NANFA-- ditch divin'!

Todd Crail (
Sat, 28 Feb 2004 23:12:10 -0500

Greetings... May the time honored tradtion begin again. I give you....

The Collecting Report.

Today I got my good dress shoes muddy, smelled newly melted soil, saw some
fish, played in the water and the sun, had a conversation with a red
breasted woodpecker, and ended the day with sweat-sticky eyelids.

It was a good day.

I also decided I'd better pick up one of those manual push lawnmowers. I
forgot my boots and had to drive all the way home to get them. I was trying
to figure out a win / win situation where I wasn't being a gas hog to do
conservation work, cause this kinda disgusted me that I could be so
careless. So I might as well get used to pushing one of those things while
I'm <ahem> young and strapping. It's good exercise for sure, and after
having read this fall that an average lawn mowed by an average lawnmower
expells the same amount of non-combustible nasties as a Honda Civic on a 300
mile trip.... I think it's time to start looking into that. That's a lot of
collecting! :)

This story begins a week ago down on the Maumee River. My wife and I took
an enchanted walk at Side Cut Metropark. A huge pack of ice floes were
just making their way through, and it's so impressive to watch how powerful
the river is. The ice pieces were 12" thick and varying sizes. They ripped
a grounded tree off the shore like it was a match stick. We stood out on
the old lock of the Erie and Ohio Canal. Standing there feeling the floes
slam into the decrepit lock really drove home how temporary a human
footprint can be. Sometimes it feels like concrete is permanent, our
modifications to the land are forever. In some cases, this is true, like
when a species goes extinct. But let some river ice slam into the man-made
structure you're on, and you'll feel quite otherwise.

Ahhh... The ice was going bye bye. :)

Last night, Mr. Z and I hopped into Ten Mile Creek to test a hole I'd
discovered last fall. It really wasn't what I had remembered, and the main
hole was too deep for me to get into. If the water is up to Nick's belly,
then that means I'm getting wet :) Mostly though, I think the water is
moving too fast through there right now for the fish. They're still kinda
bumping out of winter habits and swimming isn't in the game plan yet. Will
be an awesome place for orangethroats come spawn time though!

We saw some creek chub, bluntnose minnow, striped shiner, redfin shiner,
stoneroller, green sunfish, blackside darter, orangethroat darter. Maybe a
white sucker? I can't remember. I wasn't really paying attention. It was
just so nice to be in the water again, and see some fish come up in a net.

We then head to my home LFS, Trilby Tropicals. Nick has a weakness for
catfish, so I thought I'd take him into Pleco heaven. He was in trouble for
sure. Fortunately, all that were left were the display animals so he didn't
have the temptation to buy... We'll have to get him back in there when they
do their Pleco order. It's awesome.

Back to the natives...

So today I was helping out a reefkeeper friend get the bugs worked out of
her tank. We finished early, I was sooooo like "I'm going fishin!". Ten
Mile Creek runs through her back yard, before I left, we walked down there
and I told her she was going to be really suprised what pops up in a net
once I get a chance to sample there. The stream segment is deep pools with
really nice undercuts among the sycamore roots. I'm hoping to find longear
sunfish here. As a bonus, the county inadvertantly made a nice riffle by
putting limestone chunks (softball sized) on a culvert which kids threw into
the stream so they could get across. It was pretty impressive :) So we'll
probably find orangethroats and johnny darters in there. I'm sure there
were already blackside darters. I'll have to get the fly rod out too and
show her some of the spawning colored creek chubs and striped shiners.

I then made my way to western Lucas county to sample the ditches that have
become of particular interest to me. I described them a bit last week
talking about mudminnows... I don't think I'll spend much time talking about
the natural history. What _was_ very interesting today was where the fish
were and where the fish weren't.

My first stop was at the confluence of Langenderfer Ditch and Prairie Ditch.
Prairie Ditch up until this point flows both ways out of the Oak Openings, a
large sand deposit of shoreline and dunes left by one of Lake Erie's
predacessors, glacial Lake Warren. The sandy soils leave the water nice n
crisp n clear. Langenderfer, however, is a drainage out of the former Great
Black Swamp, which is pretty much now the Great Plowed Field. So it's
chocolate milk coming out of there in the spring. However, today I got a
big suprise.

I didn't find _any_ fish in the clear water. None! Same habitat (reed
canary grass and other field grasses matted and laying over undercuts) and a
totally different outcome. However, once in the "muddy mess" there were
tons of fish.

