NANFA-- Collecting in Southern OH, 8/17/02 (long)

Rose Lawn Museum (
Wed, 21 Aug 2002 16:27:04 -0400

Hi All

On 8/17/02 I had the pleasure of spending an excellent time collecting with
some of NANFA's best in Southern Ohio. On rather short notice, Mark Binkley
put together a very interesting itinerary that included parts of the Mad
River and Little Darby Creek. I very much enjoyed the '01 NANFA Convention
in OH, and I was eager to see more of the waters in that part of the state.
My daughter in Dayton, OH, flew me up for the weekend. She was well aware
of my fish addiction, and provided me with a vehicle to go and meet with
Binkley & Co. on what turned out to be a very pleasant Saturday.

The day dawned with an overcast sky, threatening rain that never really
developed. The sun did break through at times, but gray clouds pretty much
had their way. Air temperature was in the 70s with a slight breeze. It was
also Woodstock weekend, so magic was in the air. Ten of us, including Mark
Binkley (Wooster, OH), Nick Zarlings (Cleveland, OH), Kathy Duffey
(Cleveland, OH), first time collector Eric Massengill (Toledo, OH), Geoff &
Julie Kimber with their three boys Daniel, Noah, & Samuel (Lexington, KY),
and I assembled at the Mad River.

That first site of the day was near Urbana, OH, just off Route 68 on
Lippencott Road. We were there only briefly, as several net pulls revealed
very little. We saw...

Brown trout (Salmo trutta)

Moving slightly north to where Sullivan Road crosses Mad River we waded in
again....well, after a brief delay. I quickly became aware that the "wierd
factor" that accompanies all good collecting trips in the South was in
effect in OH as well. How it pans out is usually a question of attitude,
not geography.

Arriving at the bridge, which was bordered by corn fields, we discovered
two freshly constructed parking lots on either side of the river. One
simply had a "No Parking" sign. The other had a rather official looking
sign that informed the reader that while the land was privately owned,
access permission and parking passes could be obtained at the "Farm Store."
Unfortunately, no Farm Store was in sight...only corn fields. Just as we
were discussing how we should proceed, an OH ranger pulled into the lot,
blocking the drive with his vehicle. As he got out, looking a lot like
Richard Dreyfuss, he seemed unsure of whether to be friendly or

After unsuccessfully trying to get a handle on just what sort of fisherfolk
we were, he repeated most of what was written on the sign for us,
emphasizing the part about the passes at the Farm Store. "Where is the Farm
Store?" Nick asked. "Right over there," he replied, gesturing behind him.
We all stared blankly into the corn field. It took us another moment or two
to convince him that we really couldn't see it, before he helpfully
mentioned that it was up the road about a mile at Route 68. Then, he
further confused us by first stating, "I really don't enforce the laws
around here," then asking to see the contents (there were none) of Geoff's
collecting cooler.

At this point, we discovered that Mark had locked his keys inside his Honda
wagon...with the motor running...very low on gas. Just when we thought we
had found a way for the officer to really be of some assistance, he decided
it was time for him to leave...and no, he had neither a spare coat hanger,
nor a slim jim, etc. Pausing at the open door of his vehicle, he gave us
his best ranger look and said, "If you see any violations, be sure to give
me a call." We assured him that it would be foremost in our minds and waved

Mark is one of the most laid back guys I know, and I was quite impressed
with his composure about the locked up keys. To me, that would have
warranted a stomping fit at the very least. I felt fairly certain that I
could get into his vehicle with a coat hanger, although many manufacturers
of modern cars insist that they are pick proof, but nobody present could
come up with one. In the meantime, we dutifully made the short ride to the
Farm Store, picked up the required passes, and scored a coat hanger too.
Returning to Mark and his Honda (still quietly idling), I set about
employing long dormant street skills.

The car door had thick, close-fitting molding at the top with a channel
that tends to divert coat hangers down into a side channel, and away from
the lock. Using our fingers (not without a few pinches), we created enough
of a gap at the top for Nick to insert the beveled edge of his tire tool as
a prop while I inched the coat hanger toward the lock button. It did have
enough material to grasp for a very patient person, but the Honda may have
ran out of gas before I succeeded that way. We opted instead for the door
handle. I enlarged the loop, and was actually able to pull out the handle
quite a ways. It just wouldn't quite spring the lock.

Just then, Geoff brought me one of those shiny, collapsible fishing rods.
With that, I could barely reach the electric window button. After a couple
of bumps, the window slid down, and Mr. Binkley's ride was restored to him.
With the wierd factor safely behind us, we got down to the business of
collecting fishes. However, for the rest of the day everyone kept asking,
"Got your keys, Mark?"

The Mad River was very nice. The water clarity and temperature would have
been ideal for snorkeling, but I was already enjoying conversing with the
OH gang so I opted for the waders instead. Nick had a brand new seine that
he and I put to immediate use working one bank while Mark and Eric worked
the other. The Kimber family took the opposite direction on the stream to
better be able to herd their three little boys while they collected. Kathy
searched the stream for amphibians and also helped chase shiners into our
waiting nets. In spite of it being his first time out, Eric caught on
quickly and really seemed to enjoy it.

The stream had a gentle current with clear water running through shallow
pools and over widely scattered riffles. The bottom alternated between sand
and moss-covered pebbles with some areas of solid stone beneath it. The
vegetation grew all the way down into the water on both banks, providing
cover for many sculpins and large creek chubs. Some of the sculpins were
among the largest I've seen. Submerged mats of plants appeared here and
there, swaying in the current, providing shelter for yet more sculpins.
Nick gathered several of these, some more than once. He practiced an
unintentional catch & release program when his bucket overturned in the

Mark has excellent ID skills and it's a good thing, because one fish we
encountered soon and often was the state endangered tonguetied minnow. The
Richard Dreyfuss ranger had assured us that the tonguetied minnow lived
elsewhere, but Mark knew better. I knew that this fish lacked an
illustration in the Peterson Field Guide, so I made sure we got several
good shots of it, including detail of the unusual mouth.

