Re: NANFA-- Texas Native Fish Weekend Report - really long

Roselawn Museum (
Thu, 20 Jun 2002 14:10:14 -0400

Excellent report, Rob!

I trust you were no longer in the tent when it went airborne. Did y'all
take any pix other than video?

Steven A. Ellis
Kennesaw, GA

At 03:58 PM 6/19/02 -0500, you wrote:
>Over the weekend of June 14-16, members of NANFA and the NFC embarked on the
>first of what will hopefully be many native fish forays in the state. This
>event was held at the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge (FWNC&R), which
>contains a long and relatively natural stretch of the West Fork of the
>Trinity River. This is our story...
>Friday, June 14
>The event started out slowly as only Rob Denkhaus (NANFA host for the
>event), Charles Anderton (NFC host for the event) and Charlie Anderton
>(Charles' son) were in attendance at 6:30 p.m. for Steve Campbell's
>presentation on Cottonmouth behavior and avoidance. Instead of having a
>regular presentation to such a small group, we chose to just sit around
>talking fish, snakes, and everything else while waiting for others to
>arrive. Steve Campbell is an Aquatic Education Specialist for Texas Parks &
>Wildlife (TP&W) and has an extreme interest in both herps and fish. Steve
>remarked many times that he was thrilled to find that there are groups of
>non-academics who are interested in nongame fish! The possibility of
>cooperative activities between TP&W, NANFA and NFC were discussed at length.
>Steve promised to join the organizations in the near future. While we
>talked, Matthew Fisher (Katy, TX) called to say that he was sitting on
>Interstate 820 with a flat tire and would be staying at a friend's house
>before coming out in the morning. Our group was beginning to grow!
>It was well after dark when John Bongiovanni pulled into camp. He and his
>wife had made the long journey from Tyler, TX to find the original four
>sitting at the campfire enjoying a cold libation or six. John works in
>Athens, TX home to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. He and Steve had
>some friends in common who work there and we discussed a group visit to the
>site at some future date. The calls of barred owls accompanied the
>crackling of the fire as we shared fish tales and discussed the next days'
>activities before finally turning in sometime after 2 a.m.
>Saturday, June 15
>The day started early for some. Charlie was first up and had the fire
>burning brightly since it was surprisingly cool and damp for a Texas June
>morning. John had to run his wife over to a relative's house in Dallas.
>After a bit of breakfast, we headed up to the interpretive center to meet
>the rest of the group that was coming in for the day.
>At the interpretive center, FWNC&R staff members John Shaffer and Travis
>Tidwell joined us. John is a junior high school science teacher most of the
>time but has worked as a seasonal naturalist for many years. He runs the
>FWNC&R canoe program and is intimately acquainted with the local waters.
>Travis is a summer intern who has been on the job for a week. He was told
>to come prepared to get wet and really had no idea what was in store for
>him. Also joining us were Dan Northcut (Dallas), a new NANFA member and
>president of the Dallas chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist program, and
>Karen Green (Keller, TX), a member of the Friends of the Nature Center who
>had seen an event notice posted in the interpretive center and just thought
>that it sounded like fun. Dan, it should be noted, is also an environmental
>science teacher at St. Marks School of Dallas and has several native tanks
>and an outdoor pond on exhibit at the school. Matthew Fisher also caught up
>to us and John B. got back before we left. Our group now numbered 10 as we
>loaded up into a caravan to head to the first site.
>We started on the south end of the Refuge in an area known as Greer Island.
>The Greer Island area is at the head of Lake Worth, a reservoir that was
>constructed in 1914 to provide drinking water for Fort Worth. Greer Island
>was originally a wooded hilltop along the West Fork but is now an island
>that is accessible via a causeway. Our intent was to sample along both
>sides of the causeway and along the adjacent shoreline.
>After some initial hesitation at wading into the murky waters of the West
>Fork and a bit of instruction (for the novices) in how to operate a seine,
>we plunged in. The first run with the seine pulled up a beautiful
>orangespot sunfish and everyone was hooked.
>The species list for this area included:
>Orangespot Sunfish
>Redear Sunfish
>Longear Sunfish
>Largemouth Bass
>Gizzard Shad
>Inland Silversides
>Big Scale Logperch
>Red Shiner
>Freckled Madtom
>Creek Chub
>Long Nosed Gar
>Non-fish fauna observed or encountered included: Glass Shrimp, Dragonfly and
>Damselfly nymphs, various crayfish, water scorpions, various diving beetles
>including Belastomatids, and one unidentified water snake which Charlie
>wisely did not scoop up into his net.
>One of the highlights of our time at Greer Island was having a news crew
>from the Fort Worth city cable channel in attendance. Rob Denkhaus was
>interviewed regarding why the event was happening and what we hoped to find.
>John B. was interviewed to apparently learn why someone would drive so far
>to look at fish. They promised to give a copy of the feature to the nature
>center when it's finished and hopefully this will be available for viewing
>at the convention in August.
>By chance, while they were filming Charles and John B. were making a run
>with a seine through water that suddenly became deeper than they were tall.
>As Charles tried to save his cigarettes from floating away, they managed to
>hang onto the seine and regain their footing. When they brought the seine
>up they had caught one of the most beautiful longears and the first redear
>sunfish known to be collected on the Refuge. The camera was able to capture
>the vivid colors of the fish and the excited reactions of the participants.
>In addition, Dan had managed to catch an 8-inch gar complete with all the
>frills on the fins.
>Before leaving Greer Island, Karen, who had come along because she thought
>that it might be fun, had learned how much fun it really is and Travis, who
