NANFA-- The Farmer in the Ditch...

Todd Crail (
Sat, 7 Jun 2003 14:29:55 -0400

I finally got around to sampling the ditch that this guy pumps his field
water into:

The ditch name is Prairie Ditch and I was at it's confluence with
Langenderfer Ditch at the corner of Bancroft and Schwamberger (for my
reference later ;). Had some good suprises on how Life subsists. It seems
that with his and others constant pumping in the spring, irrigation in the
summer, they keep enough of a flow in the ditch to turn it more like a
headwater than a water diversion. It would be interesting, since this is
the interface of the former Great Black Swamp and the wetlands of the Oak
Openings, how much their farming practices really have to do with the water

I found piles of Giant Floater mussel shells which I think took it pretty
hard last summer in our drought. Never, ever expected to find them there.
It would be interesting to see how far up they're present. Might just have
to get some permits or get permitted people involved.

The big suprise of the day? Big, honking 2.5" dominant male Orangethroat
darters showing off to each other in a "riffle" created by enchroaching Reed
Canary Grass. I just shook my head in disbelief, laughing. May be the
spawning habitat then for other prairie specifics like Least Darter, Creek
Chubsucker, Spotted Sucker, Longear and the like. They're in there, I can
smell 'em ;) There were oodles of Grass Pickerel fry and all sizes of
Mudminnow (couple 4" bigdawgs). There were also 3 species of Crayfish that
I've only ever seen in prairie streams. One seems to be a good candidate
for aquaria, as even a full sized adult only has .5" pinchers. Look more
like shrimp than craws and have a soft shell. I'm sure my stonecat would
loooove them as a tank addition ;)

And... I only used a dipnet. I think we need to get back on the seining out
there Shane :)

The ditch is connected as a main outlet to both the prairie streams in the
area, Ten Mile Creek and Swan Creek. So it may serve as a sort of bastard
spawning ground once the 7 mile x 1 mile *treeless* wet prairie (Irwin
Prairie) was drained and it's historic connections to both streams removed.
If I get around to doing Grad School, I definately think I'm going to do
study with these relict populations, scraping out a precarious living in
what we've left for them.

What was most awesome, personally, was discussing the finds with the
Education Director who's a "dotted-line" boss for us on the Karner project.
Looks like I'll be joining up with them to educate folks on the native fish
etc. This could turn out really, really, really cool :)

Species list was:
Grass Pickerel
Central Mudminnow
Bluntnose Minnow
Creek Chub
Goldfish (exterminated :)
Green Sunfish
Orangethroat Darter
3 species of Craws
Oodles of invertebrate nymphs, larvae, and adults.

"The nation behaves well if it treats resources as assets
which it must turn over to the next generation increased,
and not impaired, in value."
- President Theodore Roosevelt
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