NANFA-- More of a trip report than a collection...

Crail, Todd (
Sun, 28 Jul 2002 00:33:50 -0400

I've been very inspired by recent writings about the "whole experience" approach to our collections. And while tonight's activities yielded very little in the ichthy-department... This is certainly a tale worthy of telling, and even has a question or two for you fellow NANFAns.

Today was my 6th aniversary to a VERY understanding and wonderful woman. However, she was out of town to visit her grandma who'd recently had her spouse pass on. We were all okay with this, but I was kinda itchy to figure out what I would do this evening. After I'd done all the honey-do's I was kinda bummed about how I would spend the day... It occured to me.... I COULD GO FISHIN'!

I realized that I could meet a good friend of mine, Gary "The Botany King" Haase, half way between our homes (we live 50 minutes away) down on the ol' Muddy Maumee River and get him out observing that the native fish are just as cool as the native plants. Our specializations complimented each other very very well and made the whole trip much more fulfilling. I think in the future, we just need to recruit another friend who's a herper and we'll be all set :)

The Mighty Maumee coughed up perhaps it's coolest animal on my first dip in the emergent plants... A young of the year longnose gar which I think impressed him greatly. What a cool animal. I wish that I have a picture of that critter, however, I pulled out my digital camera, thought about it, opened the flash card bay and screamed this horrible "NooooOOOOOOOoooooOOOOooooOOO!" because I discovered that the card was still sitting nice and comfy at home in the flash card reader. So we enjoyed it for a few seconds longer and it was back in the drink for it. The gar made it's little "looking around seeing what is going on" kind of movements and then swam off. Gary was very impressed with the way it "worked" and I was like "Awwww yeah.... You're looking at one of evolution's finest there boy!" :)

Onward we went. The darters were not in their usual homes which was rather disappointing. Bluntnose minnows and Emerald Shiners are cool and all, but they don't make much of an impression on anyone. I'm not sure if it was the new seine (got a nylon one and I *hate* it) or just the heat of the stream that had them elsewhere. At any rate, we began looking at plants. All sorts of native emergents/wet soil species. Buttonbush, Arrowhead, Rose Mallow. Oh yeah.... I'm going back to do some seed collections. Hopefully, someday I'll be able to share my stock with other regional NANFAns (I'm picky about genotype ;) so we can practice what we preach in our gardens and landscaping too :)

As we were walking along, I saw a very pronounced undercut maple. I was like "Please have an Orangespot under there... Please!" The Muddy Maumee again, yielded some of it's finest. It was a second year Orangespot which had most of it's coloration in. At that point, Gary said "Uhhh... Why do people grab fish off the reefs of the world?" Very cool animal, very cool to send it back on its way :)

(note: I'm not going to send out Ospots because I still don't feel right collecting them with a seine. So please don't email me about getting some ;)

Well, this area, while having yeilded it's finest, wasn't coughing up any darters so I felt we should move on to another location that may have the colder, more aerated water they like. And as we were walking out, we had our visit with "The Man". Not just your usual Metropark fella... This was the DNR, the gun carying type. And our activities were very very gray at that point (even after all my musings this week about how I felt membership cards were a bad idea because bad people were out there ;)

Fortunately, I had enough sense to beat down the greed to take any fish home (or mention NANFA ;). You see, I wasn't all that convinced that Gary would really appreciate truckin through the water and I selfishly omitted the fact that he should have at least a one day liscence to be out there with me. I knew that we would "no take" from the water... But he still should have had a liscence to even carry the gear around. The DNR guys were quite impressed that I was out there showing a friend what cool critters live in our waters, they were mainly concerned about it we take fish as "bait". They of course asked to see my liscence because I admitted that time to time, I collect bluntnose minnows and emerald shiners for "bait" with a liscence. However, the question emerged to Gary. "And do you have your liscence?"

How do you folks handle this? It's very difficult to get people to go out of thier element, get all wet and nasty to go look at some fish in the wild. I had a very willing participant, but if I said "You're either going to have to pay $15 or drive an hour to pay $5 to go do this." I doubt he would have been out there to appreciate it. I generally demand that if people want to go out a second time, they *need* to purchase a liscence (or if it would work out, I buy their one day permit for them, which is a pain because resident one days are difficult to find),. But how do you get them hooked without making them pay first? It certainly makes it much easier to explain if you don't have a bucket or any fish in your bucket (which we experienced tonight). But still, I feel *I* should have been fined for not telling him what he needed to do (which I discussed with the DNR fellows and they were generally appreciative that I'd even thought that far).

It all worked out and everyone was very happy in our parting, and the DNR fellows were very polite and gracious. However, the encounter was beyond stressful. I was sorry that Gary had to experience that.

So we moved on to the next spot. Gary got to see his first Greenside Darter and was ready to rip down his marine aquarium so he could keep "blenny like" animals :) This side stream didn't yield much, mainly due to the nasty deer flies. We saw a lot of bluntnose minnows, a young of the year redhorse-like juvi, but that was about it. We were pushing on into pools that I knew hosted other suckers (mainly I wanted to show him Northern Hog Suckers) and see if there were any topminners in between the walk, but the flies were so bad and he was already nervous about all the rocks and stuff (which he didn't realize that every stream in Ohio was completely caked in agri-runoff :) and breaking his ankle. The kingfishers and woodpeckers were little consolation.

So we turned back with the thought of "Oh man was that gar cool!"

And with that, I conclude my trip report. Sorry there wasn't much more diversity than what we saw. However, I think the actual species that we did get to see spoke greatly to someone who thought that this river was just another mud pile.... And I'm pretty sure he'll be buying his liscence soon :)


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