NANFA-- A weekend out...

Todd Crail (
Tue, 14 Oct 2003 23:40:41 -0400

Greetings NANFAns! I'm just back from a 4 day weekend in unglaciated South
Central Ohio... I think for next year we'll need to organize a trip the
second weekend of October and just hope for weather like we had this
weekend. Fall colors were amazing... Hiking was dreamy... Fishing was
enchanting. It seems today however, that the weather here was dead set on
reminding me that I do live in Ohio and it _is_ October :)

We camped at the Scioto Trail State Park which is part of the Scioto Trail
State Forest. The forest was bought up in the 1920's by the state and now
commemorates the aboriginal people's route up and down the Scioto River for
summer hunting and fishing in Ohio and winter camp down in Kentucky. The
site is just south of the terminal glacial line by about 12 miles... It's
really striking to drive into Chilicothe, Ohio and see the Appalacian
foothills just "pop up" off the tilled plains. The area was also a sacred
place for many of the native peoples, with mounds built by Hopewell and
Adena peoples scattered over the area. I can certainly understand why they
were so struck with this area and integrated it into their spirituality and
after life concepts.

I'd been across many of the streams in the area during the spring, when on
Mother's Day Weekend each year, we used to do a "century" bike ride from
Columbus OH to Portsmouth OH and then back the following day. This event
attracts upwards of 10,000 cyclists and is a poor choice of a day to travel
State Route 104 by car :) My favorite portion of the ride was on a section
where we diverge from SR 104 because it joins up with US 23 on a road that
follows the Scioto River. It's called Three Locks Road, and I imagine the
lock "ruins" that now have trailers and destroyed cars, bathtubs, etc strewn
all across them were the reason for the name. I tried locating the riffles
and rapids the locks would have allowed travel across, but the stream
channel is really channelized and accelerated with levees in this portion.
If they're there, they're deep water rock piles at this point.

I did locate one riffle/rapid further south of the State Park that had a
more "welcoming" home as access to it. Since I was by myself and that water
really moves, which would make my sampling nearly futile, I opted to pass on
stopping in to see if I could gain access across their property. Would be a
good location to do a large river sample (read: big river darters!) if we
happen to converge on the area.

On to the small streams that looked so appealing in the spring... They're
trashed. Sandy Bottom Creek now has a cow pasture around it's entire
downhill section, and I'd be insane to even insinuate that it's _partially_
like it's namesake. Indian Creek looks great on a section off Old US 23,
but I couldn't find accesses and the area at the base of the hills is
totally sedimented up. I don't have high hopes for this stream. Oh, and
Crooked Creek... I wanna know where the "crooks" are? Should be renamed
Channelized With Concrete Walls Creek.

Fortunately, there was one stream that was still in good shape. It didn't
look like much at all, but there were pools and there were fish in them.
This was Stoney Creek which has it's upper reaches impounded for recreation
in the State Park. I was concerned that I'd meet a similar dissatisfying
situation when I saw the turbidity in the lakes... And the schools of pond
comets yuck. But alas, it "rocked" :) There were deep pools cut into the
blue clays and each pool was riffled by sandstone rocks. The water was gin
clear and very cold (my WWMD temperature test went down to 16 C and there
wasn't a color to be seen on the strip, whereas other streams I sampled
later were at 18 or 20 C). It was truly a captivating stream to sample. I
felt bad that I was stiring up the sediments :)

Red bellied dace were the _dominant_ minnow by a 7 in 10 factor and I
managed to scrape out an 11 species account, including some Scioto watershed
Orangethroats that are going to make Pat Ceas and his gang happy ;) They
look waaaaaaaaay different than the Maumee watershed Orangethroats I've
seen. I'd attribute the high density of the SRBD to the wet summer we've
had... There were probably 50 - 100 in each small pool and the competition
has seemed to have kept the average size small but abundant. It'll be
interesting to sample this stream on different years and guage the effects
of weather on the size and population selection. It would also be
interesting to sample in the spring as it's a "headwater" that flows
directly into the Scioto. There may be some interesting critters making
spawning runs.

