South Carolina Collecting on July 19 & 20

Dustin Smith and I went collecting on Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20. Our plan for Friday was, after we both got off work, to try and find some local sailfin shiner populations then on Saturday we would look for bluefin killifish near Charleston.

Friday, July 19, 2002

We had previously found sailfin shiners in the North and South Fork Edisto River, although not as close to home as we wanted, so we decided to start looking in creeks that drain into the N.F. Edisto.

Site # 071902-1 Black Creek / North Fork Edisto River drainage

This was a good flowing blackwater stream. Water was very clear, only slightly tannin-stained, with a mostly sandy bottom and lots of water plants growing along the sides. Depth was knee to waist deep with a few pools being deeper than our waders allowed. Outside temp was near 100F with the water temp being in the mid to upper 70's. The area that we sampled was pretty open, although had we gone farther in either direction, there would have been many overhanging trees. Several snakes were observed as they slid into the water from these trees but they were too fast for us to ID. In addition to the fish we found, there were many crayfish, salamanders and, as Dustin put it, "evil insects". These insects, that we couldn't identify, bore a striking similarity to the young creatures seen in the movie "ALIEN." Needless to say, we tossed these back. I don't need anything punching a hole in my belly! Anyway, we only sampled a short section of the stream (maybe 30-40 yards), because we quickly found our target species and only had a limited time. This is what we found:

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Spotted Sunfish (Lepomis punctatus)
Blackbanded Darter (Percina nigrofasciata)
Lined Topminnow (Fundulus lineolatus)
Sailfin Shiner (Pteronotropis hypselopterus)
Dusky Shiner (Notropis cummingsae)
Redfin Pickerel (Esox americanus)
Eastern Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki)

The lined topminnows from this site were very colorful, having lots of yellow and green highlights. Dustin, Dan Hagley and I revisited this creek, several miles downstream, on Monday, July 22, 2002 and found 19 species. I will post this report seperately.

Our next site was also a N.F. Edisto River drainage creek. Site # 071902-2 Bull Swamp Creek / N.F. Edisto drainage

This site was similar to the last except it had much less vegetation and had many large trees overhanging the water. Many silty spots were found, but the average depth was only around one to one and a half feet deep. Most of the fish we found there were along the undercut banks in tree roots. It wasn't a bad spot but nowhere near as nice as the first. We did find some nice Savannah darters that we expected but didn't see at the previous location. Very few shiners were found there. Our target species was located, although we only found about three of them. Here is our list for that spot:

Savannah Darter (Etheostoma fricksium)
Blackbanded Darter (Percina nigrofasciata)
Tessellated Darter (E. olmstedi)
Bluespotted Sunfish (Enneacanthus gloriosus)
Sailfin Shiner (Pteronotropis hypselopterus)
Redfin Pickerel (Esox americanus)
Pirate Perch (Aphrododerus sayanus)
Speckled Madtom (Noturus leptacanthus)
Banded Pygmy Sunfish (Elassoma zonatum)

Site # 071902-3 Dry Creek / Congaree River drainage

This location is part of the Congaree River drainage. It was also a good flowing blackwater stream with a mostly sandy bottom. Many trees hung over the water. Dustin managed to get stung by a 'tom but let's not mention that. He probably doesn't want to talk much about it so no one say anything to him about it. :-) Since it was getting late in the day and the shadows were getting long, we didn't stay very long. We were deep in cottonmouth territory and didn't want a nighttime encounter. We again quickly found our targeted species along with a very colorful dollar sunfish. The really interesting find there was a darter that we couldn't positively identify. It looked very much like a seagreen, and we were in their range, but it had a pink color to its body that neither of us had previously seen. The shape didn't look quite right either. Here is what we found:

Dollar Sunfish (Lepomis marginatus)
Sailfin Shiner (Pteronotropis hypselopterus)
Dusky Shiner (Notropis cummingsae)
Margined Madtom (Noturus insignis)

As we left this spot and headed home, we discussed our plans for the following day. Man, this was gonna' be a great weekend!

Saturday July 20, 2002

We really didn't have a clue where to start in our search for bluefin killies. Fortunately, I had contacted a SC DNR fisheries biologist who was willing to assist. Leo is a really nice guy who has helped me out a lot with fish locations. I only hope I can return the favor sometime.

