Well I'm just back from doing work with the University of Toledo on a dam
removal project that I've talked about before. For those of you not
familiar or in need of a refresher... The stream is the Ottawa River (which
headwaters are Tenmile Creek, one of my faves) and is a small watershed that
feeds directly into Lake Erie. We've been doing monthly counts above and
below the dam... We were <ahem> a little disappointed to find yellow perch
_above_ the dam this evening. We decided that some Dam-Lover placed them
there to skewer our results ;)
The stream at the point where we were sampling is pretty low quality due to
the usual suspects... The lower Ottawa runs past the old Willys Parkway,
which is where nearly every Jeep prior to 2001 was assembled. The area
around the Jeep Plant was heavily industrial and the creeps in the bunch
dumped a lot of stuff into the Ottawa. Arsenic, mercury, all that good
stuff. Lovely that it flows right out to Toledo's Water Intake....
At any rate, people have somewhat cleaned up their acts (in spite of random
littering due to appearances and a general opinion the thing is "trashed")
and life does persist. Tonight was a great example of that, and definately
one to turn some heads about really how "trashed" it is. We saw a beautiful
blackside darter, a logperch, some pumpkinseeds and green sunnies, an
orangespot... Mussels were plentiful at the upstream side of the dam. Many
live white heelsplitters were observed burrowed into the gravel silt and
clay in the area we were sampling. Recent flooding also washed down a lot
of empty valves, probably from raccoon middens, so we saw three species we
had no idea about :)
The real suprise of the night came at the downstream site. This site is
right on the campus of the University. This had been our better "diversity"
spot in the past. The habitat is pooled and there's some log jams and such
adjacent. We were using a 20' purse seine and built a blockade with a
couple other seines downstream to really box in the sample site's fishizens.
Once we reached the blockade, we got that familiar "big fish splash" up in
Thinking it was the usual token carp, we didn't have a whole lot of
excitement about it. In fact, while I was untangling the seine from a snag,
the fish kinda tagged me in the jewels trying to swim out of the purse. I
said unkind words and wished ill will upon it. My tune changed very quickly
as we were drawing the leadline to the shore.
The seine kinda rolled a bit and I said "Here comes your carrrr...."
The toothy torpedo of the north country. The water wolf. All Esox... All
And a honkin' 22 inches of it at that! Right on the campus of the
University of Toledo of all places! In the Ottawa River! "THAT River!" :)
The first repeatable comment was:
"Boy the Campus Beautification Department is gonna eat this one up!"
Prolly small fry in parts of the north, but it had _definately_ graduated
from the rank of "hammer-handle" into the league of top level predator...
And having a back drop of dumped shopping carts, beer cans, tires and
cinderblock made it all the more exciting :)
We snapped some shots, and sent the wolf on his way. Hopefully, the pics
turn out well, the professor was having a bit of trouble with the flash and
I didn't have mine. Really hoping it turns out at least "photoshopable".
In parting, the graduate student thought she wanted to be the one to release
it. While I had it calmed, I knew it was going to need some resuscitation
and I don't think she all that keen on that. I played on her female
sensibilities and let her know that it was a greased pig with teeth and she
might not want to do it (still her decision tho! I'm all for equal
I embellished a bit to let her know that pike are basically 2 parts slime to
1 part fish and had her take a little sample.
It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
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