A note to the NANFA discussion list, 15 July, 2001:
I had the opportunity to take 12 members of the North Texas (Dallas) Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist program out collecting on the West Fork of the Trinity River as it runs through the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge. We went to one of the areas that Sajjad described in his collecting update last month.
None of these folks had ever handled a seine or a dip net and I was impressed that no one showed any trepidation about jumping right into the water even after my warnings regarding our resident gators and water moccasins. I had provided the folks with an introduction to what we might find and they had seen some examples in the Nature Center's aquaria but nothing could have prepared them for seeing the creatures in the wild.
The first fish caught was a beautiful 3-4 inch long warmouth. Everyone's eyes grew large as they examined it closely and learned to relate the living fish to its natural habitat. The next run with the seine brought up a seething mass of blackstripe topminnows and we compared the body form of a surface dwellers to that of the sunfish. We brought up netful after netful of shimmering gizzard shad including one 7 inch specimen. Silversides were in great abundance and I related their delicacy (relative to life in captivity, not their edibility) to the group. Finally, a net came up with a number of red shiners in full color. The oohs and aahs echoed down the river. The biggest excitement however, came not from a native, but from an approximately 10 pound carp that managed to get caught in a seine. In total, we caught 13 species of fish. The folks also had the opportunity to see a number of common aquatic invertebrates such as glass shrimp, water scorpions, predaceous diving beetles, whirligigs, damselfly and dragonfly nymphs, etc.
All in all, it was a wonderful day spent waist deep in the water avoiding the 100 degree heat and 12 more people were converted into native fish enthusiasts and conservationists.
Rob Denkhaus Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge