Excellent report! We missed you at the Gorge, but it sounds like you had a
banner day for solo collecting. I can't wait to see the pix.
Steven A. Ellis
At 06:26 AM 7/18/02, you wrote:
>It doesn't happen often, but late last week, I had the
>opportunity do some collecting while on a business
>trip to Florida. One of my business contacts required
>I attend a training session in Orlando last Thursday.
>I asked for a day of vacation on Friday and then I
>booked a return trip home for Sunday. I had
>originally planned to go to Talluhah "Bankhead" Falls
>with the seine and snorkel group, but the lure to
>dance with the gators in Central Florida was just too
>great. I landed in Orlando shortly after one on
>Thursday, rented a car, and dashed for my session
>which began at 2. I didn't take any supplies with me,
>as I knew I would not have time to wait for carry on
>luggage and still make the training session on time.
>So, when the session ended at 4:30, I pointed the car
>in the general direction of North, where I knew the
>Wekiva River could be found west of Sanford.
>While driving around, I kept a lookout for bait shops,
>walmart, kmart etc. I would have to buy my own dipnet
>to collect fish. I have the Binkley Perfect Dipnet,
>but I was afraid to pack it in my carry on luggage as
>it might be considered a weapon. After a fruitless
>search at walmart and a sporting goods store, I found
>a shrimp net at a bait and tackle shop just south of
>Sanford. It had the right size Ace netting that I
>like so much, and a very long handle. Unfortunately,
>it had a very deep pocket, which would make it
>difficult to remove captured fish quickly, and result
>in additional stress and damage to the captured fish.
>The sporting goods store did have gator buckets, a two
>piece bucket, the inner one has perforations and is
>removable. A nifty idea for housing your fish and
>allows for making water changes without removing the
>fish..... really cool. At a convenience store I
>bought two styrofoam ice chests. This was beginning
>to get expensive!!! I ran across a Sams, Sams has the
>best prices on Delorme atlases that I know of. The
>Florida one was only $10.99. Once I had those things,
>I felt prepared to go collecting.
>When I asked last week for collecting places near
>Orlando, I got a request for some of Central Florida
>pygmy sunfish, thought to be unique enough to be a
>separate species, and wouldn't I please catch some.
>With that thought in mind, I began searching for
>access points and likely collecting localities along
>the Wekiva River. A quick scan of the Delorme was
>intriguing. Almost no roads cross over the Wekiva
>River!!!!! and the area is largely undeveloped. I
>knew it would be useless to look at the spring head as
> the hard water in springs usually don't have any
>Elassoma species, but hard water fish like mollies and
>rainwater killies. I saw on the map where a large
>part of the river ran through state property. My
>requestor in Wisconsin mentioned SR 46 as a likely
>In the warm Florida sunshine, fleecy white clouds
>danced across the sky as I drove through Sanford and
>then west across SR 46. I still get excited everytime
>I near a new place to collect and the Wekiva was no
>exception. I could see a dip in the road ahead and
>knew that meant a stream, the water table in Fla is
>very high. I was both disappointed and gladdened by
>the 12 foot high fence I saw spanning the bridge on
>both sides and then cordoning off access to the river
>along both banks. I was sad to be unable to make the
>trek down to the rivers edge, the state had put up no
>tresspassing signs. A quick look upstream and I could
>see the river dart in and out of low islands, chocked
>with emergent and aquatic plants. I really wanted to
>try my hand here, but if the state was serious enough
>about protecting the Wekiva River from passing
>motorists and curious fishermen, I knew I should
>respect that and be happy that such a wonderful
>pristine environment was being protected. I drove
>south along a short stretch of road that follows the
>west bank for less than a mile, where I happened upon
>a local, who was going about the daunting task of
>chopping down florida's quick growing weeds. So I
>chatted with him a few minutes about the stream in his
>backyard and I asked him if there were any public
>access points downstream from the springhead. He
>recommended Katies Landing, a few miles farther down
>the river. So I took off for the east bank road north
>of sr 46. When I arrived at Katie's Landing I found
>the gate padlocked and pretty aggressive no
>traspassing signs posted all around the property.