>was told to be prepared to get wet and so had brought waders, had
>experienced the joy of not being able to stop sinking into the muck bottom
>as the water reached up and over the top of his waders.
>Next, we moved up river to another causeway which divides the West Fork from
>an area known as Lotus Marsh. This site offers easy access to two very
>different habitats. Now that everyone was experienced in seine operation,
>we spread out more and worked both sides of the causeway.
>The species list for this area included:
>Orangespot Sunfish
>Longear Sunfish
>Black Crappie
>Largemouth Bass
>Blackstripe Topminnow
>Blackspot Topminnow
>Big Scale Logperch
>Non-fish fauna collected in the area included: damselfly and dragonfly
>nymphs, dobsonfly larvae, various crayfish, and glass shrimp.
>One of the highlights of the area was watching a large clubtailed dragonfly
>nymph catch and consume young Gambusia. Dan wanted to keep the invertebrate
>predator for his classroom tank but when it went after one of Charles'
>topminnows, Dan wisely released it.
>The news crew had followed us to the site to finish their filming. Proving
>that they were not true outdoors people, the reporter tried to film his
>intro and conclusion while standing on a fire ant mound. Since he was
>wearing sandals, we recommended that he wade into the water to rid himself
>of the biting pests but he refused saying that he didn't know what might be
>in the water...
>Young Travis also encountered a biting pest as he learned how not to pick up
>a dobsonfly larva. When Dan pulled the invertebrate from the net and asked
>what it was, Travis volunteered to take a look and received a painful slit
>in his finger for his trouble. The offending larva later became food for a
>hungry fish.
>Also in this area, Karen showed that she has the right stuff to be a true
>native fish conservationist as she single handedly cleaned up a huge pile of
>beer cans that some *^&%^^%# had left along the shore.
>Before finishing up in the area, Rob challenged anyone to seine a
>particularly thickly vegetated backwater slough on the river side of the
>causeway. The vegetation, primarily hornwort, makes seining difficult but
>provides plenty of cover for fish and invertebrates. Not wanting to pass up
>a challenge, Dan and Charles waded in. The area proved to be full of
>crappie and other sunfish. Keeping any required a gallant effort on the
>part of Karen who fought her way through shoreline brush and an aquatic
>jungle in order to get a bucket to the intrepid fish collectors.
>After Dan and Charles had climbed out of the slough, we headed up to the
>interpretive center to sort the catch and have some lunch. Charlie A. and
>Steve C. had to say goodbye because of other commitments but Dr. Lou Verner,
>Urban Wildlife Biologist for TP&W, then joined us. Lou had recently removed
>the tropicals from his 125 gallon tank in preparation for going native!
>We then moved northward into an area that lies below Eagle Mountain Dam and
>is the area where alligators are most commonly seen on the Refuge. Rather
>than walk the 2 miles to the site, we all loaded into a 4wd S-10 pickup
>(yes, 10 of us) and made the long journey complete with having to stop and
>move trees out of the way and using the 4wd to get through mud holes and
>over rock piles.
>No alligators were seen but the fish were plentiful. The area's species
>list included:
>Orangespot Sunfish
>Redear Sunfish
>Largemouth Bass
>Gizzard Shad
>Red Shiner
>Blacktail Shiner
>Blackstripe Topminnow
>Blackspot Topminnow
>Inland Silversides
>Longnose Gar
>Black Buffalo
>Bluntnose Darter
>Big Scale Logperch
>Non-fish fauna observed included: glass shrimp, dragonfly and damselfly
>nymphs, water scorpions and crayfish.
>The highlight of this area was catching a 2-feet longnose gar and an
>approximately 2-pound black buffalo while seining. Seeing a big fish in the
>net was quite a thrill for those that had never experienced it. Another
>highlight was finding the blacktail shiners as they had not been recorded
>for this area before.
>After returning to camp for a quick and refreshing cold drink, we reconvened
>at the interpretive center to sort the new catch. Lou claimed a number of
>fish to stock his 125. Dan claimed one of the 8" gar and the 2 lb. buffalo
>as well as others to put in a 240-gallon tank at school. Karen chose not to
>take any fish...yet. Matthew had to go but promised to return in the
>morning. John S. and Travis, having put in a full day's work, left for
>home. Our group was down to Rob D., Charles A. and John B. and we still had
>our speakers for the night!!
>Once again, because of the small group, the presentations became more like
>conversations. Dr. Tom Hellier, of the University of Texas - Arlington,
>spoke with us about the impact of exotic introductions on natural systems
>and a variety of other interesting topics. One unrelated, yet fascinating
>story that Dr. Hellier related was that he was the person who first
>introduced Archie Carr to sea turtles. Dr. Carr then went on to become the
>foremost authority on sea turtles.
>Our second speaker was Armin Karbach, former curator of fishes at the Fort
>Worth Zoo. Armin discussed some of the history behind the now defunct zoo
>aquarium and how it operated. He also discussed some of the projects that
>he had been involved with in both the US and in Mexico.
>After the speakers, we retired to camp where shortly after we had retreated
>to our tents, a mighty storm blew in. Rob's tent was lifted and twisted and
>finally demolished by winds that were reported to have reached 80 mph. Rain
>fell and lightning flashed as the intrepid fish enthusiasts cowered in their
>tents. When morning finally dawned, it was as if nothing had ever happened
>during the night. Deer were wandering around the edges of camp. A Carolina
>wren was busily working on a nest under the cover of the picnic shelter and
>barred owls continued to call throughout the morning.
>Worn out from the previous day's activities and a restless night, the
>remaining three, Rob, Charles, and John B. decided to call it a weekend and
>all returned home but not before making tentative plans to do it all again.
>Rob Denkhaus
>Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge
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