Robert Carillio (
Tue, 23 Jul 2002 15:25:44 -0500


MAY 11, 2002

By: Rob Carillio Warren,

Looking back over recent years in my area of residence, never would I have
expected feeling as though I could step back and pass the torch on to a
whole new group of individuals so eager to learn about, share, and spread the
knowledge to others, as to the beauty and importance native fishes and
habitats play in our daily lives. Such importance of Native Fishes, in
particular, was clearly evident at the May 11th, 2002 NANFA/Cleveland
Aquarium Society/Mahoning River Consortium Stream Life Observation Outing.

This natural adventure toured a group of at least 30, into three different
area watersheds, The Mahoning, The Grand, and The Shenango, to discover an
underwater world unknown and unseen to many. Weather participants at the
outing were novice, expert, young or old, witnessing first hand, the living
underwater world of Ohio's Native Fishes, never ceases to draw growing
interest, fascination, and most important, generate a well deserved
understanding and respect for our local rivers and streams!

Before I shortly outline each of the three stops at the three streams, I
want to extend some gratitude to some very special people! First, I want to
thank property owners, Lloyd Gintert, (Southington, Ohio) and Larry Garlock
(Kinsman, Ohio) for their gracious cooperation on allowing us access to the
streams that traversed across their lands! Their allowance of us to do so,
demonstrates a genuine desire to help educate the public on the importance
of keeping our water resources clean and healthy! Thank you gentleman! In
addition, I would like to compliment NANFA members Mark Binkley, and Nick
Zarlinga for assisting the many participants during this outing, and offering
their expertise on Native Fishes! With that said, let's begin!!!

Our first stop would have everyone meeting at Eagle Creek, which is a
Mahoning River Tributary and part of The Ohio River Drainage. Our location
would place us between Southington and Newton Falls, Ohio. After,
introducing myself and going over preliminary rules of "stream etiquette"
with the group, we would split up in three pods to survey at least 150 yards
of the stream for fish and other aquatic life. Eagle Creek, as always, greets
visitors with plenty of densely shaded streamside forests, keeping water
temperatures cooler than most streams I visit in the area, where some areas
of the stream allow for penetration of more sunlight. Since the weather
forecast was calling for a rather cool and partly cloudy day, most of us
brought some kind of jacket or extra t-shirts.

I want to point out that the mosquitoes of Eagle Creek don't care what the
temperature is, because they will be there waiting for blood, and as usually
is the case, those venturing into the stream today became a nice tall drink
of red wine for these aggressive little guys! I'm glad I didn't forget the
organic repellent! I'd rather smell like a life-size citronella candle than
to walk away donating half of my blood to the local mosquito blood drive!

Now that we're mosquito proof, it's now time to become waterproof!!! With
waders on, cameras and nets in hand, we made our way into the steadily
flowing waters of the small river. I was hoping that we would find some calm
pools in the stream where we would witness some amazing breeding behavior and
colors of Common Shiners and Central Stonerollers. This was not to be the
situation, however, as with recent rains swelling the local waterways, most
of the existing calm pool habitats, simply became part of the higher water
"run" habitat which was Eagle Creek this day! I was volunteering today to
keep an inventory of the species found, so as the three groups began
netting the waters, I did my best to see what each catch yielded! At the end
of this story, I will separately list the species findings of each stream!

Because of the rather turbid and somewhat less than clear waters, some of
the color patterns and markings on the fishes became washed out. This was not
to hold true with the Greenside Darters, however, as they were as visually
dazzling as ever, displaying bright sparkling emerald green fins, deep brown
mottled markings, and even some deep blues along the length of the body! It
looked to me as though an expert pen and ink artist delicately hashed in the
patterns on this little animal! As I assisted in holding up the viewing
container of which the fish was placed in, it was satisfying to see the
amazement on the faces of especially those who have never witnessed anything
like this so close to home! What's more, when Nick Zarlinga (NANFA
member/Aquatic Biologist-Cleveland MetroParks Zoo), explained to the group
some of the physical make up and behavior of such fishes (Nick refers to fish
behavior as "Fishanalities!"), many thought this in itself was intriguing.
Few, unless explained for example, would take note that a Darter's body is
suited perfectly for the fast moving and riffle habitat these types of fish
most prefer to reside! Add to this, who would take notice to the design of
it's mouth as a determining factor as to what it likes to eat! After a few
photographs, and more admiration the Dater was gently released. Other
findings in the catches included the odd looking Grass Pickerel, Mottled
Sculpin, and a very large Blackside Darter. Eagle Creek is a haven for
Blacksides! After approximately an hour and a half of netting fish and
realizing what we would be seeing most of in Eagle Creek today, we would
make way back to our vehicles and regroup for the next site, which would be
Rock Creek Near Rock Creek, Ohio, of course!!! By the way, the species tally
this day for Eagle Creek was 15. Since the water was high and many habitats
washed out, this wasn't too bad!

