NANFA-- American Currents and mountain mullets

Fritz Rohde (
Tue, 20 Mar 2001 14:57:12 -0500

Congratulations to Chris and all the authors on a great issue of
American Currents. I was especially interested in the lead article on
mountain mullet, Agonostomus monticola. It triggered a brief flurry of
activity in memory cells as I recalled a day in late October 1975 when I
collected a strange looking mullet in a smal l coastal plain stream in
southeastern North Carolina. Two of my buddies and I had completed our
daily chores on fisheries survey of the lower Cape Fear River and upon
my insistence had driven towards the Green Swamp, notorious for
insectivorous plants and pygmy sunfishes. Our first stop was Royal Oak
Swamp, a small stream (about 10-15 ft wide - up to 4 ft deep) with a
good current, rooted veggies (probably Sparganium) and sandy/mud
substrate. First few seine hauls were full of interesting critters -
eels, ironcolor and dusky shiners, tadpole and margined madtoms, pirate
perch, lined topminnow, bluespotted sunfish, spotted sunfish,
tessellated and sawcheek darters. It was about the 4th haul when we got
a stubby fish with two dorsal fins, a caudal spot, dusky yellow color on
the fins while the scales on the body were edged with black. When I get
excited, I stammer and I sounded like an outboard motor that day. Oh, I
also swear alot. The air was blue from the words spilling from my
mouth. Anyway, I knew that we had caught something really neat but had
no idea what it was. I hazarded a guess that it was some type of mullet
based on body shape and 2 dorsal fins but knew it wasn't one of the 2
species that occur in NC. I showed it to my boss, Frank Schwartz,
professor of ichthyology at UNC, but he had no idea either what it was,
other than a mullet. After researching it, I realized that it was the
mountain mullet and that this capture represented a northward range
extension of 340 miles. Although I have collected many freshwater fishes
since that time (wow, 25+ years ago), I have not had the pleasure of
being so stumped or so surprised as to what I collected as I was that
day. But that's the one of potential thrills that keeps me wanting to
make "just one more haul".

Fritz Rohde
Wilmington, NC

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