>Katies landing went out of business this year and the
>state was now the proud owner of their property too!
>I didn't want to give up so easily, so in the late
>evening's failing light I drove farther downstream,
>following the Wekiva down an unpaved road. I finally
>came to a boat ramp and boat rental place. I chatted
>with the owner, who seemed almost amused when I told
>him about Nanfa and NFC and my interest in native fish
>that I keep in aquariums. He invited me back for
>Friday and said I could collect all day long. A
>little tired but happy, I strode to the water's edge
>and watched as a few killies and livebearers fled from
> I am happy to say that all the colorful hotel
>characters were in TN making big bucks for that
>weekend, and my little hotel was incredibly quiet.
>Friday morning I snarfed down breakfast and headed
>from the hotel to the Wekiva. The sun was up and
>it was partly cloudy. Temperatures in the 80s.
>Humidity around 95%.
>The owner wasn't there, but a young mostly toothless
>lady manned the little shed that sold all kinds of
>fishing and boating supplies and snacks to the weekend
>boaters who frequent the Wekiva. I bought a soda and
>explained I wanted to collect along their boat haven.
>She thought a moment and decided it would cost me 50
>cents to fish.
>I took a swipe of the net and caught Least Killifish,
>green sailfin mollies and bluefin killies, and grass
>shrimp in the very first swoop. As I suspected, it
>took forever to unfold the deep cavity of the net and
>transfer fish to the collecting bucket. The shore was
>overgrown with aquatic plants. Species of Ludwigia,
>Bacopa, Salvinia, Hydrocotle, Water Lettuce,
>Valisneria, and water Hyacinths abounded in the brown
>water. From a distance the Wekiva looked almost
>black, but if you looked at a cupful of water, you
>could tell it was a deep brown. I continued to sample
>the Wekiva. I ran my net under the water lettuce and
>then shook the leaves. I knew that Elassoma liked to
>hide out in plants and I was hoping some would drop
>out from the roots of the many Pistia stratiodes that
>bobbed along the shore.
>I thought about taking some Pistia with me, but I had
>gone over the regulations just before I left home and
>read that although Pistia may be cultured for out of
>state sales, it is not permitted to be harvested from
>the wild. So I left the Pistia in the water.
>I ran the net between the moored boats and along the
>shore. Still no Elassoma, but I caught my first
>sunfish. A spotted sunfish. I glanced across the
>river looking for the ten foot gator that likes to
>hang out there, but like the Elassoma, he was nowhere
>to be seen. I ran the net through a Bacopa bed and
>nestled into the folds of the net I espied the first
>Elassoma, light colored and spotted, it was a female.
>In about an hour I had as many least killies, green
>sailfin mollies, and bluefin killies as I wanted, but
>only two Elassoma sp. aff. okeefeenokee. So I decided
>to work my way upstream out of the haven along the
>grass banks. I began to catch more pygmy sunfish.
>The first males appeared. So dark they looked almost
>jet black, with light metallic blue barlike spangles
>on the sides of the body. The fish reminded me almost
>of Cynolebias nigripinnis in size and shape. What a
>wonderful diminutive fish!
>I continued to sample and found more species. Two
>inch long alligator gar. Blue spotted sunfish,
>Fundulus chrysotus less than an inch long. Suddenly, I
>found something with bright red fins in the net. It
>was the first taillight shiner I had ever seen alive.
>Notropis maculatus is found as far north as the
>Bootheel in Missouri, where it is protected, I hoped
>to get it home alive so I could photograph it.
>I found an apple snail egg mass on top of a Cyperus
>sp. spike. In grass, but underwater I found a rather
>largish hole my toes fit into. In the net was a 3/4
>By now I was sopping wet even though my shirt and
>shorts had never touched water. The clothing seemed
>to soak up moisture from the air. I changed the water
>in the gator bucket and tshirts. I began putting fish
>into zip lock bags I had purchased at wall mart. I
>find the ez open style of zip lock bags where you
>slide a plastic tab along the closure to be a lot of
>help for housing a few fish while collecting.
