Memories for a Lifetime

The Texas Field Ecology trip brought with it many great opportunities and memories. From the van rides, to kayaking, and to just learning about a completely different ecological world. Even though I had fun with every activity along the way, my favorite was the opportunity we had to sein fish I had never seen before.

The day began early, as we wanted to get into the water as soon as possible. We started by seining a larger river. We collected a few new species here that the group that went the day before had not collected yet.  We collected some topwater minnows such as the black stripe and black spot.  We also collected a species of shad that I had never seen before.  The habitat we collected the most diversity in was where a sand bar had washed away into a deep hole.  The fish would be concentrated right where the sand bar stopped.

The next place we sampled felt like we were in sort of a different world. We had to drive back on a low maintenance back road through the swamps of the Big Thicket.  It was full of cypress trees. It honestly looked like the perfect snake habitat, which was a little eery.  At one of the small water bodies that we stopped by that went under the road, a snake slithered away.  Cooper jumped into Casey’s lap as he shit his pants. We then drove a little further and climbed into the snake infested water.  Once you were in there, it really wasn’t that bad.  We caught a few different species at this location as well, with one of them being a yellow bullhead. We also caught ghost shiners and another new species of shiner at this location.  Right before we were about to leave this location, we walked up on a water snake hanging out in a tree just a few yards from us.

We then went to a river that the other group had sampled, but just further down stream.  We tried electrofishing, but it was to deep to be successful. The only thing we shocked was a bass, which we thought was a largemouth.  The people with the seins also did not have much luck here.  We then went to a location that was very easy to sein.  Next, we went to the same location that the other group had all of the success at. We sampled a few different species from the centrarchid family. We sampled a few flyers and also a long eared sunfish.  We then went into the river, where the ground was very gravel like.  We figured we would sample more darters, but we only got a couple log perch.  The other group seined a good sized spotted gar, which was very cool to see.

Electrofishing

We also had the opportunity to do some seining in the marine environment.  This was something I never thought I would have the chance to experience.  Some of the fish that we seined up were extremely beautiful. The majority of these fish were pinfish. We seined up a cool looking young flounder as well.  When we were seining in the estuary, it was very similar to seining a lake.  Then we seined the open ocean, with 5 foot waves.  This was an incredible experience.  We seined a lot a jacks in this, along with a cool looking lady fish. It was a lot of fun.

Dusty doing some saltwater fish identification

At one of the locations, we came walking around the corner and Cooper was out in the middle of the river swimming.  The kid is a goon.  Jeans on and everything, just soaked,  The experience we had the opportunity to enjoy was one of the greatest memories in my collegiate education career.

Fish Seining

The day started off early and windy, and of course the wind would blow from the worst possible direction, south. by the time we were done at the grocery store getting gear we would need for the coming events we all knew it was going to be a long kayak trip. unloading the kayaks and getting everyone set up went on without a hitch and i even got a cool “fat man” kayak. good thing when we set out we were in the marshes so people like me who have never kayaked before could gain our bearings. than we set out into the great unknown battling the wind at our face and shrimp boats trying to run us over. when we got to the island and were able to get off and sein for fish it was awesome and scary at the same time as Casey told us about the stingray shuffle. there were plenty of stingrays saw amongst us but luckily no one got stuck. it was awesome being able to see new fish and plant species that were out there. i would love to learn more about the marine fish we caught that morning because identifying them deemed to be very difficult.

on the way back to the launch area we had the wind at our backs and took our time venturing through the mangroves looking for the unexpected. after we got all the kayaks loaded we set off to fish in another area near the fairy. we had great barbecue, fishing, and freinds. we were also able to sein this area and learn alot about the fish thanks to Dusty who seemed like a marine genius at the time. without him helping us ID the fish i dont think it would have been as much fun just looking at unknown fish.

our next adventure was to seine and collect fish from the beach, which was terrifying to think about on the way there. while out there we finally realized how exhousting it is to battle the waves with a giant seine net. the rest of the day was spent fishing and hanging out with freinds.

