NANFA-- Trip report: Paint Branch Creek

Bob Bock (
Tue, 20 Aug 2002 12:24:42 -0400

Hi, all. Last Sunday, several NANFA members met up to do some collecting in
Paint Branch Creek, which runs along the edge of the University of Maryland
campus in College Park.

Chris and Stephanie Scharpf joined us from Baltimore, Harry Knaub made the
trip down from York, PA, and Ed Bielaus came from nearby Bethesda. The
creek is in on of the last places you'd expect a creek to be, behind a
treeline at the edge of a massive asphalt parking lot. Judging from the
species diversity, the water quality appeared to be very high, especially
for a stream the drains a heavily populated Washington, D.C. suburb.

For the most part, the stream had a Sandy bottom. In the slow-moving, flat
stretches, we found several minnow species. For my money, the most
impressive of these was the satin fin shiner,

Not only did we find these in the sandy flats, but a few were also schooling
in the riffles just below the bridge that spanned nearby Route 1. These
were a really pretty fish. They're gilt-edged fins glittered in the
sunlight as the lazily held in the current below the riffles. They'd
probably be a really nice pond show fish, especially if they had a current
from a slow water fall to swim against.

Other species in the sandy flats included swallowtail
( and spot tail
( shiners.

An unexpected finding was banded killifish, which I'd only seen in the
freshwater parts of the tidal Potomac. These were easy to net after
stirring up the sandy bottom. The fish showed up to feed upon items
dislodged from the substrate.

Further down stream, just below the riffles, we encountered both longnose
( and blacknose
osedace). Both are nice, peaceful minnows that do well in a community
coldwater tank. The former is one of my all time favorites. I call them
airplane fish, because in an aquarium, they spread their pectoral fins wide
and glide into the filter current, reminding me of an airpline. While
snorkeling, Stephanie said she also identified some cutlips minnows,
sminnow. These are a bottom dwelling native minnow, best kept in a single
species tank. (In close quarters, they will eat the scales--and even the
eyes--of other fishes kept with them.

We also found both white
( and Northern
hog ( )
suckers. These are gentle bottom feeders that are often difficult to keep
in captivity. They feed on algae covered rocks on the bottom of stream
beds. NANFA member Dan Logan once told me that the trick to keeping them
alive is to rotate a fresh supply of stream rocks through an aquarium.
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