NANFA-- Trip Report: TN River Gorge Seinerama 2002

Roselawn Museum (
Tue, 07 May 2002 16:35:38 -0400

This report respectfully submitted for the TN Region, and continued by the
Snorkelmeister himself.

Steven A. Ellis
Kennesaw, GA


Tennesse River Gorge Seinerama 2002
(The Land of Slippery Footing)

On the afternoon of Friday, April 27, 2002, fishheads began gathering at
the Chattanooga home of NANFA TN Regional Representative Casper Cox. Early
arrivals were treated to a tour of the cement pond and a leisurely stroll
along the stream that winds around his property. After an excellent dinner
prepared by the host and his lovely wife, Miss Connie, the group kicked
back in the living room and enjoyed a winter collecting video created by
Ray Wolff. This work has now affectionately been dubbed "Ray's World." The
temperature in Chattanooga was chilly enough to justify the content.

At the end of the evening, Casper shuttled Ranger Bob Culler, Stott Noble,
and Steven Ellis to the spacious guest apartment over his place of
business. Klaus Schoening arrived later and spent the night at the Cox

Early Saturday morning, the entire group numbered eight people,
representing five different states. The party consisted of Stott Noble
(Birmingham AL), Steven Ellis (Kennesaw, GA), Klaus Schoening (Cincinnati,
OH), Chip Rinehart (West Columbia, SC), Casper Cox (Chattanooga, TN), Mike
Whitfield (Chattanooga, TN), Ranger Bob Culler (Kingsport, TN), and Ed
Scott (Knoxville, TN). After a fine breakfast provided by the host, they
all headed for the weekend lodgings.

Casper arranged with the TN Trust folks to allow us to rent their cabin on
the TN River, called Pot Point. They gave him a special rate based on
NANFA's non-profit status. (Your NANFA membership fee saves you money in
the long run!). A modern log cabin, the lodge had all of the ammenities the
group would need and lots of space. The two large bedrooms upstairs
contained five bunks each. The kitchen and large dining room were put to
good use! The party was only there that morning long enough to drop their
gear, and reducing the caravan down to four vehicles, they were off to the
first stop of the day.


This location is an old ferry where Civil War soldiers were once carried
back and forth across the river. Donning their collecting gear in a church
parking lot, the group waded into the shallow water and tricky mud. Chip
Rinehart was the first to take a fall. By the end of the day, just about
everyone else would do the same. At this site we found the following species:

Spotfin shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera)
Bluntnose minnow (Pimephales notatus)
Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
Redear sunfish (L. microlopus)
Redbreast sunfish (L. auritus)
Gambusia (Gambusia affinis)


We got skunked at this second location, but there were some cool ruins that
merit exploring at a later date.


This third site opened off the main body of the TN River, forming a wide
creek that backed up into a marsh. Not much was found here until several
guys worked their way back to the spring itself, finding rainbow darters as
their reward. Steven Ellis was the next to fall, with an over-the-waders
plunge. Here's the species list:

Gambusia (G. affinis)
Bluntnose minnow (P. notatus)
Redbreast sunfish (L. auritus)
Rainbow darter (Etheostoma caeruleum)


By this time, the group was ready for lunch. Casper called ahead to the
Davis Bait Store where cheeseburgers were cooking as the guys arrived. As
the burgers fried, the fish addicts tried to avoid the chilly wind coming
off the lake while they sampled the contents of the bait tanks...mostly
fathead minnows, called toughies.

After the meal, Ranger Bob Culler demonstrated the proper way to throw a
castnet belonging to Steven Ellis. Prior to this, Steven had only been able
to frighten or amuse the fish with this contraption. Ranger Bob knew his
stuff, and used the net with good results.

The steep concrete boat ramp proved a bit too slippery for collecting
without bathing, so Ed Scott and Casper walked a short distance to another
ramp where it was much easier to pull the seine. The result was some very
large brook silversides. Fulfilling the NANFA intent to educate, Casper
paused to show some of the collected fishes to a small boy and his mother
and answered their questions. The smile on the little guy's face was worth
the trip. Species collected/observed at this site included:

Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus)
Bluegill (L. macrochirus)
Redbreast sunfish (L. auritus)
Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Brook silverside (Labidesthes sicculus)
Fathead minnows..."toughies" (Pimephales promelas)


This beautiful river had, perhaps, the best footing of the day, although
there were deep drop-offs and areas of swift current. The riffles yielded
up some beautiful darters. While some of the guys pulled the seine, dipnets
were also used with astonishing success. A stray dog adopted the party for
awhile, but wouldn't venture very far from the bank. This stop offered the
best diversity with 21 species collected/observed:

