NANFA-- Fish adventure around Chattanooga

Mark Otnes (
Sun, 6 Oct 2002 13:13:40 -0500

I spent a good five days snorkeling around Chattanooga the past week. I
think Casper has already put out a post as to what we (Casper, Pat, and I)
saw the first couple of days. For the next three days I was on my own.

On Monday I checked out the Hiawassee River just below where Spring Creek
enters it and I got my first Snail Darter. It was on a shallow rapid shoal
in the main river. I had a hard time keeping my footing and in fact I was
being pushed backward by the current and I noticed a darter move next to my
left foot. I drifted back to look at it and found it was an unmistakable
Snail Darter. What a great fish! I observed it for about 15 minutes and
then went on my way. It's amazing that such a distinctive darter when
unnoticed until the 1970's.

The next couple of days I worked the Conasauga River and its tributaries.
The most noteworthy thing for me was the commonness of Bridled Darters. I
was seeing them all over the Canasauga from Jacks River down to the highway
74 bridge. I also saw many in Minnewauga Creek, just below the location of
Willis Springs, and at the mouth of Scheeds Creek. Etnier mentions
Minnewauga Creek as a locale for this species in both spring and fall, so I
guess my observation wasn't as earth-shaking as I thought.

The high Conasauga had its usual common Holiday and Bronze Darters, and some
Black-banded Darters. I also saw two large and colorful Southern Studfish
at the mouth of Scheeds Creeks. Large drums were common in the deep pools
of the main river.

I spent a whole day both above and below the highway 74 bridge over the
Conasauga. I was hoping to find Amber and Tri-color Darters. I struck out
on both species, but still had a good time in the area. I particularly have
fun playing cat and mouse with studfish with my 4X4 seine. I actually
managed to catch quite a few of them and brought back two small ones for my

Finally saw a female Coldwater Darter in a spring on the upper part of Sugar
Creek. I netted her in with a bunch of weeds. I made the identification
and quickly put her back. About the only other species of fish I found in
the area were gambusia.

Once again I had a very enjoyable time in Tennessee and of course there
wasn't enough time to do and see everything I wanted. It makes for a good
excuse for a lifetime trips to the region. I think I saw 4 new species for
me - Greenfin Darter, Saffron Shiner, Coldwater Darter, and Snail Darter.
Thanks for you help in guiding me to locations Casper, and thanks to both
Casper and Pat for their company.

Mark Otnes
Fargo ND
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