Stoney Creek (Scioto River - Ohio River)
10/10/03, Seine & Dipnet, < 16 C, pH 7.5, DO 5.0 ppm, 0 JTU
southern red bellied dace (Dominant)
creek chub (Abundant)
central stoneroller (Abundant)
blacknose dace (~20)
striped shiner (~20)
sand & mimic shiner (~10)
bluntnose minnow (Abundant)
fantail darter (Abundant)
johnny darter (~5)
orangethroat darter (~10)

Not wanting to really stir up Stoney Creek, I tried weighing my options and
looked for another stream to sample. I kept hitting blanks (as mentioned
before) and was concerned that I'd have a whole "CEO" sanctioned afternoon
to sample with nowhere to go. After driving around quite a bit I decided to
give Paint Creek a shot with about an hour left on the day. Paint Creek
runs the line of glaciation, and I'm mostly convinced it was created as a
glacial outlet, though I don't know that for sure. The result is a high
gradient, large stream with lots of rocks smashed into the substrate with
sand and gravel. It was cool. Definately a place to implement downstream
seining because you can run so fast on the substrate and really get ahead of
the fish. I used this technique and it coughed up some real suprises for
me. It'd be really cool to get back in there with someone else who's
surefooted in the water.

The gin clear water initially showed some secrets... I saw these large,
saddledbacked darters effortlessly swimming upstream away from me. I
couldn't even lock up the dipnet in this section for fear of bending the
aluminum handle in my Perfect Dipnet (tm). I was trotting around like a
drunk sailor, nearly out of control of myself at waist depth... And here
these fish were swimming three feet ahead of me, turning around and taunting
me!! Soon, I figured out their game and the species list pilled faster
than the sludge running off a fall tilled field in March.

I was within whiff of a paper mill and... I couldn't tell by the species
list wether I was in Darby Creek (Ohio's "Crown Jewel" stream) or what I had
_previously_ thought was a very trashed section of Paint Creek. Might as
well have been the same! Heck, I got stuff I _didn't_ find in the Darby
three weeks ago!!! :)

The saddledbacked darters I was observing were bluebreasts and were the
dominant species at the site. I soon found spotted darter and tippicanoe
darter. Dusky darter? Oh yeah... And I think the blackside darter has been
superceeded in my favorites list :) What was even more amazing was the
size of the specimens I was getting. I caught rainbow darters that looked
like those little hotdogs they serve at black tie parties and a banded
darter that was about greenside size! There were chubs and not the creek
kind... Having someone savvy on cyprinids would also really bump up the
list. There were a bazillion shiners I had to take vouchers back to camp to
ID (more like 4, but it felt like a lot :) More people might also help turn
up some madtoms as they're hard to sample by yourself in current like that.
With that said, I nearly pushed the limit of lines on the NANFA Collection
Data Sheet, which I didn't think 30 species would ever happen by myself :)

Since I'd driven around so much, I really didn't have time to keep
sampling... But I was going to be back the next day for a nice long session
on the river (the previously sanctioned time :) It was then that I'd bring
the camera and gear all down to take some pictures. I recently started
shooting in small aquariums streamside with the gravel and such and it works
_really_ well on sunny days with clear water streams. Here's a sample from
my Darby trip where I'd worked out all the bugs three weeks ago:

I can describe the technique in another email... It's not that much work,
it's not hard to do nor is it rocket science and anyone with a decent macro
lense can get these kinds of shots on digital or film. These are perfect
for making presentations and such, and I'd love to help facilitate that in
any way possible. Also makes a great, zero impact way to "take home"
imperiled species :)

Big disappointment upon arrival with all the gear the following day. For
one, it was overcast. This was workable, and in time the sun would pop in
and out. Unfortunately, the stream had risen 6 inches over night from
midweek rains (I guess it was actually going up while there Saturday) which
made the habitat for the rare stuff unreachable. I would have become boyant
and um, well, let's not think about that...

This pushed me to at least try other habitat and also gave me the
opportunity to try some rod and reel. The angling didn't work out that
well... But the other habitat coughed up some new species, even though I
only gave it a quick run through, so the sample was really limited and the
specimens were individuals instead of groups. I'm sure they're much more
abundant in their habitat than my sample would lead one to believe.