Ocean Seining

Texas Field ecology was a great trip, but I feel the most rounded day was when we kayaked the ocean and had the opportunity to do some salt water seining. The day started with a kayak trip through the mangroves. The trip out to the beach we had a very rough paddle, being the winds were high creating more waves than desired, and Danny was almost taken out by a local fishing boat. Once we reached the shore we were briefed on the area and some of the environmental impacts that happen from recreation and commercial fishing.

Once we had a history of the area we had the opportunity to seine fish in the ocean. This was a great experience because no matter what we caught it would be something I had never seen. Right away we pulled up a pipe fish which is something I had never even heard of, but it was very interesting to see something that peculiar looking. The next fish that caught my eye was a species of molly, which had an amazing pattern on the side.

Once done seining we started our paddle back, by this time the wind had died down and it was a much more relaxing trip. Here we got to explore the mangroves at our own pace. I finally got to see a Stingray right under my kayak. Near here is where we were able to see the oyster beds, which contain the flesh eating bacteria. The rest of the paddle was filled with birds and views of the ocean scenery. The Slow Ride Guide service was informative and friendly.

After the kayak trip we ventured to an area where we were able to fish and eat lunch. Here we got to see dolphins surfacing in the channel. After fishing and having lunch we got another opportunity to seine fish. Here we found species like flounder and pin fish. We also got our first experience with jellyfish. Dusty, a Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, was there to help us identify the different species.

After this we ventured to the beach where we got to use the bag seine in the big open water of the ocean. This was an awesome experience, and to me one of my favorites for the trip. We didn’t catch anything at this location, but we got to feel the power of the water and not being able to pull the bag seine. Here we got to see more jelly fish and some of the same fish we had caught at the other locations.

Later that night we went fishing with not much luck all around, however I did get to see a landed stingray another fisherman had pulled in. after fishing till dark, we went out to eat in Port Aransas with the group. After a second wind, a small group of us went out crabbing until around 12 that night. We would wait for the waves to wash up the crabs, then find them with a flashlight and as fast as we could net them up. This was more fun than expected and the crab tasted great.

Dolphins surfacing

Freshwater Fish Sampling

Big thicket, Texas Freshwater Fish Sampling

4/23/17

 

On our way to Texas we stayed at Big Thicket for two full days. Each day the class divided into two groups.  One group would do fish sampling with Dr. Willams and the others would do canoeing and plant identifying and collections with Dr. Dennhardt.  On the first day, I was in the group doing fish sampling.  We could reach three different sites to sample.  We used methods including sein nets and electro shocking.  At each site, we catalog each fish species that was captured.  We were also able to keep fish under a permit granted to us.

  • Using seins to collect fish samples.

At our first site, we needed to hike a trail about one mile surrounded by thick woody vegetation.  Since myself and others are currently in an ornithology class we were actively seeking birds.  In this area, it can prove difficult to identify birds as we were able to hear birds but rarely saw them.  As we drew closer to the stream, we begin to see curious hollow cylinder shapes of soil pushed up from the ground from 2-4 inches above ground level.   Our professor identified them as crayfish burrows.  The cray fish would dig these borrows during the winter months of the year.  They would start by digging the borrows and stack the excess soil in a shape building up from the ground.

  • A small crayfish was captured in the sein nets and released.

As we reached the stream there were steep banks surrounding it on both sides with fallen timber crossing it in multiple areas.  Putting on our waders we entered the stream, and found the water to be about waist high.  Within our group, four of us moved up stream where we found back water that was not currently connected to the main stream.  Beginning to sein we found several different fish species, including some very large tadpoles.  After leaving the back water we took samples for the main stream.  We found that we could capture more fish species in the back water then the main stream, this could be because the small fish became trapped and concentrated during a high-water event.

Using a backpack shocker to collect fish samples.

At our second location, we could use electroshocking to capture fish.  It proved difficult to use electroshocking in the brackish water.  We were required to continually increase the voltage to be effective.   This was my first time using electroshocking in the field, and I was lucky to do so.  We were able to bring a large spotted bass to the surface along with several other species.