Logperch (Percina caprodes)
Dusky darter (P. sciera)
Redline darter (Etheostoma rufilineatum)
Golden darter (E. denoncourti)
Banded darter (E. zonale)
Tennessee snubnose darter (E. simoterum)
Blotched chub (Erimystax insignis)
Bigeye chub (Hybopsis amblops)
River chub (Nocomis micropogon)
Sawfin shiner (Notropis sp.)
Rosyface shiner (N. rubellus)
Striped shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus)
Spotfin shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera)
Steelcolor shiner (C. whipplei)
Ohio lamprey (Ichthyomyzon bdellium)
Gambusia (G. affinis)
Blackspotted topminnow (Fundulus olivaceus)
Longear sunfish (lepomis megalotis)
Mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi)
Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
Golden redhorse (Moxostoma erythrurum)


Until many feet entered this water, it was crystal clear and unbelievably
cold, conducting a chill even through insulated waders. It figures, then,
that this would be the site where many would take their turns at falling in
the water. Klaus Schoening nearly recovered as he tipped over, but the
current pushed him down. Nobody can top Mike Whitfield's plunge, however,
as he completely submerged after stepping into an underwater abyss.

The intention at this location was to gather enough sculpins to cook that
evening. That goal was achieved rather quickly by kicking them into the
seine. A total of eight species were gathered here including:

Mountain shiner (Luxilus lirus)
Striped shiner (L. chrysocephalus)
Telescope shiner (Notropis telescopus)
Mottled sculpin (C. bairdi)
Blackspotted topminnow (F. olivaceus)
Gambusia (G. affinis)
Whitetail shiner (Cyprinella galactura)
Redbreast sunfish (L. auritus)

LITTLE SEQUATCHIE RIVER (at Sequatchie Cove Farm & Dancing Fern Nursery):

The final stop of the day was a section of the Little Sequatchie River that
wound its way through the farm of Mr. Jim Wright. The farm itself was
impressive enough, a family run operation that has passed through the
generations down to the Keeners who work it now. It features cattle, hogs,
sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, as well as fresh veggies, grapes, and
excellent mushrooms. Mrs. Keener, whose specialty is the propagation and
sale of native plants has an enviable greenhouse at the edge of the woods.
In the days of corporate farming and commercialization, it is very
rewarding to meet a family that is happy living a traditional agrarian
existence. Situated at the base of a towering ridge, and beside a pleasant,
clear running stream, they have a semi-paradise in which to make their living.

The stream itself is very nice, although the bottom is lined with round,
slippery stones. It can be easily navigated, just not quickly! Because of
this, most of the fishes were taken with dipnets in the riffles. These
riffles were absolutely loaded with colorful darters and juvenile sculpins.
Exploring a nearby spring, Stott came away with a fabulous piece of
driftwood suitable for a mantlepiece. Ed, Mike, and Ranger Bob all tried
their hands at hook 'n line fishing. Ranger Bob brought in a couple of
keepers for dinner. Steven Ellis had intended to snorkel at this location,
but the water temperature was only running between 56 & 58F! Despite
Casper's encouragement, the GA boy just wasn't going for it. Here's the
species list:

Black snubnose darter (Etheostoma duryi)
TN snubnose darter (E. simoterum)
Rainbow darter (E. caeruleum)
Redline darter (E. rufilineatum)
Striped shiner (L. chrysocephalus)
Mottled sculpin (C. bairdi)
Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Rock bass (Ambloplites rupestrus)
Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Gambusia (G. affinis)
Central stoneroller (Campostoma anomalum)
Blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus)

On the way back out, the group stopped at the farm to purchase fresh eggs &
'shrooms, visit Mrs. Keener's fine array of plants, and chat with Mr.
Keener about his farm. He was duly impressed with the darters Casper showed
him and shared a copy of the farm newsletter. He also agreed to take a
couple of group photos beneath his cartoonesque sign post that pointed
every which way.

Happy and exhausted, the collecting party made the long drive back to the
lodge. A thoroughly soaked Mike Whitfield bid the group farewell at this
point and headed home. To Mike's credit, he is the gentleman responsible
for introducing Casper to NANFA. (Thanks, Mike!).

The lodge quickly became a flurry of activity as fish coolers were stashed
on the porch, viewing tanks were set up in the living room, and a couple of
folks sneaked in hasty showers. While the wandering fishheads were in the
field, Miss Connie had been busy preparing a wonderful, tasty supper. If
anyone went away hungry, it was their own fault! As the group feasted, the
Cox children chased a huge green moth through the lodge. Can there be any
dinner music more delightful than the laughter of children?

The evening was very relaxed. Waistlines expanded, beer appeared, and fish
tales were swapped. Oddly, the evening hours were the warmest it had been
all day. Still, Chip's campfire was more than welcome. The stories grew
along with the shadows. Ranger Bob once again worked his magic, tricking
the photocell that controlled the exterior lights with a flashlight. Once
the lights were out, the campfire regained its proper appeal. A few folks
retired early (midnight), and missed Ed's dish of sculpins, rock bass,
rainbow trout, and telescope shiners.

Early Sunday morning, Chip and Steven departed, sadly missing Casper's
breakfast of eggs & 'shrooms.