Our next site, which would take us on a 30 minute drive to Ashtabula County
Ohio's small village of Rock Creek. Rock Creek, a tributary of the Grand
River and part of the lake Erie Drainage, is where we would explore the main
stem of the river the town was named for. "Rock Creek!" If you are familiar
with famous crimes or TV's Unsolved Mysteries series, this place is a small
rural farming community, infamous for what I believe was an early 1970's
slaying of a law enforcement officer by an accused bunch of local
roughnecks. I don't know if the mystery as to whatever happened to this
officer was unraveled, but I do know the creek that runs through the town
has a very diverse assembly of fishes including a pleasant surprise find today
of a Lamprey. Lamprey are one of the Native Fishes that have been swimming
around since before the dinosaurs! It has changed very little since that time,
millions of years ago!!!

An interesting role Lamprey play in the underwater environment here, is
preying off of sick and dying fishes. Although sounding brutal this act of
this fish has it's advantages! By doing this the Lamprey helps to keep the
overall fish population strong and healthy, by "removing" those which may
spread disease to others! They literally attach themselves to the weaker fish
with their jawless and suckerlike mouth, and suck fluids from their prey,
eventually killing them! I guess you can call them the "DRACULAS" of the

"These fish", as Nick Zarlinga pointed out, "are altogether sooooo
different from all other fishes". As Nick demonstrated, the fish is actually
jawless! He also pointed out how it most notably resembles an eel and
slithers along the bottom of the stream like a snake searching for food!
Certain native Lamprey Species are endangered in Ohio, and are excellent
indicators of batter water quality. Like most fishes which are either
threatened or endangered, loss of habitat and poor water quality contribute to
their declining numbers.

In addition to Rock Creek housing the diverse population of fishes that
it does, it is also a very picturesque river. Tall and graceful Sycamore
trees, reminiscent of old Ohio riverside forests, line the banks, along with
thick growths of various riverbank sedge grasses. The geology is equally
fascinating. Glacial artwork is clearly evident near and in Rock Creek, with
glacial moraines and what I shall describe as "shale shelf" waterfalls in the
stream!!! It's also a birdwatchers best kept secret! I witnessed, live, a
Baltimore Oriel for the first time!!! Bright orange and dark black.. Who
could miss it bouncing around from tree limb to limb. Ok, I'm getting carried
away on other subjects of nature, which at Rock Creek is so easy to do. I
guess that's just a part of Native Fish observation outings, in that one
can't help but take in all the natural scenery which surrounds him at
streams.. even if you came just to look at the fish! HA!

After repeating my chore of keeping track of what species of fishes we were
able to find at Rock Creek, I sat down along the bank and simply enjoyed our
many participants who waded throughout quite a distance of the river. Among
other beautiful fish we netted this day at Rock Creek, were deep and
brilliantly colored Rainbow Darters (the name says it all!), Logperch
Darters, which seemed to display the "ripening" colors of a banana, and
another special guest star among an all star cast of fish, the Spotted
Sucker!!! This fish keeps the bottom of streams swept clean!!!

As the day approached early afternoon, and after finishing my rest along the
bank, I called everyone back to take a complete count of what we gathered.
We totaled 24 species at Rock Creek! Not bad for an hour and a half of
getting wet!!! We took a break to eat our sack lunches, gathered together
our gear, loaded the vehicles and made way to what would be the last site of
the day, for at least me! This site would be Stratton Creek. The drive would
take us to the south east about a 30 minute drive.

Stratton Creek, at Kinsman Ohio, is a tributary of Pymatuning Creek. which
then.. is a tributary of the Shenango River. All of this water flows south,
so this of course makes Stratton Creek a part of the Ohio River Drainage.
This is a little waterway, barely averaging 12 feet wide in the locations we
were to sample for fish, yet has every bit as much diversity as any other
larger river or stream. Stratton Creek is almost always a clear running
stream highly because of the riparian zones on each side of the stream
remaining intact and mature. In my experiences, I have found the smaller
streams which boast more diverse habitat, to be the most diverse in fishes!

