Re: NANFA-- Chattanooga Snorkeling Trip
Tue, 11 May 2004 16:51:43 EDT

Thanks chris...
we had a great time. even ate burgers under a bridge:)
ive added a bit regarding some highlights for myself...

This past Saturday (May 8) I took a trip down to Chattanooga, TN for a
little snorkeling with the Snorkelmeister himself, Casper Cox. Upon my
arrival I got a tour of the grounds, including the "Big Cement Pond". That
was way cool! Lots of fish, lots of plants, nice waterfall. Everybody
should have one in the back yard!

Our first stop of the day was a nice little stream that Casper said had
dried up a few years ago. In spite of that, there were quite a few fish
there. The water was beautifully clear and cool enough that our wetsuits
felt good. We started upstream of a bridge and slowly worked our way down
through some riffles, tree snags and a nice deep (~ 12') pool. That is
where I got my first sight of yellow perch.

N. Chickamauga Creek:
Northern Hogsucker
Redhorse (unidentified species)
Another Sucker (unidentified)
Longnose Gar (BIG!)
Redbreast Sunfish
Longear Sunfish
Green Sunfish
Rock Bass
Black Crappie (including 1 with a black stripe down its face)
Largemouth Bass
Black Snubnose Darter
Rainbow Darter
Speckled Darter
Yellow Perch
Rainbow Trout
Black-striped Topminnow

May 8 North Chickamauga

An excellent day for snorkeling. The water was very clear, the substrate
clean and the sky blue. Im really glad Ranger Bob took the 3 hour drive south to
visit me and snorkel one of my early favorite sites. I had not returned in
several years because the window of opportunity is narrow-in-this site. Within
another couple of weeks the water will turn green and the flow will reduce to a
minimum and then stagnate. As he had mentioned the site had dried to dirt
several years ago. At that time i walked a mile or so downstream hoping to find
pools of refuge to no avail. Several miles further downstream is a massive cave
spring that provides Hixson's water supply. This must be the refuge for these
species during drought tho many are caught in pools surrounded by Heron
tracks. Once i waded out into one and nearly every rock flipped exposed 2 or 3
Logperch. Nature can be very harsh, brutal and unforgiving.
I was pleased-in-the rehabitation of the site with the diversity encountered.
We noted 21 species in the couple of hours we spent submerged. Of particular
note was that no minnows were observed. I can determine no reason why
Stonerollers had not migrated upstream-in-the very least. Odd to me. On this day i
particularly enjoyed identifying the 6 different Sunfish species along with the
crappie and bass. I'm getting better-in-it and having the avid fisherman ranger
Bob along as a confirmer was most excellent. The Rainbow Trout are stocked by
TWRA for fisherman and i dont think they reproduce in the cave spring waters
downstream as i have never seen small ones. TWRA most have a surplus because
they even stocked a small lake last year just above Chickamauga Dam. Odd as
that water's temp gets hot and is a backwater cesspool as it is bordered by a mari
na full of houseboats. I will not even wade there as i have high suspicions
of boat owner's etiquette.

A interesting observation was the Longnose Gar that was caught unawares
resting between us. I heard a gurgled "Wahoo!" from Bob! Silver, sleek and
patterened with black it headed upstream when it realized he was caught between 2 even
bigger critters. I turned and followed the Gar to get a better look. After
30' he turned and approached me:) We sided up and watched one another from only
2 or 3 feet apart for several minutes. His upper jaw was gone, all that
remained was a well healed nube. The lower jaw was fully teethed. Somehow this fish
was still catching his meals. Maybe he was slashing his prey? He appeared
healthy and well proportioned and i estimate his length to be about 3' or even 4'
long. Such a beautiful creature, they are always a treasure to approach.
Watching all these fish and turtles i was suprised to see an odd, long tailed
mammal whiz by, bubbles streaming. I gave chase to the bank just i time to
see him crawl up into his burrow with my mask half in the water half out. Pretty
neat. Muskrat.
I cannot recall any other species observed-in-this site in the past tho i did
catch an Ohio or Chestnut Lamprey by hand here years ago. Slippery Leech.
Gruesome mouth parts, porcelan teeth arrayed in evertightening concentric
circles. Yeow. A local fisherman told me that years ago he came across swarms of
these in this same spot. I like wearing my full body wetsuit nowadays!

The other sites were not as nice and i will not elaborate on them beyond
seeing a pair of Bass setting up a nest and caressing one another, hordes of
Logperch, giant HogSuckers feeding with their protruding mouths and a pretty good
ID on a school of BluntNose Minnows.

Neither of us kept anything, purely content on observing on a perfect day. I
just can't get enough of this when days like this occur:)
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