Site # 072002-1 Side channel off of Cooper River

As we arrived at the spot where Leo said we should find them, we found the boat ramp parking lot filled beyond capacity. We started having some doubts as to whether we should even waste our time there. While it looked like a great spot, the sheer number of people using that spot had us concerned. Little did we know we were about to be amazed. Grabbing our dipnets, we figured we would at least dip for a few minutes. In the first dip, there they were.... beautiful little bluefin killies. So much for initial impressions. We only sampled along a 30-foot section of the riverbank. Not wanting to disturb nearby fishermen (fisherpersons?) or over collect from this nice spot, we got what we needed and left. This is what we found there:

Bluefin Killifish (Lucania goodei)
Rainwater Killifish (L. parva)
Inland Silverside (Menidia beryllina)
Eastern Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki)
Least Killifish (Heterandria formosa)
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)
American Eel (Anguilla rostrata)
?juv.Sunfish (Lepomis spp., probably punctatus)

The bluefin killies were awesome. Vivid blue dorsal and anal fins with some of the males having an almost chartreuse/yellow color on the anal fin. The caudal base and fin had lots of red on the adult males. Also, we were stumped for a while on the rainwater killies. We were getting mostly juveniles, which looked similar to gambusia, except the body shape didn't look quite right. We finally figured it out when Dustin pulled up a nice adult male. Lots of red in the fins. We also got two small (3-4") American eels. These were neat to see. Positive ID on the juvenile sunfish was difficult as they were very young but we were sure they were Lepomis spp., most likely spotted sunfish. We hated to leave that spot but there were other locations waiting.

Site # 072002-2 Canterhill Swamp / Cooper River Drainage

We headed towards the next spot but were unable to reach it. It appeared the road that led us to that spot on the map was gated. Oh well, we picked another spot a little farther upstream in a small creek and headed there. When we arrived, we were very disappointed. While it was heavily vegetated, there was absolutely no water flow. A film was on the surface of the water and a foul stench filled the air. Also, scattered all around in and out of the water, were many paper boxes, the kind you put your quarter in and open the door to get a paper. Must be the paper box graveyard. We decided to at least check to see if there were even any gambusia alive there when all of a sudden Dustin hollered, "A MELANISTIC CHRYSOTUS!!!". Sure enough, it was a female, covered with many black spots. Instantly, things looked much more promising, we even put up with the, wait...what smell? We didn't get any other melanistic chrysotus there, but there were many large goldens swimming just out of reach. Even through the film on the surface, we saw the bright red tails on the males. We'll be back, fishies!! At that spot we found the following:

Golden Topminnow (Fundulus chrysotus) Golden Topminnow (melanistic version - one female) Eastern Mosquitofish (G. holbrooki) Pirate Perch (A. sayanus) Bluespotted Sunfish (E. gloriosus) Banded Pygmy Sunfish (E. zonatum)

Up to that point, the temperature had been pretty moderate but it started to get really hot and steamy. We looked at the map and found a spot, downstream from the first one, and made our way there.

Site # 072002-3 Cooper River tributary

When we arrived, we were blown away. Boy, did it look nice. Lots of vegetation, clear water, easy access......what more could you ask for? I guess the answer to that question would have to be "lotsa fish". Well, we weren't disappointed! We immediately found more bluefin killies and the most colorful golden topminnows I had ever seen. These fish had vivid greens, yellows and reds. Dustin pulled up another melanistic chrysotus (this one, a male), and it was gorgeous!! We collected there until we couldn't stand the heat any longer. That was our last real collection site of the day, although on the way home we stopped and sampled other spots for future consideration. Here's the list for that site:

Golden Topminnow (F. chrysotus)
Golden Topminnow (melanistic version - one male)
Bluefin Killifish (L. goodei)
Eastern Mosquitofish (G. holbrooki)
Least Killifish (H. formosa)
Banded Sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus)
Bluespotted Sunfish (E. gloriosus)
Banded Pygmy Sunfish (E. zonatum)
Spotted Sunfish (L. punctatus)
American Eel (A. rostrata)

While there, we collected a lot of plants for our tanks. Cabomba and Anacharis were all around. Many other plants that I couldn't ID were there, as well as some illegal water hyacinth. That would be a great place to re-visit.

As you can see from above, we found two melanistic Fundulus chrysotus. These are now in one of my tanks at home, hopefully breeding. If anyone has any record of these being found in SC, please let me know. As far as we could tell, these were the first two melanistic versions from our state. We haven't heard of any others.

If anyone would like more detailed directions to these collection sites, email me off list. Include the site # and I will be glad to provide them and even try to schedule a trip, if possible.

Special thanks to Leo Rose for the bluefin location.

Chip Rinehart - West Columbia, SC
Dustin Smith - Newberry, SC