Re: NANFA-- Florida Springs, Ditches and Tektites March 2004

Stan Perkins (
Fri, 2 Apr 2004 17:25:04 -0600

Takes me back to my college days. Keep your eyes open when snorkling. I used
to find lots of vertebrate and invertebrate fossil material in those same
waters. I hope to go back this summer for a couple of weeks.

Stan Perkins
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Sent: Friday, April 02, 2004 2:13 PM
Subject: NANFA-- Florida Springs, Ditches and Tektites March 2004

> Florida Springs, Ditches and Tektites March 2004
> I rode out of Chattanooga at 8 Saturday morning and headed south hugging
> Alabama Georgia line. Blooming trees and shrubs led the way. The Redbuds,
> Azaleas and Tulip Magnolias were not yet in full bloom but quickly
> with another early spring.
> I arrived at Ponce De Leon Springs and already Floridians were taking
> advantage of the beautiful day by swimming in the 70 degree water. I
suited up and
> found the water a little cool but refreshing. Clear water is such a
> beacon. White sand. Lush plants. Tall Cypress' with dark twisted roots.
> I explored the pool's perimeter adjusting myself from gritty road wear to
> peaceful, calm float. Thousands of shiners milled about me. Nearly all the
> but unknown to me. A spattering of Silversides, Red Eye Chubbs and a
> iridescent purple sheened minnow of the common markings. Gambusia in the
> shallows, a few darters in spawning mode... large males courting and
> small females and challenging any other approaching males. Not swamp
> these fellas sported a red flagged dorsal fin. Several species of Sunfish
> about but i could not be sure exactly what they are, certainly not what i
am use
> to seeing here in east Tennessee. Spotted Suckers remniscent of Red Horses
> stirred the sand at the springs deep cave entrance.
> Lots of turtles, both Musk/Mud and Sliders. I picked up a 12" Slider and
> proceeded to rake my hands with his sharp clawed toes leaving red
> Big Bullfrog Tadpoles perched on snags and scattered when i approached
> Several large bass lurked off to the sides. A Chain Pickeral allowed me to
> approach within a few feet and i observed the wonderful pattern on his
> Gleaming in the sunlight it offered a distinct contrast to the muddied,
bland pattern
> of the Redfin Pickeral which seemed to prefer the shadows.
> The spring's depth is enhanced by a 2' dam and spillway which creates a
> tumbled riffle below the pool and swimming area. The flow is shallow but
> spots offered plenty of room to lay and observe from. Here other species
> noticed. First, many Black Banded Darters rested on the clean substrate
and were
> nosed to the oncoming current. A common fish in many flows of water on my
> journeys in the south. Additionally a new Darter... mostly white with a
> black line running his length. I was not catching anything and relied on
> eye to retain characteristics which i promptly forgot while studying my
> book that evening! I also observed what i first thought were speckled
> though without their typical rectangular markings. Their undersides, gills
> pelvic fins were a beautiful translucent tourquise. Brian told me what
> probably were that evening but i have forgotten. Dang i'm getting old and
> feeble minded. Bill Gates and the IRS are sucking the last of my brain
> I walked the trail downstream and found an intense flow through a log jam
> a deep bend. I entered the water below and pulled myself with effort into
> structure and amongst a school of Sailfin Shiners vigorously swimming to
> in the central rush of water. Such a beautiful fish they are! I found more
> the Darters mentioned before and was again sure i was not looking at a
> variation of a Blackbanded though that fish does offer a lot of variation
in pattern.
> These reminded me more of a Sand Darter with Muscadine Darter markings.
> Another call for a snorkelcam.
> I exited and again followed the clear water trailside downstream where it
> now tea colored. Still clear enough i thought and eased in from a sandy
> shoal. I lay down and could see nothing but a foot or two before me.
> concerns of alligators and the posted sign warning crowded out my peaceful
> thoughts and i quickly pulled, walked and thashed myself up to the
junction of the
> 2 flows. Ah... back into clear water! I played around the delta juncture
> the two flows watching all the activity. I felt i had observed all that
> easily viewed and the gator creepies were getting the best of me from the
> I worked and snagged my way up, out and through the brush and briars, made
