NANFA-- collecting

Dave Neely (
Sun, 09 Jan 2000 20:40:18 CST

howdy all,
I had a good day collecting yesterday, thought y'all might enjoy.

I left Tuscaloosa about 6am, and headed south. I stopped at W.B. Donnelly
Reservoir, hoping to get orangespotted sunfish. Lots of other centrarchids
here, but unfortunately no humilis. One really neat thing about this site
was a shallow backwater, which had no fish but had an incredible density of
various crayfish (Fallicambarus, Cambarellus, Procambarus, and Cambarus

Next stop was Limestone Creek, in the Red Hills. This upland area is really
unique (other than being home to an endemic salamander) in having disjunct
populations of several fish species generally found above the Fall Line.
This area is inhabited by two endemic sculpins. It was weird catching Cottus
over a shifting-sand substrate, alongside brook lampreys and chubsuckers
(only other place I can think of that you can do this is in the Nanticoke
River drainage of MD/DE).

I then crossed the divide into the Escambia River system, and collected Big
Escambia Creek. Some of the rivers down here are deep and slow at all the
bridges, so that you'd never expect to find darters. A drive back an
unimproved gravel road led me to one of the most beautiful riffles I've ever
seen! Maybe a kilometer long!! Perfect pea-gravel substrate, crystal clear
water. I was really wishing I'd brought an extra person and a bag seine for
this site. I caught and released one southern logperch (Percina
austroperca), and kept several Percina vigil. I'm sure there were
Crystallaria here, but I wasn't being particularly efficient in the deep,
fast runs.

As I was driving out of this site, I noticed a narrow creek (trib to Big
Escambia Creek) that I'd missed earlier. This site produced a beautiful
lesser siren, as well as an abundance of small sharpfin chubsuckers
(Erimyzon tenuis) and russetfin topminnows (Fundulus escambiae). The narrow
channel was deceiving- the first step I took I almost went in over my head!

Even though it was getting dark, I decided to try one more site, Jernigan
Mill Creek in Escambia County. Ironcolor shiners were collected at this site
in the 1970s, but they are declining drastically throughout much of their
range, and none have been seen in Alabama in the past 10-15yrs. The stream
was heavily degraded. Concrete and rip-rap made up most of the habitat.
Silverjaw minnow, as well as coastal and sailfin shiners were here, but not

On the drive back, I decided to break out the headlamp and make one last
stop (it was pitch black by this point). The site, a trib to the Cahaba,
isn't far off of US Hwy 82, but has one of the best populations of rainbow
shiner that I've ever seen. These minnows are incredible, nuptial males have
got to be the gaudiest cyprinids in North America. Wow!

All in all, just a great day to be outside. The drive gave me time to think
about a lot of stuff, most particularly landscape fragmentation and its
effects on native fishes. The southern half of the state is dominated by
plantation pine farming ("forestry" isn't an appropriate term), and one has
to wonder what the cumulative effects of cutting cycles are. After a hundred
years of heavy resource extraction, who knows what we've REALLY lost. I'd
wager that the harelip sucker and the whiteline topminnow weren't the only
fishes to vanish from the East before folks started caring. When you look
around and think about what this country must have been like
pre-development, it's amazing there's anything left.


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