NANFA-- OSRB Collecting

John B (
Sun, 29 Feb 2004 22:03:41 -0600

This "winter" in East Texas has been unusually mild and dry which has
made collecting at the Old Sabine River Bottom easily accessible to a
solo sampling trip. Typically, this time of year the Hardwood wetland
area is completely underwater. Logs that I've collected Mud Darters
under last spring in March are very high and dry. This allowed me to
work the banks along the oxbows and channel of the OSRB.

Having arrived at the parking/camping area of the 5300 acre Wildlife
Management Area (WMA) I realized that without even starting I had
violated the collectors first, most important rule: carry drinking
water. The only source of water on the facility is non potable water
and the nearest town or station is 10 miles away. I am ever so grateful
to the feral hog hunters that saw me and gave me a bottle of water. I
hope to be able to return the favor to someone some day!

Gear and water in tow (a little igloo cooler, my dipnet, my fanny pack),
I started working the banks. Currently the OSRB is little more than a
creek never more than 50 feet wide and usually much less. The water is
very silty making the bottom impossible to see. Don't know how deep it
is but I am pretty sure that where the substrate begins there's at least
another 2 - 3 feet of quicksand beneath it. The riparian zone was
composed of nude Black Willows, Willow Oaks, Button Bush, Greenbriar
(what's left after the deer have had their way), and grasses, Ludwigia,
Mermaid plant, and melting leftovers from the previous seasons' Lotus
plants. Of course there was lots of Hornwort, Frogbit, and Giant (what
a misnomer!) Duckweed in the quiet waters. The fist swipe of the
dipnet resulted in the mandatory netful of Gambusia affinis but also a
frog and a tadpole. Tadpoles were ubiquitous and won't be mentioned
again. The second swipe a little further down stream resulted in a
couple of Sunfish I later identified as Bantam sunfish (Lepomis
symetricus). This was a new species for me and I was excited! With in
the first Hundred yards of this trip I has also stumbled across a mess
of Madtoms of the Freckled variety. This was the first time I've
actually found them outside of Rob's Eagle Mountain Lake in Ft. Worth.
In one little area I must have captured twenty of these guys. I don't
know what you call a whole bunch of madtoms swimming together, a school
doesn't seem to cut it, so I nominate the word "Mess" to describe the
phenomenon. I found a mess of Madtoms!

This thought kept me occupied as I worked the shore. I found these
additional species:

Mud Darter - Etheostoma asprigene
Slough Darter - Etheostoma gracile
Blue Gill - Lepomis macrochirus
Golden TopMinnow - Fundulus chrysotus
Blackstripe Topminnow - Fundulus notatus
Banded Pygmy Sunfish - Elassoma zonatum
Pirate Perch -

The Banded Pygmy Sunfish was a source of pride. Last year I went
collecting with my brother. We collected a fish I identified as a
juvenile Pirate Perch and threw him back. When I went home and looked
at the photos, we realized that it was not a PP but a Banded Pygmy
Sunfish! Well I got them home this year and they are gorgeous!

I went back this weekend but went to the west of the road instead of the
east this time. My goal was to make it to "Kings Lake" in the middle of
the WMA. I parked about a hundred feet from the start of the trail to
the Channel Trail that leads to King lake. There was a trail that lead
from the parking lot into the woods that I assumed would lead straight
to the main trail. I followed the trail about a half mile where it led
to a body of water filled with "Dambusia" and Golden topminnows,
crayfish and Tadpoles. I continued to work around the water's edge.
Found brilliant chrysotus, their sparkles just glowing against amber
bodies. Follow the shoreline some more climbing over logs, hacking
through briars, mucking it up along the shore and recent drawdown.
After about an hour of this I realized that This was not Kings Lake.
Kings Lake had to be farther into the forest. So I began a trek
perpendicular to the shoreline to intercept the Channel Trail. Found a
trail and followed it awhile when I spied my car. Drat! Right back
where I started from. So I decided to walk to Kings lake without doing
any sampling. Don't want to carry water down there and then back. The
trail is just wide enough to accommodate the local Managing Biologist's
pickup truck and the trail is saddled with a lot of water. I want to
say puddles but they are bigger than that but smaller than lakes, anyway
I had to do a lot of walking off trail to avoid the water. Finally I
saw water through the trees. As I rounded a corner in the trail I came
across what looks to be a 10 acre lake at high water. But this lake was
at low water. There were old dead trees surrounding the lake. Branches
of these trees occupied the shoreline denuded of their bark. Each of
the standing dead trees had a large nest in the top and a Great Blue
Heron occupying each nest. Evidence of busy Beavers abounded. Their
big tooth trade marks were evident on many of the standing trees, bark
had been chewed away in a ring about two feet off the ground. Entire
trees had been felled both towards the water and away. The logs were in
varying degrees of decomposition. The scene was gray except for the
layer of duck weed that covered most of the shoreline and extended out
two thirds of the way out to the middle of the lake. Pennywort, mermaid
weed and sprouting Lotus were brought up with each netfull of duck
weed. Lots of Gambusia were present. The other dominant fish species
that I could get to was Elassoma zonatum. The males that I found were
spectacular. Florescent green vertical stripes against a mottled black
background. The fins were fully displayed reminiscent of the male
sailfin Molly. Females looked like they were ready to burst from eggs.
The specimens I captured last weekend were posers compared to this.
Conditions: overcast 650 and water temp in the 50s (I guess)

It was a long walk back carrying my now filled igloo and other gear. My
car was where I left it. I changed shoes and headed home. I want to
come back and do a water quality test. PH had to be very low with all
the tannins in the water. Also of notably by its absence, I didn't
capture a single cyprinid. Maybe with someone to man the other end of a
seine I'll have a little more luck.

Here's a few pics.
E. zonatum
Kings Lake - Note Herons in trees
Puddles1? <>
Puddles2 <>

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