Paint Creek (Scioto River - Ohio River)
10/11/03 & 10/12/03, Seine & Dipnet,
{18 C, pH 7.5, DO 5.0 ppm, 50 JTU} on 10/12/03
(much more turbid than 10/11/03 sample)
creek chub (1)
central stoneroller (1 large male)
suckermouth minnow (~15)
gravel chub (3)
streamlined chub (3)
spotfin shiner (Abundant)
steelcolor shiner (~10)
bluntnose minnow (Abundant)
bullhead minnow (1+)
silver shiner (1+)
bigeye shiner (1+)
sand & mimic shiner (Dominant)
silverjaw minnow (~10)
hogsucker (1)
mottled sculpin (1)
bluegill sunfish (1)
green sunfish (2)
longear sunfish (1)
orangespot sunfish (1)
white crappie (1)
smallmouth bass (2)
banded darter (abundant)
bluebreast darter (~30, many more observed)
dusky darter (3)
rainbow darter (~25)
spotted darter (3)
tippicanoe darter (6 all females)

We packed up on yet another goregous morning Monday and began to make our
way back home. Along the way, I wanted to stop at a couple places to get
water samples for WWMD and hopefully pick up some orangethroat darters in
different watersheds for a DNA research project I'm helping out with. The
upper reaches of the Great Miami River below the Indian Lake dam at Russels
Point, OH looked promising and I knew I could pick up some of the "Riley
Creek Monsters" in Bluffton, OH as a last stop.

No huge suprises in either. The Great Miami was polluted with what the DNR
would call a success... Piles upon piles of juvenile game fish that were
managed for up in Indian Lake. I netted about 50 juv channel catfish in one
seine haul... And man was that a mess! The rocks and gravel were heavy with
sediments and didn't support much in the way of microfauna. Darters and
blackstripe topminnows were present, but not abundant as would normally be
seen in a stream like this. I imagine they end up catfish, crappie and bass
food. I picked up a second rainbow darter and packed it in. Didn't figure
to find any orangethroats and it certainly wasn't going to be worth the
effort involved.

However on the way out, I did make a decision to give one small suprise a
shot. Despite the turbidity and low quality of this stream (this was
actually a high quality time... Indian Lake turns chocolate milk with even
the slightest rain), there were wonderful sized and abundant specimens of
brook silverside. I figured this would be one of Ohio's toughest genotypes,
so why not? They all made it home and are still just fine. I'm not holding
my breath tho :)

Riley Creek was same old, same old... Monster orangethroats (3" +) and
hordes of central stonerollers. I noticed something this time... There were
literally piles of stoneroller frass laying on the bottom. I guess the long
bowel movements aren't just something that happens in the home aquarium. I
laughed out loud once I'd made this observation. :)

So, that's about it... I'll wrap up with these lists and call it good
enough. I have a nice story about a fella at work who I'd gone and sampled
on his Grandma's property in the headwaters of Ten Mile Creek, but I'll save
that for another email as well :)

Great Miami River (Ohio River)
10/13/03, Seine, 18 C, pH 7.5, DO 5.0 ppm, 80 JTU
gizzard shad (1 dead)
common carp (1)
spotfin shiner (~40)
blackstripe topminnow (~15 observed swimming)
brook silverside (Dominant "Minnow" 50+)
channel catfish (ABUNDANT)
bluegill sunfish (Abundant)
green sunfish (~5)
longear sunfish (3)
orangespot sunfish (1)
largemouth bass (Abundant)
black crappie (Abundant)
white crappie (Abundant)
yellow perch (~25)
banded darter (1)
blackside darter (1)
greenside darter (1)
rainbow darter (1)

Riley Creek (Blanchard River - Auglaize River - Maumee River - Lake Erie)
10/13/03, Seine, 17 C, pH 8.0, DO 5.0 ppm, 20 JTU
creek chub (Abundant)
central stoneroller (Abundant)
suckermouth minnow (~20)
fathead minnow (Abundant)
bluntnose minnow (Abundant)
redfin shiner (~5)
emerald shiner (~10)
black bullhead (2)
bluegill sunfish (~10)
blackside darter (1)
fantail darter (~10)
greenside darter (~10)
johnny darter (~10)
orangethroat darter (Dominant 30+)

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
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