>All in all, I spent about five hours collecting and
>sorting fish. The last hour I could hear thunder in
>the distance and a light rain fell from time to
>time....it was actually refreshing, and I didn't mind
>as my clothes were already sopping wet from the
>humidity and sweat.
>I sorted out the fish, and found I had quite a few
>pygmy sunfish for my friend and myself. I packed the
>car and headed to St Augustine, to visit Paul Sachs of
>http://www.sachssystemaquaculture.com. Along the way
>I found a store that sells packing supplies and I was
>able to purchase a box to enclose the styrofoam cooler
>I had purchased earlier. Paul grows fatheads,
>bannerfin shiners, mummichugs, heteroclitus, daphnia,
>moina, unicellular algae and a lot of other things
>commercially. Many of his customers are environmental
>labs around the country.
>Paul helped me graciously sort my fish and boxed up
>over 20 Elassoma to be mailed to Wisconsin. I
>included three young Lepomis, thinking my friend might
>like those also, but a little concerned that they
>wouldn't survive the trip because they hadn't had time
>to empty their system yet of food. We packed all the
>fish with oxygen, including the ones I would be taking
>home. I knew I couldn't take any more fish, so I
>gave my dipnet and gator bucket to Paul.
>The next morning, I headed out. The plan for the day
>was to attend the Suncoast Killie meeting in St
>Petersberg, on the gulf coast. As I made the long
>trek, I decided to return to the Wekiva briefly to
>take some pictures in the bright sunshine. The
>weather report for the rest of the day wasn't very
>promising. Thunder showers...and lots of them. I
>wasn't able to take pics the day before because of
>rain, but I definitely wanted some. After a few
>minutes I had a dozen or so shots.
>Back into the car to run the gauntlet along I-4 past
>all the Micky Mouse Land traffic. I-4 had been
>described to me as a parking lot. The description
>ominously proved to be only half accurate. When cars
>are moving, far too many drivers want to go 85-90 in
>the heavy traffic, tailgate, and weave in and out of
>traffic, regardless if its raining or not. Just a few
>minutes past the Champions of Golf exit I got stuck in
>a three hour traffic jam. Ambulances and police cars
>drove past. When I finally reached the scene of the
>accident, I saw at least three bodies along the median
>and berm with white sheets covering them. Several
>dazed survivors sat in the grass in shock. Badly
>mangled suvs, cars and minivans littered the ditches
>in the median and past the berm. Who knows, the brief
>stop to take pictures may have kept me from being in
>I arrived at the killie meeting well over two hours
>late. Charlie Nunziata and the crew had graciously
>saved the program until I came and it was a true
>pleasure to see him again and to visit with a such a
>vibrant group of fish hobbyists. Charlie and several
>other members have published a Florida collecting
>guide. The hard bound loosepage notebook is loaded
>with high grade pictures of florida fish, maps and
>text. Its well worth the $20.
>The group was extremely gracious and provided a four
>foot long sub loaded with lunch meats, cheese and
>veggies, drinks and various snacks.
>Except for the few minutes I took pictures earlier in
>the day, the sun had mostly disappeared and tropical
>showers and thunderstorms had taken its place. I
>drove back to Orlando that evening and saw several
>more serious accidents, along the way.
>I made one more trip to Walmart to purchase some
>check-in type luggage so I could get my jewels home.
>It stormed all night long. The next morning I got up
>early and packed the fish into the suitcase. By five
>Sunday evening I arrived home and began putting fish
>away. I had some losses, but not too many, most
>likely from handling damage due to the deepness of the
>net and the fish being out of water for so long.
>I reflected on the events and contrasts of the
> Thrilled by the beauty and pristine images of the
>Wekiva River dancing through my mind, as well as dark
>brooding images of the horrible accidents I had
>seen. I counted my blessings to be home safe and
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