NANFA-- Reflections...

Todd Crail (
Mon, 8 Sep 2003 01:41:14 -0400

After spending a gorgeous scheduled day off fighting with some miserable
little beastie by sleeping the day away... Part to recouperate, and part to
avoid the ugly feeling this critter was creating in my body... I find myself
wide awake at midnight, with the promise of feeling okay enough to have to
go to work tomorrow. So I thought I'd take the chance to write up the
week's explorations in native fish and coincidental thoughts that came along
with the experience. :)

I've been housing some pumkinseed sunfish (actually the thought is they're
pumpkinseed x longear hybrids) in my 75 gallon tank, that were going to be
used for some school projects I'll be starting this fall. The idea was the
personality of the fish in large aquaria would lend itself to endearing
themselves to the children the most. These are definately fish that deserve
names, I'm certain on a follow up visit we'll learn what the children have
come up. And that will work fine in the 130 gallon tank they'll be arriving

They were driving me nutso in my 75 gallon, diversless aquarium.

Then they killed the hogsucker who was gladly taking portions of mysid
shrimp and krill and seemed to be adjusting to tank life with ease.

It was time for the ol' switcheroo, and to pull the orangespots I'd been
keeping out back in a pond, as a trade for these beasts. One to start these
monsters on some pelleted food that the teacher will be able to easily
feed... Two so I can quit wondering why I'm not enjoying my aquariums and
lusting after an exchange of the 30 gallon for another 75 gallon. Money is
extremely tight right now, as I'm working 80 times as hard for less
take-home pay than I was making on unemployment.... I didn't need this extra
frustration and tank lust. The exchange has been nothing but dreamy. :)

There was one particualr matter in the exchange of note... I haven't decided
what the factor is, but have come up with two scenarios. When placing the
orangespots and hybrids in the pond initially, I thought that the
orangespots were going to have a selective advantage on survival because
food would come in the form of smaller critters (and took in the hybrids to
aquaria so they wouldn't waste away over the summer). I had no intention of
regularly feeding the pond to see if it were obtainable to keep fishes out
there without my interaction. Unfortunately, my interaction happened when I
was feeding a nasty sort of food... Three times to this system. And that, I
think, has clouded the ending observations immensely.

The hybrids were fat and sassy. The orangespots were mostly emaciated with
some fin rot and one with exopthalamus. A few appear to have a long road
back... They're going to get a three week intense feeding program and then
I'll decide if this is the same symptoms that I saw with other animals whom
I'd fed the tainted plankton. It looks the same... That's for sure. And I
don't intend to make any other fish suffer through a loosing battle.

My other hypothesis is that the hybrids were twice as aggressive, had
dominance of the system and the o-spots just wasted away. They should
bounce out of their issues fairly quickly if this is the case. I've healed
up the living dead who were dropped at my door before. We'll see if it's
just starvation or if it's the same organ failure I'm too familiar with.

Now clear of the little monsters, I kicked around the old ideas I'd had for
this tank. A large shoal of blackstripe topminnows, packs of orangespots,
rainbow darters, logperch, redside dace, southern red bellied dace, a
hogsucker and a spotted sucker, and a token male northern longear (who'd be
transferable and replaceable once he'd outgrown his welcome). Yum.

The next task was to determine where I could get started on this stocking in
spite of the 3" of rain we'd had two days prior. Checking USGS maps, it
appeared every system was just cresting on Wednesday, as I had the day off
and chose to take off and go. I had hoped the headwaters of the Maumee
Watershed would be crested and cleared a bit. I planned to scope out the
Ottawa, Auglaize and Blanchard. The Auglaize and Ottawa were part to my
growing up, as I'd been born and spent 14 years in Lima, Ohio. I traced
back in my memory places where we'd explored, fortified and imaginarily
conquered as kids.

My first destination was Sugar Creek, part of the Ottawa River watershed,
right off Bluelick Road in Lima. This spot had fascinated me as a child,
with the fences of a state penitentiary looming over a dam that kept back
large flood dumped trees and it's adjoining riffles and pools below.
There's also a pond right next, that has public parking, and adjacent vernal
pool where I culled my 6th Grade "Enrichment" class project... An eleven
year old's study on frog development that turned a wicked corner as
salamander eggs had also been collected. This was in no way survival of the
fitest... It was more like survival of the fastest, and that meant the
sooner you got rid of your tail, the sooner you got away from those
voracious jaws!

Of course, that just meant you got a quick bath in concentrated alcohol, but
as NANFAn Andy Borgia likes to put it.... "It only burns for a minute." :)

Arriving at Sugar Creek, I was met with the disappointing reality that
everything was going to be flooded. I scanned the creekside, it all looked
too deep for a lone collector in unfamiliar waters. Up under the Bluelick
bridge though, I noticed that there were some riffles forming out of the
tailwaters of the dam and decided to jump in. I probed around with a dipnet
at first, assuring I wasn't compromising my safety. I ran into hordes of
blackstripe topminnows, some juvenile orangespots, greens and longear, and
the usual fare for Maumee Watershed little silvery jobbies, a stray johnny
darter and what I think is a papershell crayfish (which also came home :)

After understanding the stream bottom a bit better, I went back and got the
seine and started stomping out the flooded smartweed along the shores. Lots
of little sunfish, but not the star specimen of megalotis I was looking for.
Frustrated that this would probably be my only collecting spot of the day, I
went and started probing around the wood, foam and garbage floating in
eddies at the base of the dam. I established my far point out in the eddie
with the dipnet, grabbed the seine and went for it into the pile. I struck
gold. A very nice 2.5" male, full on breeding color northern longear!