************************* an ammendment to Steve's trip report:
Steve and Chip left early Sunday morning missing the fine meal of
multicolored free range scrambled chickens eggs mixed with sautaeed Shitake
mushrooms and Vildelia onions. Ommm... yummy. We all had some fine eats on
this trip ranging from Chattanooga's home baked banana Moon Pies to fresh
roasted corn soaked in filtered river water to skewered fry babied
Sculpins... Ommmm Good! and we've all lived to retell the tale :)
Seriously i want to internetily thank my wife Connie for feeding a bunch of
ravenous fish mongers. She took care of us Friday night with me manning the
grill, Saturday morning's breakfast and the Saturday night extensive
buffet. I think she is a real keeper :) I dont know if she will do it again
tho... so keep those post cards a coming!
Being we had lost Mike the evening before and Klaus was eager to begin his
long drive home, that left the four of us... Stott, not Scott, Ed Scott not
Stott, Ranger Bob and myself. We studied the map and decided on downtown
Chattanooga behind Gooney Golf and Hooters. This location would provide
easy access back to the freeway and a chance to catch an ever ellusive
Snail Darter. When your standing about 20 yards upstream of a sweptback 10'
siene in 3' of water and ED's a hollering "I think there over there! " you
will soon find how absolutely elusive they are. Its like trying to throw a
rock across a creek into a 5 gallon bucket attached to a drunken sailor! We
kept "feeling" like we were getting close coming up with Log Perchs and
other quick fish but toward the end as our muscles sagged and our breath
became worn we only collected ghost shiners and Ed's Percina Ellusivi. We
gave em a good chase but until Tennessee extends their seine size limit i
will have to wait til the green South Chickamauga creek clears for a snorkle.
im trying to remember what else we observed... our species scribe had hit
the road back to Cincinnati and memory is blurred. The standards... Spotfin
Shiners, Stripe Shiners, Big Eye Chubbs, Redline, Banded, TN Snubs and
probably some Rainbow Darters. No Duskies this time. No Black Spotted
Topminnows... tho i wanted some. The typical Sunfish... Red Breast, Long
Ear... no Rock Bass this time, maybe Greens. Steel Color Shiners, Hog
Suckers, Sculpin and Mosquito fish. South Chick is a big flowing creek
which has a lot of diversity in it. It flows through a lot of North Georgia
farmlands being feed from a multitude of springs and mountain streams.
Unfortunately the water stays green most of the year... ive only been able
to snorkle it 2 or 3 times and in all cases visibility has only been about 3'.
I was able to bring home a few of the Spotfins and Big Eyes and River
Chubbs and Long Ears. These i put into the great experimental cement pond
and observed them again last Sunday along w/ the enormous Silversides we
had collected in the Tennessee River. I'm quite pleased to see the
Silversides being they are so fragile. A very cool fish to observe while in
their new habitat. Stott brought me a bucket of plants and i had collected
a few more on our foray... these i added to the various pools scattered in
the yard. Spring has been good and most everything is florishing. The
cement pond seems to cycle in algae blooms and visibility. If i stir up the
gravel even slightly there is big green bloom but after a few days it
clears rapidly. Hopefully through the summer i will be able to continue to
observe this mini habitat.
We all said our good byes over drinks and Moon Pies and left for our
respective homes. I think we all had an excellent time according to the
rumours. I want to thank Chip for being our Camp Fire Master, Klaus for
being the head species lister and photo snapper, Steve for his photos and
trip report and constant badgering me to ammend it, Ed for his fine
culinary skills and ID expertise, Ranger Bob's trash dipping composting
which stopped just short of Cyan's diapers, and Stott's aquatic plant
dispersal. Also a thankyou to the Keeners, the TN River Gorge Trust, land
owners and God for making such a wonderful creation to enjoy and keeping us
safe and joyful.
I'm already considering for a seinerama 2 in 2003... the cabin is so nice
and a perfect place for a fishhead gathering. There is another direction
and waters to explore and by adding Fri day and night we could further
enjoy its ammenities. Being we had 8 this time i think we could accommodate
up to 12 of us comfortably next time. We could have another evenings of
videos... which by the way i want to thank Dr. Bill Roston for sharing his
excellent videos with us Saturday night, and maybe a lecture or two... and
certainly some extended cooking lessons via a la fondue.
Im working on the TeePee Fisherie for late June... i still have a few
details to work out... mainly getting the teepee setup on a weekend without
conflicting with sweating naked white people doing indian ritual
cleansings. Let me know if your interested. I want to do a prescout of some
sites if anyone would like to help... let me know.
Ranger Bob has a excellent opportunity to share his region. A tour of his
aquatic facility at the Kingsport city park, staying in an old house next
to a creek and exploring his part of NE Tennessee. It sounds really great
Bob! Get a plan and a date... a bunch of us are hankering to visit!
and finally im sorry for skunking us in the Tennessee River. Even tho the
first site was somewhat preductive the others... well i had no intentions
on losing any body to mucky quicksand and the pickings were way to slim and
with the turkey hunters keen on getting their thanksgiving meal... the
river gave us little but a view. But mr Ed found a gravel bar just upriver
of the cabin and maybe next year... :)

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