As our day came to an end we stopped at one final location.  The stream was covered on both sides with a dense canopy of Cypress trees.  The tree’s roots would protrude from the ground forming sharp points.  Our instructor warned us that falling on one could cause injury.  At the same time, someone made the comment “this looks like a place where snake would live,” and Dr. Willams reminded us to watch for water moccasins.  As myself and others began electroshocking the other group began seining for fish.  Shortly later our sampling was ended when others across the stream were startled by not one, but two water moccasins. A student reported they stepped on one, luckily no one was hurt.  It added some excitement to our sampling efforts.

For a full day of sampling we recorded over thirty species of fish.  This was a very fun and educational day in Big Thicket and I would be happy to return someday and continue the adventure.

 

 

Fish Seining

Drew Aronson

Texas Trip

Lauren Dennhardt and Casey Williams

5/8/2017

Fish Seining

Anytime we got to seine for fish was my favorite time. When we got down there I was surprised to see what they call creeks. Their creeks are like our rivers up here. The first day I got to seine on this trip was the 24th of April. We started our day at Turkey Creek where the stream was very wide. It was a nice sandy beach which had evidence of heavy human use with cans and other garbage everywhere. This site was a little difficult to seine due it being so wide and the river bottom being very sandy. The sand would make it hard to move quickly to capture the fish that present. This location we caught a decent amount of species. We caught a few different types of shiners like, the Sabine, blackspot, ghost, and silverband shiners. We also caught a few top minnows which were visible from land due to them being at the top of the water. We also found one Threadfin shad.

The rest of our locations in the bid thicket would be very different ranging from small winding streams to almost stagnant streams. When we got into this environment some of the species started to change we still saw those shiners from before but a few new ones were present. We started to see fish like the black spotted topminnow, and Western mosquitofish. In water with higher current and riffles we started to see darters like the scaly sand darter, the western sand darter, the mud darter, slough darter, swamp darter, Harelquin Darter and the cypress darter. We even caught a few larger species like the yellow bullhead, assorted sunfish and a spotted gar I personally helped catch. When we pulled the spotted gar up it was a real surprise. It was in shallow water and we caught it when we were going slow and short hall. We caught it in a small winding stream that had good flow.

Seining in the ocean was very different. When we seined in the estuaries many different species showed up including other types of creatures. We used every size net we had in the ocean. We caught a variety of sizes as well. With each hall brought something a little bit different. In the weeds we caught small drums, tongue fish, a red drum, pipe fish which are related to sea horses, mullet, jack, and a few crabs. Every time we picked up our nets we would have gobs of shrimp which we brought back for bait.

When we were right on the beach it was much harder to seine here. WE used a 20-foot bag seine to capture the fish. First to get out there we half way roll up the net to get passed the waves. After we got to about waist deep we let out all the net and began pulling the seine in. It was a hard task to get the net in. It took two people on either side to move it quick enough. We would start parallel with the shore and then make a gradual turn towards the shore. As we went into shore the rip tides would pull us out. When it did this we would be forced to crawl for movement but as a wave would crash in it would push us in. The fish we mostly caught were a species of Florida jack with a very thin compressed body. The other fish we caught were mullet which jump out of the water sometimes.

This trip broadened my horizons drastically. This experience will last me a life time. I hope in the future this knowledge will help me. It showed me all the different diversity that is present in the water systems of the south.

Texas Kayaking Day

On April 21, we left for a 10-day road trip to different areas south of our homeland of Valley City. We started off driving 12 hours to Big Thicket where we stayed for two nights. First day we seined fish and insects. Which is what’s pictured. You can look at the Long-Eared Sunfish that our group seined up.  The other picture is what we did to get the fish.