I probably picked up 300 or so orangethroats. There were so many of them, I
almost took them home for sculpin food. I didn't find any large ones, like
are found further downstream in Ten Mile Creek on the riffles, but there
sure were a lot. Probably the wet year last year helped boost this portion
of the population. There was water in these ditches all year long.

I should have stayed here and really sampled further up Langenderfer, but
other locations were calling, and I moved on. My next stop was on the south
end of Prairie Ditch where it flows south to Swan Creek (my first stop flows
north to Ten Mile Creek).

This site sucked major. There was probably 12" of silt on the bottom, and
very little life to be found. The farm field adjacent to this site plows
right to the damned edge... I wish the county would make these guys pay the
costs of maintaining the ditches at least. Not that I like the ditches
being there so much... But at least they'd stop filling it up with their
nitrate and phosphate loaded topsoil they're wasting. Maybe then those "4
extra rows" wouldn't seem like such a financial gain.

"Yuck" was definately the mantra, and it was time to move on.

On to Drennan Ditch, the can't miss stop for mudminnows. I hope to get down
to OSU this week and visit with Dr. Cavender, who is the currator of the
Fishes Collection at the Museum. I've had my current job interrupt two
visits now because of "emergencies", and I'm pretty much ready to tell them
to get bent, I don't care about your stupid websites and how much money blah
blah blah. This is my _career_ we're talking about here! :) Anyway, I
hoped to pick up some mudminnows for the fellas down there, as were looking
for them.

Talk about specific habitat! I'm not sure where the heck they were hiding,
but they were _only_ found over sand, at the bank, with a _little_ bit of
vegetation hanging over. They must have been hanging in crayfish holes or

Big huge clumps of mid-ditch plants, loose roots and mud? Forget it!
Nothing there!

Nice saucy piles of leaves with matted shore plants over top? Forget it!
Nothing there!

It was incredible. Fortunately I figured out the pattern pretty quick,
cause the sun was setting and I could have spent a lot of time looking for
them where I normally find them. It's just amazing that even with nets, you
still have to think like fish, be as flexible as the fish, or else, you get
skunked. I mean we're not talking about the Pro Bass or Walleye circuits
out on big lakes here. It's a 6' wide, 12" deep ditch for goodness sake!

So yes Mike, you can tell Lee he has some mudminnows secured for his use.
One huge gravid female too. I could just feel her ovaries rolling around in
there. I'm sure she appreciated it. ;)

Thought I had another monster sized one too, but when I was moving them to a
cooler at home, it was actually a white sucker. I sure didn't notice in the
dusk where I was just dumping specimens into the bucket. I didn't want to
warm it up too much in my hand, so I mis-ID'd it out on the water. That's
a strange catch because this locale is in the heart of the Oak Openings,
faaaaaar from any stream connections. I wouldn't have expected to find one
in that segment that had over-wintered.

So it was a good day in every way. I think I'm going to curl up with The
Sun magazine and read the "Readers Write" section and consort with the
pains, the joys, the disgust, the pleasures of living. What a delicious

Good night all.

Collection Data:

2/28/04 Sunny and 45-50 F. Water probably about 38 F.
The Perfect Dipnet (tm) was the weapon of choice at all sites.
Samples were taken between 4:30pm and 6:30pm

Confluence of Prairie Ditch and Langenderfer Ditch
(Ten Mile Creek outlet)
Schwamberger Rd and Bancroft St.
Sand and clay bottom, solid substrate in both.
Prairie Ditch from Oak Openings was clear,
turbid after confluence with Langenderfer Ditch

All fish found in the turbid water!

bluntnose minnow (abund)
fathead minnow (~10)
golden shiner (? brought voucher)
redfin shiner (3)
creek chub (abund)
grass pickerel (2, 1 vahry nice-ah!)
green sunfish (5 all yoy from last year)
johnny darter (~5)
orangethroat darter (at least 300 if not more)
tadpoles (~10)
papershell crayfish (1)
white river crayfish (2)
giant floater mussel - abandoned valves
scuds, diving beetles, pillbugs, leeches, various snails

Prairie Ditch at SR 295, Old State Line and Berkey Road
Turbid with nasty soft silt bottom
(Swan Creek outlet)
bluntnose minnow (3)
pillbugs and diving beetles (not even really common)

Drennan Ditch at Mielke Rd near Frankfort Rd
Clear with solid sand bottom, muck holes at sides
(Wolf Creek to Swan Creek outlet)
mudminnow (~10)
grass pickerel (1)
white sucker (1)
green sunfish (1)

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
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