NANFA-- Rainbow Shiners in Ft. Payne
Tue, 28 May 2002 15:06:48 EDT

Perhaps Steve and/or Bruce will post a report on our fine May 25 Little River
Saturday trip.
As for myself i decided to spend another day in the area. After a evening
meal with president Bruce and our good bye i booked a room and did a short
run to Ft. Payne for an airpump, toothbrush and clothing since i had not
originally intended on staying overnight. K-mart had a nice 1 gallon acrylic
tank w/ a airpump, tubing, airstone, hood and under gravel filter with the
gravel for 10 bucks! It makes a good travel tank... even better if it had a
lighted hood. They make a bigger one which i will check out later, perhaps
its hood is lighted.
Sunday, Full Moon, May 26.
That morning i ate a good country breakfast and headed to a site i had
scouted before. It is at a bridge located next to an old brick african
american church. While putting on my gear i meet a church elder as he was
about to ring the big cast iron church bell. We talked a bit about life and
growing up playing in the creeks, fishing and getting baptised in the pool
just downstream. He told me the stream was much wider and had deep pools
before the roads and building all pushed in its sides. I thought a lot about
that during the day and mankind's impact on natural sites. He invited me to
a late afternoon picnic celebrating the church's 120 year anniversary. I'm
sure it would have been very good but with all my gear on i would have left
quite a puddle on the dining hall's floor. I had a lot of sites i wanted to
visit this beautiful day and once my gear is on it stays on. I appreciated
his christian southern hospitality with not a hint of the always media
mentioned racism. Church dinners are one of the best places to get a home
cooked meal and with all those pie baking ladies out to impress your in for a
good meal and fellowship!
The church is right by the highway where 2 spring fed creeks converge. Clear
water flows through grasses, mint, cattails and watercress tho it is a bit
trashed out... as it flows though the center of this small town. Still i
immediatly observed lots of unknown small fry, of which i collected a few and
have put them in a flowing pool next to my cement pond proper. Perhaps they
will develop and i will ID them later. A single male Mountain Shiner with his
hot white blue head rode the flow. A speckled Darter danced on the silty sand
and plenty of Coosa Darters appeared... a very close kin to my TN Snubnoses.
Big suckers or Red Horses... i still can't ID them yet lounged about. Bass
and Sunfish... i didn't pay attention to which species they were as i was
keen on the active shiners. A few Rainbows, Creek Chubbs, Black Nose Dace and
herds of Stonerollers. Lots of Stripe Shiners... a few massive ones tho not
much pealescence on their bodies. I picked up a big 12" long turtle of which
i dont know... kind of a yellow bellied pond slider but this turtle had red
markings on his shell. Both steve and i had both picked 2 up the day
before... little baby hatchlings. He was quite content as i turned him every
which away trying to gather clues for his ID later. I worked my way upstream
to the convergence and lay there for a while and collected seven rainbows w/
a dipnet and watched the activity.
I drove upstream to an abandoned railroad bridge where i was able to lay in a
flowing deep pool and observe peacefully. Dozens of long clawed crayfish
munched on the puddled debris littering the pools floor. One move would send
half a dozen tailskirting away from me. The fish soon accepted my presence
and all came to investigate my actions. Full tilt Southern Studfish and their
harem finwaved in the shallow distant, still a bit wary of me. Coosa darters
all came to my hands, Rainbow shiners where all around but looked to be
somewhat past their prime. A bit worn and tattered, the colors were kind of
patchy. They were congregating but only loosely, no intensity. I wandered up
and down the stream a bit watching for movements or color. Lots of fish but
no spawning masses of rainbows.
I loaded up the van and headed towards Ft. Payne and the K-Mart parking lot.
I had snorkled and collected this site a few times but i had become
disenchanted last year when the canopy protecting the stream had been
stripped and the vegatation close cropped. Before when i was down in the
gully stream i had felt sheltered from the outside world. No more, it is
right in the full sun now and in plain site of K-Mart shoppers and gawkers. I
had found a site downstream where this small stream joined the larger river
stream. Ive never been able to snorkle in the larger stream cause of the
opaque green water but the little stream is excellent. Small springs
continually feed the sides. This is spring country. I put my mask on and
started working my way upstream. All the standard locals were there. A few
Rainbows were congregating in a long, smooth gravel flow along with
Stonerollers and BlackTail Shiners. They had a bit of color but nothing
intense. I would have to walk up some lengths and only then be able to lay in
pools just down from riffle flows. After several up and downs i came upon a