The next day we canoed for several hours and then proceeded to look at the carnivorous plants called Pitcher Plant. After our time in Big Thicket, we drove 14 hours to Port Aransas Texas. Which I thought personally was the best part of the trip. With this, I will tell you about what we experienced in a day on coast of Texas. The day I choose to talk about is the day we went kayaking in the ocean. We woke up around 6 am and drove roughly 45 minutes to the area we were going to start. When we got there, we got the kayaks ready, sprayed ourselves with excessive amounts of sunscreen and began our journey to an island off the coast. When we began, we went through a marsh type land filled with brush. After that we reaches open water, and that’s where we all started to struggle. The wind gusts were bad that day and we were paddling into the wind. We stopped at 2 tiny islands that were located throughout the coast just to catch our breath, and wait for everyone to catch up. After we made our last stop at a tiny island, we paddled to the larger island where we stayed for an hour to explore. When we were there we got the history of the island and took in some information about the plants and animals. They told us about a plant called pickle plant and how it was edible. We all munched of the salty tasting plant and started to seine. When we got in the water the first thing we seined was the pipe fish which is pictured below. After about 30 min we were all in the water, when two stingrays decided to make an appearance in the water. Although I didn’t see them I sure was freaking out, if I was excited to be in the presences of them or if I was going to die. We then packed up and begin the easy journey back to shore. Along the way back we looked at the shallow parts of the ocean where we looked at fish and other creatures in the water. The picture shows Josh Becker, Brandon Ramsey, and I floating on the way back.

 

We saw many different types of birds that were on the shore. We finished, loaded the kayaks back up and set off to eat lunch, fish, and sein some more. We pulled off the road where there was little shade for us to cool down and eat. Casey cooked up some hamburgers and some spicy hotdogs, while some people went off to fish. For myself I looked at the crabs, and the dolphins that were off in the distance. After we ate we started to seine. We picked up a lot of shrimp and even a toad fish. After our seine, we left to go back to the camp to settle down. Since the temperature was so hot it was necessary to cool off into the water. I got a picture of just how hot it was.

After our little swim, we left to eat supper, a group of us went to a little Mexican restaurant in Port Aransas. I ordered chicken enchiladas, and rice. The food was spot on, and spicy! We then went to a couple souvenir shops, and got our t-shirts, and went back to camp. After a long day we settled down, crab hunted and swam tell we started to get tired, which is what’s pictured. We caught a couple blue crab and saw some jelly fish that landed on the beach from the waves.

Overall it was a great trip and we learned a lot. I wouldn’t hesitate to go to Texas again due to how fun it was. I believe we all became more knowledgeable about different areas other than North Dakota.

Big Thicket: A Forest of Diversity

After our first night staying at the Big Thicket Field Research Station, the crew was up early for our first field experience in East Texas. The class was divided up into two vans, one with six students and the other with eight. The van I was included in was the fifteen-passenger van with eight students guided by Professor Williams. Being with Dr. Williams, our group learned about fresh water fishes that day. Our first destination of the day was near Dallardsville, TX in the Big Sandy Creek Unit. We had been granted a permit that allowed our class to sample fish within the Big Thicket. The first stream we had sampled was Big Sandy Creek. We sampled near the Woodlands Trail and Sunflower Road. The next water body sampled was within the Turkey Creek Unit, along Turkey Creek. To get there we traveled along highway 943 and turned north onto 69-287. This brought us northward passing through Warren, TX, and eastbound to the Turkey Creek Trail. This was our first site in this unit, but we were not able to access the creek from the trail we had walked, forcing us to turn around and walk back to the van empty-handed. Our trek totaled at about three miles. We had visited a few more sites within this unit to sample.

Our sampling methods for freshwater included seines and a Smith-Root backpack electro-fisher. To seine fish, one needs waders and two others for assistance. Two people will be on either side of the seine, holding the brail poles. On a seine, there is a float line on top and a lead line on the bottom. The lead line holds the net on the bottom of the creek bed, restricting fish from escaping the net. As the two individuals pull the seine downstream, fish will accumulate within the net. Pulling the seine downstream is essential, as fish move upstream to avoid predators. It is also difficult to pull a seine against the current. Once the seine has been pulled downstream for about ten yards, it will be pulled out of the water to view the catch. The third person will be trailing the seiners to collect the fish specimens.

