NANFA-- Okefenokee collecting (long)

Roselawn Museum (
Tue, 02 Apr 2002 12:17:30 -0500

Hi All

Well, the Okefenokee expedition was met with excellent weather and even
better participants! Seventeen people from 7 different states converged on
Waycross, GA, beginning the afternoon of 3/29/02. Some may still be down
there! It was a hard place to leave. AL sent the largest group including
NANFA President Bruce Stallsmith & First Lady Ruth (Hunstsville), former
NANFA President Dick Stober (Mobile), David Smith (Mobile), Charles Ray
(Auburn), and Jody Schnurrenberger (Auburn). From TN, we had the TN
Regional Rep. Casper Cox & son Coby (Chattanooga), and Lamarr Eddings
(Chattanooga). From SC, we had Chip Rinehart (West Columbia), and Dustin
Smith (Newberry). MS was represented by the MS Regional Rep. and also
former NANFA President D. Martin Moore (Jackson). From FL, we had Doug Dame
(Interlachen). KY sent us Geoff Kimber (Lexington) who brought along his
whole family, although Madame Kimber and the little Kimberlings opted not
to go collecting with us. As the GA Regional Rep., I was proud to bring
along my stepson Jonathan Massie (Marietta), Joey Gullo (Marietta), and
myself (Kennesaw). For the kick-off of the season, this was an incredible
turnout considering the great distance some had to travel. Ironically,
severe thunderstorms hammered most of the home locations we left behind
while we enjoyed warm weather and mostly clear skies. In fact, one member
of the TN group went home sporting quite a sunburn. I wisely left Atlanta
just as the Final Four traffic was arriving. Can I pick 'em, or what?

I think my group was the first to reach the motel on Friday, followed
closely by the SC boys who collected all the way down to Waycross. Others
trickled in later until we decided to make a brief run up the road to Perch
Creek, the place I scouted a week before. As the sunlight vanished, we
collected some pygmy killifish, Okefenokee pygmy sunfish, Everglades pygmy
sunfish, juvenile pickerel, bluespotted sunfish, lined topminnows, and
gambusia. Under the cover of low-flying bats, we made our way back to the
vehicles and returned to Waycross. By the time we got cleaned up, most of
the AL party arrived, and about ten of us went out to Shoney's for a group
meal. For many of us, this was our first live contact with each other. A
local baseball team had already beaten us to the meeting rooms so we pushed
tables together along the front windows.

By morning, everyone was on-site at the motel where a massive fish swap
broke out just after breakfast. Cool fishes from all over the SE changed
hands (or buckets). A little after 9AM we assembled a long line of worthy
vehicles and proceeded to the first location, a place called Twelvemile
Post. Someone had rudely placed a gate across the road I wanted to take,
but we found other water nearby. Most of our party attacked the lake with
dipnets, while Jonathan and Joey tried hook and line fishing in a nearby
creek. We caught many of the same fishes as the night before as well as
other aquatic creatures such as tadpoles, sirens, water scorpions, and
crayfish. Ruth Stallsmith served as our botanist for the trip, collecting a
number of interesting plants. One of them, called sundew, was a red
carnivorous plant that sort of resembled a venus flytrap. No live
alligators were sighted, although we did find gator vertebrae scattered
along the shoreline. Before moving on, we tried seining the creek where the
boys were fishing and pulled some good sized fliers.

After lunch at the Waycross Huddle House, the next stop, near Argyle, GA,
was Peters Creek. Although it looked promising, it was basic devoid of
fishes. We did find just a few pygmy killies, some E. evergladei, and
gambusia. The noteworthy entry here was the astonishing number of tadpoles.
Just a casual dip of the net brought up hundreds of the tiny black
wigglers. They were so numerous that I can't imagine such a small body of
water could support them all when they make the jump to frogs. I suspect
that many of them will supply large chunks of the food chain long before then.

Turning the nine-car caravan around, we went off searching for two large
lakes nearby. On the map, they looked huge, but when we got there they were
not to be found. A new growth of pine trees suggested that this area may
have been drained and planted with trees to be harvested at a later time.
It's rather alarming to think that entire lakes may be disappearing to
support the lumber trade. Anyway, from there we traveled on up to US
Highway 82 to a boat launch on the Satilla River. Along the way, I'm told,
one of the guys from TN fell asleep at a stoplight! (-: Steep banks and
deep black water made collecting difficult at this part of the river. Whie
searching for a better approach, I had a rather close encounter with a
large black rat snake. I thought briefly that we might lose the
Snorkelmeister when Casper, attempting to cross the river, went in over the
top of his waders. I think I would have backtracked at that point, but he
just kept coming. When the water got neck-deep, he resorted to swimming the
rest of the way across. You just can't stop this guy from getting wet!
Later, at the foot of the boat ramp, we used two seines at once and began
to pull in taillight shiners, a few at a time.