As we parked our vehicles and made our way through the thick growth along the
banks, I opted to take an easy way to view the sampling of this stream. I
sat on top and on the edge of the overpass crossing this peaceful little
river. For a moment, I felt like Tom Sawyer lazily wasting away the day
dreaming amidst the calm. The sound of the water, by this time of day, nearly
coaxed me into a nap! I love these outings! Anyway, I better wake up and
point out something unique about Stratton. In my opinion, this stream has
produced some of the most colorful Rainbow darters I have ever seen, as well
as a population so plentiful, that one rarely misses catching one! If your net
is in the water, you just may even catch one by accident! Today, at Stratton
Creek, we would basically see a re-peat of what we had been turning up at
the two previous sites. This stream was running rather high from recent rains,
so habitat here too, was limited. It was nice to turn up some Stripped
Shiners, however, as Common Shiners, a similar fish, seem to be the most
abundant. You can witness how dazzling in color a spawning Common Shine, can
be, by seeing the May 6th 2000 Ohio Regional NANFA Outing web site link from
the NANFA web site at

The day was winding down so we decided to call it quits at Stratton Creek.
We regrouped after cleaning up any excess litter we found viewed and
documented our findings, then disbursed. By the way, I want to thank
participants who helped with litter clean up at each of the sites! It's
always good practice to leave the streams in better shape than when we first
arrived, at least in the litter category! This also has property owners
welcoming future such stream outings.

In the final "optional" trip to a stream within the Cuyahoga River
Watershed, I was surprised to see that most of the group was still together!
Only a few people called it quits early throughout the day, me, stopping
after Stratton Creek. Nick Zarlinga has provided me with a list of Species
that he says he and Mark Binkley had observed on their last stop. Sorry,
folks, since I didn't attend this last trip, I can't provide a story!
Nonetheless, this proved to be another educational yet fun day at the streams!

All who attended on this day walk away enlightened not only because of the
fact they learned what remarkable worlds of aquatic life and habitat exist
but a stone's throw from home, and how their health ultimately affects ours,
but as a result this, they also learned to become better stewards of our
water resources. How could one not better appreciate our streams after
seeing first hand how countless hours of quality time can be spent in an
environment such as a stream and streamside forest???,,, This thought
alone demonstrates why these places are so worthy our protection.

With the above in mind, and after seeing such fine attendance at this
event, I think all our talk about our Native Fishes is certainly not in vane!
We've passed that "torch" of appreciation on to others, who in the future,
will be stewards of Native Fishes and their habitats. Events like this make
"appreciation and education... through observation" possible! Because of such
events, it looks as though our Native Fish friends have a much brighter
future! Thank you all who made this day possible and for attending!!!
Listed below are species lists at each of the sites.

Eagle Creek Findings Between Southington and Newton Falls, Ohio
1. Fantail Darter
2 .Johnny Darter
3.Warmouth Sunfish
4. Rock Bass
5. Black Crappie
6. Green Sunfish
7. Bluntnose Minnow
8. Banded Darter
9. Blackside Darter
10. Grass Pickerel
11. Mottled Sculpin
12. Greenside Darter
13. Common Carp
14. Sand Shiner
Misc. Dragonfly/Crayfish/ Freshwater Muscle???

Rock Creek Findings at Rock Creek, Ohio
1. Green Sunfish
2. ? Lamprey
3. Rainbow darter
4. Fantail Darter
5. Golden Shiner
6. Creek Chub
7. Yellow Perch
8. Bluegill Sunfish

9. Black Crappie
10. Central Stoneroller
11. Hybrid Sunfish
12. Yellow Bullhead catfish
13. Bluntnose Minnow
14. Common Shiner
15. Greenside Darter
16. Warmouth Sunfish
17. Smallmouth Bass
18. Logperch Darter
19. White Sucker

20. Spotted Sucker
21. Pumpkinseed Sunfish
22. Northern Hogsucker
23. Blackside darter
Misc. Toad/Crayfish???..

Stratton Creek at Kinsman, Ohio
1. Rainbow Darter
2. Johnny Darter
3. Creek Chub
4. Central Stoneroller
5. Fantail darter
6. Mottled Sculpin
7. Greenside darter
8. Bluegill Sunfish
9. Rock Bass
10. Yellow Bullhead Catfish
11. White Sucker
12. Striped Shiner
13. Logperch Darter
13. Northern Hogsucker
14. Pumpkinseed Sunfish
Misc. Green frog/Crayfish ???..
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