NANFA-- Jewels Beneath the Ice

Karotin Bugsy (
Thu, 23 Nov 2000 11:55:19 -0800 (PST)


The story had its latest beginning around two weeks
ago when an acquantance of almost 20 years contacted
me from Germany about a German catfish enthusiast who
was to give a lecture on Loricorids in Cleveland on
the Nov 18th, and wanted to try his hand at collecting
a few madtoms while he was here. I began to set up an
itinerary. The catfish enthusiast is writing a series
of three volumes on catfish of the world and will be
including information about madtoms in the third
volume. He in turn brought fish for me from Germany.
I was able to obtain three species of madtoms for
him....some of which I purchased and some of which
were generously provided to me from nanfa and nfc
members. I want to take this time and thank them for
their generosity and effort. It was very much
appreciated. So last saturday after working eight
hours I drove to Cleveland to pic up the fish, and
spend a few hours with Ingo Seidel. Around 2:30 am I
drove home from Cleveland and after dealing with a
dead battery around 5 am near Wilmington I got home
around 7:30. I got the fish out and went to bed.
This last tuesday Ingo was to drive down from Columbus
to pick me when were to go to Tennessee to visit Randy
Shute's wonderful operation in Knoxville.
Unfortunately, Ingo could not rent a car because he
would be returning it on thanksgiving day and the
rental companies wanted him to keep it longer. So I
had to scrap the plans and make new ones. Fritz
Bazeley and I decided to drive to Columbus on Tuesday
night and meet with Ingo, as I had fish to give him
....about 60 in all, half of them madtoms.

So Tuesday evening as we were talking fish, Ingo
unwrapped a package of glass he had precut by hand on
the way to the airport in Germany. He took out a tube
of silicone and in five minutes glued together a
photography tank by hand! The next morning we awoke
to Ingo fixing breakfast and wondering what it was
going to be like collecting in the Little Darby when
the temperature had dipped to less than 10 that night.

Around ten we rolled out of parking lot and pointed
the car west on I-70 in search of seinable water. It
was quite cold.... temps in the teens, but luckily the
sun was out and there wasnt any wind. In about a half
an hour we arrived at our destination. Fritz and I
donned our collecting gear and Ingo took the cameras
with him to make a record of our collecting attempt.
We made our way down to the stream which was beautiful
in the sunlight. A slight layer of snow still
shimmered between the trees from the lake effect snow
that had made its way this far south a few days
earlier. We looked at the stream. It looked very
cold, but the water was clear, very clear and
underneath the ice we could see hundreds of small
fish. Darters and minnows, dace and sunfish. We
walked a few hundred yards upstream to where I knew a
great riffle existed. As we got there 1/4 to 1/2 inch
ice stretched across wide expanses of the stream
though the riffle itself was flowing. The rocks, were
covered with bright green fontinalis, a lovely
contrast to the barren woods and chill November day.

Fritz and I broke through the ice as we made our way
to the riffle. I placed my dipnet and began to catch
darters. The very first darter trapped in the net was
a bright green greenside male... dressed in his
spawning colors transformed from his subdued summer
dress. A truly spectacular example of our native
darters. Ingo, was very excited as he told us how
rare the color green is in fish and to have such an
example suffused with so much green astonished him. I
dipped some more and next a female Etheostoma
variegatum, the variegate darter, sat in my net. I
collected on and also came up with banded darters and
rainbow darters. The banded males also had wonderful
green bands on the body. The only disappointment was
the size of the rainbows.... we caught only small
ones. Ingo was very excited when he saw the first
variegate male... the interplay of orange red blue and
yellow is truely spectacular in this fish ... I will
post pics on my site when I get the slides back and
converted. It was fun collecting, if we kept the nets
out of the water for more than a minute or two they
would freeze stiff and only became pliable again when
we put them in the water. I have to say I actually
didnt get cold, but cold water after a while saps your
energy so after an hour and a half in the water,
Fritz, Ingo and I returned to the apartment. We took
the photography tank outside to the balcony where the
sun illuminated the tank and I took a stick and helped
pose the fish where it Ingo was best able to
photograph the fish. It takes some patience to get
the fish to sit still in the right position but its
possible...We had to catch the fish by hand in the
bucket and the photo tank because we lacked a net
small enough to catch the fish. I have to say that
the water was bone chilling cold and I was glad when
we caught the last example for the photo session. In
no time at all Ingo had taken about 70 slides of
several species.

We spent the rest of the afternoon prepping the fish
for their journey to Germany and then sadly wishing
Ingo a safe trip back to his home. It was a wonderful
day catching fish when most of us would least expect
to. If you have waders, I encourage you to use them
even if it seems to be too cold out... the fish are
spectacularly colored right now. They are truly jewels
beneath the ice.


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