Taking photos proved to be another slight adventure, because the flash
element on my camera had failed right after my last trip and still wasn't
fixed. The overcast conditions made it impossible to take some shots, and
required moving to better lighted spots in the stream for others. Still, I
was quite pleased with what we managed, and most fishes repeated often
enough that we didn't miss many. At that location we

Honda Accord (Accordus elongatus) (-;
Mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi)
Toungetied minnow (Exoglossum laurae) - Ohio endangered
Rainbow darter (Etheostoma caeruleum)
Johnny darter (E. nigrum)
Creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
Redside dace (Clinostomus elongatus)
White sucker (Catostomus commersoni)
Northern hogsucker (Hypentelium nigricans)
Blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus)
Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
Stoneroller (Campostoma anomalum)
Brown trout (S. trutta)
Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Silver shiner (Notropis photogenis)

Heading SE from this location, we stopped where the Little Darby Creek runs
under Route 29 near Mechanicsville, OH. A huge drainage pipe beneath the
highway belied the size of the tiny, weed-choked stream running through it.
Observing it from above, as Kathy decided to do, it was hard to imagine
that many fishes lived there. Wrong! We had to ram the seine up under the
overgrown banks and stomp down the weeds to find them, but when we did, we
hauled in huge white suckers, creek chubs, and hoardes of sculpins. We also
found orangethroat darters (the target fish), but only females.
After we finished there, the Kimber family departed to begin a leisurely
return to KY, and Eric took off for Toledo, intending to join the OH fish
clan on future outings. At that location we collected/observed:

Mottled sculpin (C. bairdi)
Blacknose dace (R. atratulus)
White sucker (C. commersoni)
Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
Bluegill (L. macrochirus)
Stoneroller (C. anomalum)
Creek chub (S. atromaculatus)
Orangethroat darter (Etheostoma spectabile)

The remaining four of us took off to another place on the Little Darby near
Irwin, OH, at the corner of Route 161 and Axe Handle Road. The stream was
much wider and considerably deeper at this point, running under a
picturesque wooden covered bridge. The scene was quite tranquil despite the
whiff of the neighboring cattle & hog farm. I was not tempted to snorkel!
The bottom was mostly mud, some very hard to withdraw from, which turned
the water brown in no time. Nevertheless, we encountered 25 species of
fishes. Kathy (aka The Frog Chick) steered us away from a gathering of
American toad tadpoles.

The current did not appear too strong until we tried pulling the seine
against it in deep water. After a full day, I was starting to fade a bit.
Nick came to the rescue and took over my side of the seine, freeing me up
to take some of the best pix of the day. The sun made a long appearance
through the broken cloud cover, and that helped as well. We

Green and American toad tadpoles
Golden redhorse (Moxostoma erythrurum)
Northern hogsucker (H. nigricans)
White sucker (C. commersoni)
Rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris)
Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
Longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)
Bluegill (L. macrochirus)
Stoneroller (C. anomalum)
Creek chub (S. atromaculatus)
Brook silverside (Labidesthes sicculus)
Banded darter (Etheostoma zonale)
Greenside darter (E. blennioides)
Rainbow darter (E. caeruleum)
Johnny darter (E. nigrum)
Orangethroat darter (E. spectabile)
Stonecat (Noturus flavus)
Yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis)
Blackstripe topminnow (Fundulus notatus)
Bluntnose minnow (Pimephales notatus)
Spotfin shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera)
Striped shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus)
Rosefin shiner (Lythrurus ardens)
Sand shiner (Notropis ludibundus) or mimic shiner (N. volucellus)
Silver shiner (N. photogenis) This one, Nick had previously IDd as a
rosyface shiner (N. rubellus), but Mark overturned his verdict based on
size and fin alignment. Survey says...silver shiner! Sorry, Nick, you lose,
but we have some great parting gifts for you. (-:

Finally, needing to meet up with my family back in Dayton, I reluctantly
said goodbye to my OH friends and drove off into the sunset. Thanks to Mark
Binkley for putting it all together, and to the rest of the OH folks for
making it happen. When these people come to the South, I gotta' remember to
treat 'em really good!

The next day, I was scheduled to fly back to Atlanta, but through some
unusual circumstances, I found myself driving home instead. After passing
over several very inviting streams in Northern KY, I could stand it no
longer. I had to stop and see what was there. Since all I had with me was a
makeshift dip net, I chose a shallow, heavily vegetated stretch of Eagle
Creek (River?) one mile north of Sadieville, KY, under I-75. It was nearly
dark by the time I got my gear on and made it down to the stream. I used
the last rays of the sun and the rising of a 3/4 moon until I was totally
guessing about everything. I had to wait until I got back in the light to
see what I caught. I collected/observed:

Fantail darters (Etheostoma flabellare)
Orangethroat darter - males this time (E. spectabile)
Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) This was really bad news. According to the
distribution maps, they are not supposed to be there!
Longear sunfish (L. megalotis)
Bluegill (L. macrochirus)
Rosefin shiner, juvenile (L. ardens)
Yellow bullhead (A. natalis)
And, as always, another shiner I haven't yet IDd.

Special thanks to Fritz Rohde, Wayne Starnes, & Bob Jenkins for ID help.

Respectfully submitted to the OH NANFA Region,

Steven A. Ellis
(back home in..)
Kennesaw, GA
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