My first stop was at the far upper reaches of the Rock River. Here it was a
stream from 2 to 6 feet wide that was flowing through a prairie wildlife
area that occupied pretty much the whole section of land. There were tall
hills on either side of the valley it was flowing through. I had expected
the river to by clear, but it was very muddy (it had rained the last couple
of days). Here Sand Shiners, Common Shiners, Stonerollers, and Blacknose
Dace were abundant, Johnny Darters, Black Bullheads, Bluntnose Minnows,
Fathead Minnow, and Bigmouth Shiners were common and I got three Blackside
My second stop was at another wildlife area about 12 miles to the southeast.
Here the water was clearer and colder, with the creek being about 2 to 4
feet wide with intermittent rapids and pools. I found a mini-bay that went
back into the grass about 6 feet and ran my 4X4 seine through. In this
swoop alone I got at least 30 Southern Redbellied Dace, about 12 of which
were in brilliant color. In addition there was a nice male Topeka Shiner in
breeding colors and two females. I kept 5 medium sized dace for my
aquariums and let the rest go. I continued to sample the stream and got
tons more dace and also one more male Topeka Shiner.
My final stop was at a small creek flowing through wildlife area about 5
miles to the west. It was very nice private spot at the end of a small dirt
road. The creek here was only 2 to 3 feet wide but very clear. Fish seemed
sparse at first as I was only getting a few Creek Chubs, Blacknose Dace, and
Stonerollers. Then I pushed my seine into a shallow swampy margin of the
creek and to my surprise I got two Plains Topminnows! This is the first
time I'd ever seen this species. They were only about an inch and a half
long. There were also numerous juvenile blacknose dace (I think) here. I
took another swoop through a shallow weedy area and got another topminnow
and a bunch of Brook Sticklebacks. One of the sticklebacks was jet black.
I've caught a lot of sticklebacks over the years but I don't ever remember
seeing one this dark. I sampled about 10 more minutes and got one more
I wish I had more time to explore this area. There was a small cattail
lined pond about a hundred yards to the north I would have liked to have
checked out. The water here was plenty clear enough to snorkel in, and I
plan on returning sometime, hopefully this summer to try this out.
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