> the trail head and eased in for another look at the cobbled riffle below
> spillway. Another school of Sailfins though not near as big nor colorful
as the
> ones downstream greeted me.
> I remember the first time i came across Sailfins. It was a couple years
> and we were working the back and head waters of the Appalachicola River.
> summer had been hot and dry and many flows were reduced to tiny trickles
> wide expanses of white sand columned by massive Bald Cypresses silouetted
> cobalt blue skys. We worked our way up to several pools of dark water and
> ahead of us rippled a school of fish. We herded them back and approached
with a
> low slung seine. The water ahead rippled with metallic dark blue. In the
> were masses of Sailfin Shiners! I kept several and they did well for a
> years in my heavily planted Florida tank. A very beautiful fish!
> DeFuniak is such a nice spring and is the second time i have visited it.
> first time was years ago, 1997 after i first became a member of NANFA. I
> just visited Robert Rice in Pensacola. The way home offered Defuniak
Springs in
> passing and i was and am glad to have experienced it again. It's a great
> place to chase the winter away and get an early start on the season.
> I headed on into DeFuniak proper to get a room and rendevous with the
> Florida NANFA guys. There was still a bit of light left in the day and
> were using it. It gave me a bit of time to get settled in and make some
> notes. They had broken into 3 groups and began to arrive sporatically over
> next hour or two. It was nice meeting several of them for the first time
> enjoying some old faces from previous activites. We broke into a couple
> for dinner, mexican vs seafood, and afterward returned to the motel for
> fish photography and IDing. Im glad to see most everyone struggles with
> as i. Fish appear different from the photograph, the illustration, to the
> net, to the tank, and and while snorkeling not to mention male, female,
> age, habitat and spawning or mood color! And then we have the pickled
> specimens too. Whew, it can be a challenge and perhaps this is one of my
> motivations in this activity.
> The next day offered a packed Huddle House filled with locals, boy scouts
> fishheads, so not being much for breakfast i spoke with Charlie N. and he
> marked my gazateer for the first location. Wanting to get an early snorkel
> beat the muckers i raced on and found a family fishing the tea colored
boat ramp
> on this early Sunday morning. I commented on the lack of clarity and they
> pointed over my shoulder to the Cypress canopied spring head. I walked to
> edge and boils of dancing sand well over 6' deep greeted me. Enchanting! I
> quickly suited up and eased into the water from a rooted structure trying
not to
> stir anything up. The clearer the better. Always. I worked the perimeter
> again saw most of the species from the day before with the addition of
> at the top edge, Bluefin Killies who were sporting and sparing with their
> fellow spring mates, tiny Pygmy Sunnies, dark purple Pirate Perch hiding
in the
> shadows and a few Least Lillies at the shallowed edge.
> Plenty of Turtles ranging in size were foraging and beautiful Crayfish
> pinchers marked with tiny white knobs protected their lairs. As i free
> looking down into a boil i cocked my head and was approached within inches
> my mask by a 12" Long Nosed Gar. I could not believe how confident he was
> his steady approach as they can be quite skittish. I was offered a
multitude of
> viewing from his head on to a full broadside. An amazing, beautiful
> The others arrived and quickly descended with nets and gear from every
> approachable angle. A good time to get out before i got mistaken and
wacked w/ a
> dipnet. We played around a bit checking each others catch and bags
> stories and such. We hit a few more spots and since they were not
snorkelable i
> just watched others muck about and seine up a few critters from the boat
> Hog Chockers... minature Flounders were pretty neat.
> Looking ahead i choose to skip the lunch social and run to the next site
> marked on the map with 3 springs. I should have stayed for lunch! The
first site
> was inhabitated by the oiled, fat bodies of locals crowding a small spring
> and walled pool, the second was marked by "Keep Out!" signs and the 3rd
> looked to require a boat for access. Frustrated. I tried to make contact
using my
> mobile phone and alert the group to the situation and to suggest several
