Re: NANFA-- Collecting on the St. John's River Plain

Mike Thennet (
Tue, 10 Sep 2002 14:05:06 -0400

Allen Boatman wrote:

> My collection day started at about 12:30 on Saturday the seventh of
> September, 2002. My destination was the St. Johns River ( I will refer
> to this river from now on as SJR) , where it intersects SR 50 between
> Orlando (Christmas, Florida) and Titusville. There are three overpasses
> (small, short bridges) of SR 50 over the SJR. I will refer to these as
> Bridge one (the easternmost bridge), the next will be bridge two, and the
> next will be the westernmost bridge or number three. The target of this
> trip was a smaller Elassoma that can be found in the Orlando area.
> I stopped off at the first bridge and found nothing but gambusia and a
> ten-foot alligator. I talked to an airboat captain, and described to him
> what a Pygmy Sunfish is. He relayed to me that he had caught a few fish
> that met my description when he was netting for crayfish on the south side
> of bridge number three.
> I moved to bridge number three and tried both the southeast side and
> southwest side of that rivulet. I only caught gambusia and almost stepped
> on a small alligator.
> Upon swiping a few times on the northeast shore I caught a very nice
> looking male L. goodei. The next swipe brought me what I sought, a small,
> but mature Elassoma that appears to be evergladei, but I am not certain.
> It is smaller than some other Elassoma and I have worked with. I tried
> for 15 more minutes and caught only J. floridae and L. goodei.
> I caught the Elassoma next to an emerged swamp willow, and under a CARPET
> of salvinia, water lettuce, water hyacinth, and another type of invasive,
> floating stem plant. These plants were everywhere and made collecting a
> huge hassle. The salvinia was especially bad, because it was so fine; it
> was hard to separate the small salvinia ferns from fish, and other things.
> I moved to the northwest side of bridge three and caught a lot of
> plantssheesh. I also caught another male of the same Elassoma species
> that I had caught on the northeast side of the rivulet. (I ended up
> bringing home only one, where the other one is I have no idea?!) I also
> caught two other fish. One was a small catfish (~2.5) that I believe to
> be a bullhead based upon some of the conversation that I have seen on this
> list. (The adipose fin is separate from the caudal fin.) The other fish,
> besides these two, that I caught at this location was an Etheostoma (sp?)
> (swamp darter.) It didnt resemble fusiforme, as the body was much
> taller/deeper than fusiforme, but could have been olmstedti. It had a lot
> of green in the face and 8 blotches on its dorsal side from behind the
> head to the caudal peduncle. At about 3 inches, long it was the thickest
> darter that I ever caught in Central Florida, but the rest of the body was
> brown and tan blotches. In the same net was a nasty, huge leach that sort
> of oozed out of one of the net holes and collected itself in a huge pile
> on the ground. I helped it back into the water. I went back to my
> vehicle, about a hundred feet west of bridge number three, and on the
> south side of the road, and dipped my net in the road side drainage area
> that was flooded (thank God Florida is finally starting to recover from
> our 4 year drought.) I caught a very, very small catfish (about 3/4 of an
> inch long and about 1/8 of an inch tall.) It had 5 visible bands on its
> body starting from behind the head and finishing at the caudal peduncle.
> Almost like a bumble bee goby. It had a green bar on its gill plate, and
> an iridescent green J shaped marking running from its barbels, under its
> eye and ending just behind its eye. It was incredibly small. I would say
> it is probably a fry of the Armored catfish but I only say that because
> they are found sympatrically in the Saint Johns River.
> I finally moved from the third bridge to a trail/boat ramp at the second
> bridge. This is located on the northeast side of the bridge and is
> accessed by a dirt road about 100 ft long. It appears that this spot used
> to be dry all the way to the actual put in spot on the SJR, however, now
> the tire ruts and low spots were all flooded. Some spots were about 10
> feet in diameter and about 4 inches deep; some were just submerged pieces
> of road for giant, shallow bodies of water. The water, I would say, is
> over 80 degrees F. IT was turbid in some pools and clear in others. Of
> both types of water bodies, some had copious amounts of hair algae. I
> decided to start collecting in the large body of water and caught a small
> armored catfish, (Hoplosternum littorale?) that was about 3 inches, which
> I released. I also caught some killies with dark, numerous, vertical
> bars. They were about 2 inches long and were obviously Fundulus types,
> but more interesting and the contrast was too cool. I caught 3 different
> patterned Fundulus but from some that I have consulted, they are all
> different forms of Fundulus confluentis. I have never seen this fish
> before so, obviously, I was excited. While dragging net in this area I
> also caught some flagfish and another one of those micro sized catfish.
> Feeling the sun burning my neck, I decided to head home. I had only been
> out there for about 2.5 hours but it felt like about 6 hours. I recorded
> the location and some of the fish on film. (digital) Over the next 24
> hours I lost about 14 of 20 fish that I had collected. There are a few
> mistakes I can own up to. I added regular SJR water (cooler and more
> tannic) to the water bottle (5 gallon carboy) containing all the fish. I
> know better than this, but only had one container to keep the fish in.
> But some of the fish from the river died as well. I aerated the fish in a
> bucket from the time I arrived where I was staying in Titusville till I
> left the next day at 2 p.m. adding fresh water a couple of times from the
> water I collected with the fish, but that was stored in another container.
> I didnt let them fry or be in the sun at all. I am frustrated with
> catching nice fish and then killing some of them, thats all.
> A question on Collecting Ethics. I usually try to go easy on
> populations when collecting (I dont want to be greedy) but I usually end
> up with too few fish to do much with. I am sure there are some things I
> can do to make survival more of a reality for fish I collect. Any
> suggestions on that are very welcome. Your views on number of fish to
> take would be very welcome.
> Hope I didnt bore you all,
> Boat

> Allen,
> Try using coolers to replace your buckets, they will maintain a static water
> temp for the fish. Continue to use an aerator. Also, try to take as much water
> from each fish's collecting site as possible, this will help the fish to
> acclimate easier to captivity. Use that water to fill smaller aquariums in
> order to acclimate the fish. As an added security, you can bring along some
> tetracycline tablets and dose the receptacles, if required. Some of the more
> sensitive species will benefit with the use of antibiotics as a preventative to
> tailrot and other bacterial infections induced by stress. Some use salt as a
> stress reducing additive.
> Mike

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