NANFA-- Christmas Collecting

Christopher Scharpf (
Mon, 27 Dec 1999 13:19:19 -0400

On Sunday, Dec. 26, a handful of members from Maryland joined native Marylander
David Neely (home for the holidays) for some backpack shocking in the
Collingwood and Western Branches of the Patuxent River drainage in southeast
Prince Georges Co., Maryland, just east of Washington, D.C. Joining Dave were
me, outgoing NANFA president Bob Bock and his son Eric, and Henry Deford, a
13-year old NANFA member on his first collecting trip (although it should be
noted that Henry is an accomplioshed angler and has gone fishing throughout much
of the U.S.).

Dave was on the lookout for stripeback darter (Percina notogramma) and glassy
darter (Etheostoma vitreum). Both of these fishes are protected in Maryland; in
fact, the stripeback darter was considered extirpated in Maryland until Dave and
others from the Maryland Biological Stream Survey rediscovered them in 1995 or
so. Dave also wanted a few specimens for a book he's illustrating.

Although water quality in these branches, in a heavily developed area, seemed
pretty good, considering, Dave did not shock up any of the 2 target species. We
hypothesized that the summer drought, plus continiung low rainfall, have
affected some fish populations. Seemingly not affected by the drought were
banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanus), tesselated darter (Etheostoma olmstedi),
and swallowtail shiner (Notropis procne), whch were collected in large numbers.
However, I was not too disappointed abut not either of the protected darters,
since I got to see several American brook lampreys (Lampetra appendix), a first
for me.

The use of the shocker no doubt facilitated the collecting of these
substrate-burrowing creatures. We collected around 20 of them, both ammocoetes
and non-parasitic adults, from 3" to about 6" in length. The ammoceotes were
especially striking; their head regions were flush with a crimson coloration.
Dave took a bunch for DNA studies back tat he lab; I took the two smallest
ammocoetes for my aquaria. (I placed them into unfiltered, window sill aquaria
with lots of plants and a biologically rich substrate to provide microscopic
food.) The abundance of these lampreys is a good indicator of good water

One other fish of note: Just below a beaver dam, Dave shock 3 or 4 eastern
mudminnows, including an especially fat one that ust have been 4.5" long! It was
the biggest, most beautiful eastern mudminnow any of us have ever seen.

Other fishes we caught were (Dave, please add any I've forgotten):

American eel
satinfin shiner
common shiner
blacknose dace
rosyside dace
creek chub
fallfish (many juveniles)
white sucker
northern hogsucker
creek chubsucker
margined madtom (what Henry wanted; he went home happy!)
redbreast sunfish (just 2; Dave expected tons of the them)

The weather was cold (low 40's), but no wind was blowing. Shallower sections of
the streams were iced over, but broke when we stepped on them.) My Neoprene
waders kept me warm, expect for my feet, which felt frostbitten. In fact, all of
us complained of cold feet. The trip was a wonderful break during the holidays.
Plus, it was a terrific pleasure to finally meet Dave Neely. He's an
exceptionally nice guy, and I thank him for taking the time to patiently answer
all of our questions. And, of course, for lugging the shocker!

It was also lot of fun to have an up-and-comer in the native hobby like Henry
getting a chance to go collecting with a professional. Henry stayed glued to
Dave's side, excitedly netting up every fish Dave's shocker stunned. It was a
delight listening to Dave provide ID pointers to Henry, and then quiz Henry a
little later to see how much he remembered. Henry was a vertibale kid in the
candy store.

Actually, we ALL were kids in candy stores! The day was a perfect holiday treat.

When I arrived home, I found another holiday treat. In one of my community
aquariums, a pair of tesselated darters were spawning! I was able to capture
some of it on videotape.

My thanks again to Dave Neely for recommending Western Branch.

Best fishes for the New Year,

Chris Scharpf

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