NANFA-- Collecting in SC on June 25
Fri, 30 Aug 2002 17:28:49 EDT

On Saturday August 25, David Rabelius joined Dustin Smith and myself, in
Charleston, to do a little fish collecting. David is from Sweden, is
interested in killies and livebearers, and had never been collecting in the
US before so Dustin and I took it upon ourselves to show him the diversity
of fish life in our state. It is so cool to live in a state like South
Carolina and be able to collect anytime of year from among the wide variety
of fish found here. Anyway, back to the trip.

We met a prearranged location, David having driven down from the Raleigh, NC
area and Dustin and I from around Columbia, SC. David had only arrived in
our country the night before but was very eager to go collecting with us so
he got in his rental car and left early Saturday morning to meet us. After
discussing which fish he was most interested in, we formulated a game plan
and headed out. Dustin lead the way and I rode along with David in case we
got separated. We each carried a small two-way radio to discuss our route
and interesting sights along the way. Our Swedish guest seemed to find our
rambling on the airwaves very humorous.

Site# 082502-1
After instructing David on the hazards of the area such as snakes, gators
and fire ants, we reached our first stop. This was a public boat ramp
located on a stream just off of the Cooper River. In addition to being a
public ramp, it is also a "Wildlife Viewing Area" which, in my experience,
usually means gator viewing area. Fortunately, there were no mean & nasties
to be found. This area was loaded with cabomba and hornwort as well as
other emergent vegetation. The bottom was mostly mud but fairly firm with a
few soft spots. We soon started dipnetting and David caught his first
bluefin killie. I wish I had a camera and could have taken a picture of his
face. Few children look happier on Christmas morning than he did at that
moment. We were pulling up bluefin and rainwater killies, bluespotted and
banded sunfish and lots more that he had never seen or seen only in

Site# 082502-2
Our next stop was at another public boat ramp, but this one was smaller than
the first. The water level here was about three feet higher than when I
visited it the previous week while scouting some areas. We didn't do very
well here but did manage to find a few Heterandria formosa, some juvenile
Fundulus species that we haven't ID'd yet and several juvenile sea bass of
some kind. Plants seen here were more cabomba and some nice looking Lobelia
cardinalis in full bloom. We quickly loaded up and headed on.

On our way to the next spot, we stopped at our old good luck fast food place
(BK) to grab a bite to eat. We all enjoyed the discussions about not only
the differences in our two countries but the similarities as well. With our
bellies full, we headed on.

Site# 082502-3
Our next spot was again near a public boat ramp. As we waded out into the
water Dustin saw or heard a decent sized gator splash into the water.
Showing no apparent fear, we headed on in too. Right away we were getting
golden topminnows, least killies, bluefin killies and bluespotted sunfish,
just to name a few. On a previous visit here, we had found much thicker
vegetation including the non-native water hyacinth. This time there was
much less vegetation and almost no water hyacinth, which makes me wonder if
there is a spraying program to eradicate or control it. No further gator
sightings were made. (NOTE TO BRUCE: we wore no waders at all this
day....shorts and old sneakers only)

Site# 082502-4
For our next sampling site, we decided we would check some brackish water
spots in an attempt to locate some mummichog, sailfin mollies and pupfish
for our new friend. We stopped at a site on the Ashley River. Up until
this point, the weather had been very nice. Temps were in the lower 90's
with the sunny shining but not beating down on you like happens so often at
this time of year. As we got out our seines, dipnets and buckets, we
noticed that the tide was going out. Walking down the path, through the
marsh grass to the waters edge, hundreds of tiny fiddler crabs scurried out
of they way. Unrolling the seine, we could see many small fish swarming in
the muddy shallow water. We walked out a little ways and made our first run
up to the shore. When we lifted the net, it was filled with a mass of fish,
shrimp and crabs. Most of the crabs were blue crabs and many of the shrimp
were large enough to eat but, not having the proper equipment or permits to
keep these, we tossed them back. As we got to the fish we noticed that most
were mummichog. These must have been breeding as all were extremely
colorful, many having bright yellow bands on the tails and very brightly
colored fins. Also found were a Fundulus species that we haven't yet
identified and some kind of small tonguefish (similar to a flounder). The
Fundulus is probably either majalis, luciae or maybe even confluentus. We
will post pics for help with the ID later. Every seine run we made was with
the same results. Shrimp were so thick in this area that they were hurting
our bare legs when they collided with them. As we prepared to move on, we
noticed a thunder storm off in the northwest headed towards us. We thought
we had time for one more stop so off we went.

Site# 082502-5
As we traveled to the last spot, the t-storm hit. Thunder, lightning, heavy
rain...just what you would expect from a thunder storm at this time of year.
When we got to the boat landing, the rain was easing up. We radioed one
another and decided it was about to stop and since we were already wet, we
might as well go ahead in the rain. We got out of the cars, walked around
to the back of Dustin's vehicle to get the gear out and a bolt of lightning
cracks down in the marsh, less than 1/4 of a mile from us. I immediently
squatted down, Dustin ducked and started running back towards the car and
David was standing there looking around. He didn't know whether to be
scared or enjoy the fireworks. Dustin looks at me and laughs saying "what
are you doing down there?" All I could think was "duck and cover, duck and
cover". We decide it might be better to wait in the cars for a bit longer.
Soon after we get in, we look down the tidal creek and see two guys in a
small wooden boat with no more than two or three inches of the boat above
water trying to move upstream against the water flow. When I asked them
later, they said that bolt of lightning hit less than 100yards from them.
Anyway, one guy was operating the electric motor on the boat while the
other, sitting in the front, was paddling for everything he was worth. They
obviously didn't want to be out there any longer than they had to. They
finally got to the ramp where they pulled the boat up onto the ramp and ran
to their truck. The rain soon stopped and we headed on out into the water.
Here we found many more shrimp and also inland silversides. By now it was
getting late and David had a good four hour drive ahead of him so we divided
up the fish, said our good-byes and headed on. We had a great time with him
and feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to show him around a
small section of our state. He said he would like to get some of his
friends and make another trip back here to which we eagerly offered to show
them many other areas around the state.

I will add our fish list later, after all of the fish have been positively
ID'd. If anyone would like specific site info, email me off list.

Chip Rinehart
West Columbia, SC
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