Softer seines may "cuddle" some fish, but they can snag others (especially
those with prominent spines) or gill-net some slender forms (as already
pointed out). We have our seines coated with a black asphalt-like
substance. It makes the seine harder to see by the fish and most specimens
wind up cupped safely on the net's surface.
Re brails - fence rails are nice, but in the deep south there is another
alternative: wild bamboo. Neil Douglas introduced us to this idea. The
rails are cheap (i.e., free), easy to cut and work with, available in a wide
ranges of length and diameters, light, and comfortable. They are easy to
drill holes into for secure binding of the seine along its entire height(so
no more losing fish past the sides of your net).
One more idea for gravel-bottom streams - tickler chains, like those used by
trawlers. Hank Bart showed me this in Oklahoma. He attached metal rings to
the bottom of our brails and then strung a length of chain between them.
The chain turned over rocks and debris, dislodging fish that were swept into
the net behind it.
Re dipnets - I prefer the standard delta-shaped (12 X 8 inch)dipnet
available from most biological supply dealers. During some recent field
work, however, I used that type of net and my partner, NANFA member Reid
Adams, used a "Wildco bottom aquatic kick net." This is a larger (18 X 8
inch) rectangular net with a conveniently detachable handle. Despite its
larger mesh size (and my many many years wielding a delta-net), Reid
consistently caught a disproportinately greater number of specimens than I
did. Certain soft-bottomed habitats (and youthful energy) might make larger,
rectangular dipnet more efficient. I still prefer delta-nets for stumpy,
thickly vegetated areas.
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