On Wednesday I spent the whole day snorkeling the Little River. I started
at the hwy 411 bridge, but the visibility wasn't that good here, probably
because of the cows that come down to the river just upstream. I may have
saw a young Longhead Darter in some water willows, but I later found a
couple if adult Duskies in the same area, so I'm not sure. There were
Tangerine Darters present but they were hard to see. There were also Gilt
Darters, Redlines, Banded and Speckled Darters. I didn't see any of the
Ashy Darters that are supposedly in this area.
I three more areas upstream of my first stop. In one spot the rocks were
totally coated with moss and I had never seen this habitat before in
Tennessee. I was surprised to see Gilt and Tangerine Darters all over the
place. I had always assumed that they liked areas clean of vegetation. I
also got a quick glimpse of the most beautiful Banded Darter I had ever
seen. It was bright emerald green with bright red in its dorsal fin. I
would have liked to have spent more time in this spot but time wouldn't
At another spot on the Little further up steam there were a lot of Rainbow
Trout in the deeper pools. Tangerine Darters were abundant here including a
couple of brilliant males. There were some Blotched Chubs in the shallows,
one of which I almost had in my net. I really wanted one for my aquarium,
but again I was thwarted.
My final stop on the Little was about 100 yards downstream from the Smoky
Mountains National Park boundary. The water was definitely much colder here
and trout were present. I was also surprised to find a very large
Hellbender crawling along the bottom in about five feet of water.
While in the Little, I was hoping to get some Saffron Shiners. They are
listed as common in the river and with all of the snorkeling I did I no
doubt did see some, but apparently they don't have the bright colors this
late in the summer.
The next day was my final snorkeling day in Tennessee. I was developing and
ever worsening clogged and infected ear, so I could only stand one more day
in the water. I decided to go north to Ashy Creek where Ray Katula had told
me there were Ashy Darters. My first stop on the creek was farther up
stream than what Ray had recommended and I found Bluebreast and possibly
Bloodfin Darters. I then went about three miles down stream and sure enough
under a couple of large rocks there was a very large and impressive Ashy
Darter. I didn't realize how big this darter got. The soft dorsal fin has
huge and sail-like and its lips were bright red. The fish definitely made
my day. I continued exploring the pool and came upon another large rock and
under it there was another Ashy! This one was half the size of the first
and didn't have the large soft dorsal fin. By this time my right ear was
killing me so I hung up my snorkel for the trip. I made a final stop and
Stinking Creek to see if I could find the Arrow Darter, but struck out.
Altogether this was a very enjoyable trip. Every time I make one of these
excursions to the South I learn so many new things. I want to thank Mark
and Pat for showing us around in Ohio and I want to thank Casper for showing
me around the Emory and for putting up with my Arrow Darter scouting in
Kentucky. I hope to make it back to the area next year early in the summer.
I've yet to see all of these fish in their peak colors.
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