few frenzied Rainbows darting about. Poking my head beyond a large boulder i
was stunned... probably 20 intensly colored individuals were all jostling for
position. Noses were facing downstream against the big boulder. At the base
of the boulder was a Stoneroller excavating a pit... all the Rainbows noses
were pointed to his worksmanship. The intenses individuals bodies were very
hot magenta with lavender purple pectorial fins. Irridescent blue flecks
scatteringly adorned the tops of lesser individuals. Definitely different
than what i saw in the Little Shultz last year. The colors, pattern and
intesity on these fish varied from individual to individual. Magenta was the
color of the swarming mass as one looking down on them from the surface would
see. Flecks of iridescent white blue. Amazing. I observed them quietly for 15
minutes or so and then carefully netted 3 different specimens ranging from
very intense to mild. These i returned home with to observe in a tank. Sadly
though one thought that i can not shake is that perhaps i am a witness to the
last wonderful vestigages of these beautiful fish. How many spawning masses
could have been observed here 200 years ago? The substrate was just silted
up. Bank sides were step. Trash, tires, grocery carts and glass littered the
sides and bottom. How pristine this must have been for hundreds and thousands
of years. Everytime a piece of property is developed adjacent to a stream
bull dozers push the ground that much closer... building the structure's
foundation up with fill dirt. Before long the meandering wide stream becomes
a rutted, silt laden ditch. My feeling is that suitable spawning sites are
being destroyed. In the 200 or 300 feet i walked only one site seemed
suitable and i could easily observe that it was unique. One good thing though
is that stonerollers are survivors and they seemed to be doing their best at
nesting and clearing gravel. Often in our local urban streams they are the
most plentiful along with Striped Shiners.
I loaded up and headed North towards Chattanooga and thought of other sites
to take a quick look at. Near Rising Fawn there is a Trout Farm that is fed
by a massive spring coming from a cave. Downstream of this i found several
pools to lay in. Now that i was in the Tennessee River drainage i saw
breeding Rosy Fin Shiners... a very stunning fish. White head, red fins,
vertical zebra stripes, blueish sides and a unique body structure. A couple
War Paints... great name for this shiner. Greensides, Snubs, Rainbow and some
massive honcho Redline darters. A lot of diversity was here. I had suspected
less cause of the potential Rainbow Trout escapees upstream. I also found a
pair of unknown mussels. The visibility was not as nice as expected but i
could still see a couple feet which is fine for a stream this size. I ended
up collecting a medium sized Greenside and a stunning Rosy Fin male for the
I stopped and looked at another creek but it was to opaque and green to jump
in. I have never snorkled here but dipnetted and seined it a few times. Im
always looking for something new and getting much better of knowing when im
seeing something new. I have decided in the last couple of years to really
know and learn my immediate region and its diversity. Outside of Chattanooga
i stopped at a favorite site to collect a few Black Spotted Topminnows and
some Shrimp in a quiet vegatated pond. I wanted to add these Topminnows to
the pool. Last year the small pools i had set up on the side while draining
and demucking the pool had iced over. Killed the Topminnows dead. They had
spawned in the cement pond last year and i had a handful of 1.5" juveniles
develop. Pretty cool until the ice killed them all including their big,
healthy parents. I figured they would have been fine since their native
habitat sometimes freezes over. I think that this year in the big bio cement
pond they will be fine even if it freezes over do to its depth and size.
I returned home as a thunderstorm cleared and started drying my gear and
accilmating the fish and planted a few plants i had found. A most excellent 2
days of wandering snorkles.

This morning, Tuesday the Rainbow shiners had taken up positions in the
concrete riffle run i had constructed. I have set several rocks in there
covered with water mosses and river weed. Their colors were bright and
perhaps they will spawn again. The 3 specimens taken from the area of the
spawning frenzy i placed in a tank set up with calm Florida fishes. This was
a mistake but was all i had to observe them in. I removed them this morning
to the cement pond's riffle run as they were high gear panicky as compared to
the peaceful Florida Killies. All three's colors had somewhat standardized
and did not exhibit the intensity or variation i had seen 2 days before. I
hope to snorkle in the pond soon and maybe see how they appear now. One
concern is however the water temp was about 8 degrees higher and summer is
not here yet. I may end up building some kind of gazeboo, latticework or
awning type shelter over one end of the pool.

and thats about it except for last nights silverside foray... :)
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