventually I saw
a few in a typical sort of spot where you'd expect to find Notropis
species, namely a deep spot in the creek right below a little waterfall.
I couldn't believe my eyes.. the sun was shining just right, and I could
see their glorious colors quite plainly.
Well, the next thing I did should be easy enough to predict. I rushed
home, got a net and a jar, and went back to catch some. They were harder
to catch than I would have guessed, but I managed to get a few.
I thought at first that they were Notropis hypselopterus, a native fish
I had actually read about in an aquarium book. I labored under this
wrong assuption for quite some time, but eventually figured out that
they were ( Ptero )Notropis signipinnis, the Flagfin Shiner. I used to
do down in that area to catch them fairly regularly after that, and
normally caught some Elassomas right along with them, along with a few
species of darters we have locally. I could have sworn that I even had a
stickleback once, but it got away before I could get a good look at it.
I don't think we're supposed to have sticklebacks around here, though.
Hurricane Opal came along though, and everything changed. The area
became very difficult to navigate, and a trip that formerly took a half
hour suddenly took two hours. I eventually quit bothering to collect
them because it was too much work. Last year, though, I had an idea...

I got a shovel and went to work. It took several hours, but I finally
managed to make a deep spot by the culvert. I figured that it would
attract the fish, making them easier to find. When I returned this year,
I found that most of my work has been undone by erosion and the current.
Most, that is, but not all. It worked! That's why, in about six minutes
flat, I was able to catch FORTY of them right by the road.
Try it. You might find that creating a habitat suitable for the species
you're seeking is easier than trying to find that habitat.

I took the fish and spread a few around to a few tanks. The pH of the
creek is 6.0, and the tank water is about 6.5.
The rest are in a 250 gallon kiddie pool full of Elodea plants.
I'm trying to figure out a good way to sort them out by sex for
breeding, but it's tricky. Some of the females are fat with eggs, so
they're easy to spot, but I can't figure out what makes the males
unmistakably male. None of them have tubercules on their faces or
anything like that. Does anyone have any tips? Does size matter? Some of
the fish are much bigger than the rest..could these be the "Bulls" that
give the fish it's colloquial name? As popular as this fish is, I'm sure
that someone here has spawned them. I've egg-stripped them before with
success, and had them spawn before in pools, but only incidentally. Now
that I'm trying to do it the "normal" way, in aquaria, I could use a
little help.
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