NANFA-- Two St Marys' & Awesome Topminnows

Jeffrey Fullerton (
Tue, 16 Dec 2003 21:51:54 -0500

> Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2003 12:03:17 -0500
> From: "Crail, Todd"
> Subject: Re: NANFA-- Have New Vehicle, May Travel
> Great reminisce Jeff. So you'd found the St. Mary's River to be gin clear
> eh? I'd only been in that portion of the watershed during high water... I
> will have to revisit. I was under the impression that the Mercer county
> farmers had done the absolute worst to it, but perhaps it remains to be seen
> in the light that I've found it's sister streams in recently. The
> connecting waters of the Upper Wabash will be interesting to look at and
> explore as well, if it has stayed somewhat favorable from similar
> conditions.

It's been so long that I would probably have to go back there again
someday for a follow up visit. I was so preocupied with collecting and
racing against time to get back on the road and on for home at a decent
hour that I didn't pay much attention to detail as far as directions
from the town and the stream. I followed this guy I met at the lake
first to a bait shop and then to the bridge over the river where we put
in for some seining.

The Blackstripe Topminnows- Fundulus notatus I was seeking were known as
"Bass Minnows" to the locals and sometimes were availible in the bait
shop but at the time they only had the same mediocre Minnesota Fatheads
that are familiar bait shop fare back here as well.

This part of the St. Mary's watershed I visited was in the midst of Corn
Country and I was actually astonished that the water was so clear - esp
after seeing the lake which was definitely abloom with plankton from all
the phosphates and nitrates that would have been going in there from the
town and local agriculture.

The River seemed very healthy at the time- right under the bridge was a
deep pool with a muddy bottom where I saw lots of crayfish and sunfishes
that I thought might be Longears! Further down stream it was a mix of
gravely riffles and clay banks. There was a good bit of vegetation-
mostly some kind of pondweed and lots of thread algae that formed mats
in quiet backwaters. The topminnows which were not extremely abundant
though frequently seen seemed to like these areas. The rest of the fisf
fauna was composed of cyprinids- extremely abundant were Bluntnosed
Minnows and I think Blacknosed Dace may have been present as well as
suckers and I definitely recall the presence of some kind of shiner that
may have been redfins. Also saw a few juvinile largemouth bass.

Finding that river (which was more like a creek than a river- alot like
the Big Darby in size and character) and collecting those topminnows was
the crowning achievement of that trip and I'm tempted to say the season
but that honor goes to my discovery of Bluespotts in Maryland- which
ironically is is also associated with a watershed by the same name! St
Marys! But the two are worlds apart as far as water conditions and
species go. The location in Maryland was warm, stagnant and acidic- pH
about 6.2 and tea colored with a very distinct astringent though
pleasant smell I've come to associate with dark water streams as
widespread as New Jersey or Florida- while St Marys of western Ohio was
clear and had an equally distinct smell of its own- sweet like new mown
hay. Probably from the stoneworts and other algae. In my experience a
healthy aquatic system usually has a very pleasant smell that I really
enjoy- as a matter of fact that's one of the things that makes working
in my ponds- weeding them out on summer's eves so rewarding! I just love

An afterword on these trips- I had the pleasant surprise of discovering
that the second batch of Bluespotts had spawned in the quarantine tub
upon my return from the Michigan / Ohio trip! They really did well in my
pond which is fairly soft and acidic. The topminnows on the other hand
did not- they seemed to waste away and disappeared one by one until they
were gone within a month. Not sure why- theories run the gauntlet from
unsuitable water conditions to predation by birds to simply the fact
these were old fish that had already spawned and were at the end of
their lifespans.

There may be some merit to the latter because Blackstripe Topminnows I
collected with Ray on my last Wisconsin trip in what he said was acidic
water did much better and I attribute it to the fact they were younger

I have since lost much of my enthusiasm for that particular species that
I initially became interested in from a book on Water Gardening by Tetra
press that treated them in a section on candidate fishes for ponds.
Later that same year I flew back down to Florida & discovered the
Eastern Starhead- F. escambiae which turned out to be an absolute gem as
far a pond fishes go. Tollerant of a wide range of water conditions and
with a combination of beauty and a tendency to cruise at the surface
they display very nicely and are also easy to breed- just a matter of
scooping up the young that appear and rearing them in tanks or tubs like
you would your typical livebearers!

Also dabbled a bit with the Northern Starhead- F. dispar and the Lined
Topminnow - F. lineolatus but escambiae I've come to like escambiae the

And that's a long way from the time- just months before when I thought
the native Banded Killy- F. diaphanus that I used to catch below the
spillway at Cranberry Glade Lake was awesomely exotic. In some ways they
still are- maybe if I get brave enough to deal with the ranger who
raised a fuss about us testing water samples at Keystone Lake- I'll go
get some next season!

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