Out of the cloud of euphoria, I then realized that it was only 10:00 in the
morning, I was still without a battery powered pump and I'd better go look
for a backup plan for keeping, if I expected to give this fish a healthy
chance at making it through the day. So I snagged up a 10 pack of
topminnows and was on my way to Wally World. If they failed me, I'd go
visit with Grandma and head home... Fortunately, they had the "Big Bubbles"
and with a Pet Supplies Plus next door, I had corner carbon filtration and
the whole nine for $25.

Right down the road from Grandma's, I thought I'd stop by for a little bit.
I'm not a huge fan of my Grandma, and the pathetic comments about "take this
cause you never know when you'll have to clean _all of it_ out" were
wearing... But I guess I'm growing up and realized it was a good opportunity
to shed some ego, and do something that's nice for someone else :) The
visit went fine, went longer than I had ever expected us to keep a
conversation... I think I'll do it again soon.

When leaving, she followed me out and wanted to see what it was I was after
with "these fish". That started up a whole new line of conversation... Her
husband, my Grandpa, was the one who got me into fish. My Grandpa was my
hero. He lived a quiet life, helped people in quiet ways, and was there for
his family and friends whenever they needed them. He was snatched away from
us at the young age of 61 with a rare type of debilitating disease... I miss
him greatly. But his funeral showed me a way in the world that I wasn't
used to hearing. I'm not a big fan of traditional spirituality, deities or
places after life and so forth... But the receiving line at his funeral
showed how a quiet sort of imortality _could_ be achieved, and in a
meaningful manner. In the people who's lives you've touched. The guy sold
and delivered pop, chips and cookies to grocery stores. You'd think you
were at the funeral of some dignitary or such. And so, I walked away from
that experience, quite different, a little bit Buddhist I guess :) And
karma works... After seeing that I used coolers for keeping the fish,
Grandma gave me their old cooler because she had no use for one "this size
any more".

Now when I go fishing, I get to look at his name "Schiffer" scribbled on the
cooler and have a fresh reminder of how to live.

On I went into the Auglaize River Watershed. I started out around in the
utmost headwaters, making particular note of all the prairie plants in the
area. I even ran across a whole field of big bluestem... Which is exciting
because in my Master's work, I'd like to combine my two nature passions and
study remnant prairie collections of fish in Ohio. Cool stuff. The river
was FLOODED though, and I had a tough time locating any place to hop in.
Down the road a bit, I came to a bridge that had a gravel road pull off and
a culvert running water out of the main course of the river. Out of the
torrent, I found that fishes had conglomerated in this little pocket of
quiet. I've never had this experience.... I pushed the seine a bit...
Stomped a bit... And lifted it up with 25 blackstripe topminnows. Unreal
for my old opinions of Northwest Ohio stream :) These were mostly
juvies... I went after the dominant fish pack of 10 cruising around the
surface and popped a couple of them in the bucket.

I also ran into a fish I'd not seen before. Since there was about 5 of them
on this haul, I grabbed the largest and was going to take him home for ID.
They were kind of interesting too, with a brassy top, strong dorsal line and
big spot on the caudal base. They also had semi-red finage. When I'd
arrived home at 1:00 am, overly caffeniated and definately tired... I miss
ID'd it as a tounge-tied minnow, which would have been a new species for
this watershed (and consequently sent out emails I wish I could retract ;).
Turned out to _only_ be a horneyhead chub.... But around here... That's
pretty darned cool. :)

And that was the last time I entered the water... Everywhere else was just
plain dangerous. I did find some nice places to park and explore along the
Auglaize. I can't wait for the water to get down a bit and really search
out both watersheds. That and get some time to get over the Blanchard.

It was nearing 5:00 and I was close to a friend's house. I stopped over,
and that pretty much finished out the day, catching up and all. He did show
me another place to get in on the Auglaize that he loves to fish. He may
even come join us when we sample here.

So back home, I've moved everyone about... The longear is a nice touch on
the tank. He seems only concerned with the stoneroller and the o-spots
(mostly the stoneroller for some reason), which is what I was hoping for.
Now we'll see how long he lasts in a community :)

I also just completed the book Chris mentioned a few weeks ago about
"noodling". It's Burkhard Bilger's "Noodling for Flatheads: Moonshine,
Monster Catfish and Southern Comforts". It has very little to do with
noodling, only a short chapter on it... However, the noodling typifies his
experience with culture that is quickly getting snuffed out in our
"information age". I was most touched by the chapter on "Rolley Holers", a
game of marbles I wasn't even familiar with. It served as a fantastic
ending to the stories. It's a _great_ quick read... I'd definately endorse
picking it up at the library or getting a used copy for $3 at

That's all there is in the Farmertodd Wide World of Fish fer now. Hope you
enjoyed the read. I know I've enjoyed writing it all down :)


It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
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