> i had passed on the way in. The lakes would probably have made for great
> siening. I studied the map and found a network of streams nearby and
worked my way
> to a bridge crossing. Clear, very shallow water but some movement
beckoned. I
> regeared and found the small school to be Silversides. I was hoping for
> as the rumor there were local was about. The stream flow was pretty, sandy
> and clear but a tangled, snagged mess. Certainly a dangerous place to be
> during the heat of summer. Very snakey... with Water Moc possibilities it
> appeared. Nonetheless and because of the coolness of early spring i began
to work my
> way upstream using the bank to minimize disturbance. I entered a couple
> and found a small group of Sailfins. This motivated me to move on
upstream. At
> about hundred yards a big debris strewn log jam filled the 2 or 3' flow.
> difficult to work through but i could see more shiners and minnows ahead.
> Blackbanded Darters began to populate the shallow shaded areas. More and
> Sailfins. Some new larger, huskier Shiners. Unknown. Somewhat like Golden
> Shiners but lacking the keeled breast. I crawled through the snags as the
fish gave
> way just beyond my thrashing. This would not be a good situation in a hot
> summer with snakes out. Through the snags and out i crept up to another
> shallower, edge flow and ducked my head in. Smaller, narrower Shiners
> Slender, silvery, with a somewhat rectangular black caudal spot delicately
> with fine lines. Familiar. Weed Shiner? Bluenose Shiners? I looked about
> carefully and could see no higher marked individuals. I observed below and
above the
> run in the accompanying shallow pools to no avail. I've kept both species
> i remember the Weed's being much deeper bodied. That caudal spot... i've
> it before. I had not carried a net on this small stream excursion and did
> want to rethrash myself again through the obstacles. Hum. Another mystery.
> I headed back through the snags hurridly, climbed out to the bridge and
> regained my van. At the main road i tried to call again hoping to hook up
with the
> group. No response. The last selected spot was near Hosford, a place ive
> visited a couple times while in Carrabelle. After a bit of driving i
arrived there,
> scouted a few sites for snarelability, tried another couple calls and
> to make a final run before the light faded to Lost Dog Lake, an old
> site. While headed that way i passed a sign marking a restoration to a
> pit by the Appalachicola Forestry. I did a quick U turn, hopped out, a
> out into warm, clear and very vegatated water. The pit appeared to be a
> flooded as the shallows crept out to the road ruts. It was several acres
in size
> and rectangular. Alligators again became a concern. I was well out alone
in an
> isolated location but the sky was clear and i have watched plenty of
> Wizemeller movies so know a few tricks :). A quick looksee should be easy
> figured. I swam through the weeds and grasses out into the open shallow
water. A
> small bass meet me. Another 2 and 3 beyond him. Nothing in the shallow
> Where are the natives? I crossed the narrows to the steep bank and
> out for another view from the high bank. Back in, where are the fish? Just
> few bass. I crossed back and approached the reeded shallows. A moving
> swarm of tiny tadpoles appeared before me. i approached closer, swimming
> flowing with a unified movement they were not tadpoles but the tinyist of
> fry... a great cloud of them. I looked about for the parent guardian but
> were seen. For a restoration project this lacked any diversity at all. Ive
> snorkeled several borrow pits and they can be excellent sites. I should
call the
> individuals involved in this site to see what their goals are, its
> is convenient for a return visit to the region.
> I fired up my phone, stood in the center of nowhere and called my buddy
for a
> rendevous that evening to see The Passion of Christ in Tallahassee.
> Afterwards on to Carrabelle, Tate's Hell's ditches and the awesome Wakula
> casper

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/"Unless stated otherwise, comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of the North American Native Fishes
/ Association"
/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes Association
/ To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get help, send the word
/ subscribe, unsubscribe, or help in the body (not subject) of an email to
/ For a digest version, send the command to
/ instead.
/ For more information about NANFA, visit our web page,