Backpack electro-fishing is a great way to sample for fish in shallow streams. It is called a backpack electro fisher because one will wear it strapped onto their back. Attached to the device is a cathode and anode, allowing electrical current to flow through the water column. A battery that is secured to the bottom of the electro fisher gives the device power. The anode would be the part that controls the electric current, and has a round ring at the end to move throughout the water. The cathode is called a “rat tail” on this backpack electro fisher. The rat tail needs to be in the water out in front of the person running the device. Along with the person wearing the device, there will be at least two other individuals to net the fish and carry the bucket with the specimens contained within. The people with the nets oversee adjusting the voltage output, as each stream has different conductivity which affects the electric current. Adjusting the voltage is as easy as turning the knob up or down as needed. Safety is important and everyone needs to be attentive. The backpack has a “kill switch.” This activates if the person wearing the device even bends over too far, which is a great safety feature.

After a long day of sampling, our group was successful in capturing various fish species. These species included bluegill, red-eared sunfish, long-eared sunfish, spotted sunfish, spotted bass, warmouth, pirate perch, topminnows, pickerel, mosquitofish, log perch, ghost shiner, gizzard shad, red shiner, pug-nosed minnow, and even large tadpoles. (I don’t have photos of all the fish but I will include what I can!) After identifying all the species we had caught, we headed back to the Big Thicket Field Research Station to gear up for another busy day the next day. Our night ended with a home cooked meal of spaghetti. Today was an experience I will never forget! Being exposed to all the new fish species really opens a door within the fisheries world.

 

Here is a map of the Big Thicket National Preserve. It will help you get an idea of where we were sampling fish. https://www.nps.gov/bith/learn/management/upload/GMPpagemap7-09.pdf

 

Long Eared Sunfish

Pirate Perch

Top: Bluegill

Bottom: Unidentified Hybrid Sunfish

Warmouth

Spotted Bass

Orange Spotted Sunfish

Redfin Pickerel

Red Shiner

Seining the Ocean

On April 26th, we woke up and got rolling. We packed up our things and headed up to Aransas Pass. We met up with our guide Dean, who owned Slowride Guide Services. He does Eco-tours and also guided fishing trips with kayaks for redfish, trout, and whatever else there is to catch. We met him at his business and then headed to where we would get out and get in. By that I mean, out of the vans and into the kayaks.

We started off a little slow, the wind wasn’t terrible but it was making things difficult and the waves were the big problem. I didn’t know what to expect, and from the initial “leg of our journey”, I wasn’t too excited. I just thought this would be some lame tour where all we do is paddle in our kayaks for 4 hours. Eventually we pulled off on this island and my opinion changed.

Dean talked about all sorts of things from conservation, sea grass, fisherman, plants, birds, fish, and everything in-between. He was an educated man and very passionate about preservation and conservation. When we paddled back to the landing we were allowed to explore and sort of take our own time and look at different things like crabs (Picture 1), birds, fish, and the different plants. It was definitely worth going out and doing.

Hermit Crab we found while on our eco-tour

After we departed with Dean we headed back down to Port Aransas. Before we crossed over on the ferry we made a well needed pit stop at one of the estuaries. Here we met up with Casey’s friend Dusty, who works for Texas Parks and Wildlife. At this spot we got to fish for four or five hours, which was awesome too. A few people caught a few smaller fish, but nothing too exciting. Then Drew caught a speckled trout, which we cut up and grilled, along with a wide variety of food like hotdogs and hamburgers.

I didn’t have any luck catching anything, except in my cast net where I caught a small mullet and a tongue fish. All I got was a few nibbles and some stolen bait. Casey told me to walk out as far as I could into the estuary and cast out into the channel, which you could see because the water changed from a light blue to a dark blue. My first cast out my bait got smoked by something big, but I was unsuccessful in hooking the beast, most likely it was a great white (Picture 2). We continued this for a couple hours and throughout this we saw dolphins (Picture 3), which I didn’t expect to see, a giant fifteen foot tall bird (Picture 4), and a lot of crabs and mullet jumping out of the water.

Morgan and I trying to hook into some monster fish.

Dolphins we saw strolling through the water.

Giant 22 foot tall bird we saw while fishing.

Finally we got called back to do something just as fun, seining (Picture 5). We had three groups of people seining and I was lucky enough to tag along with Dusty who used to work as a saltwater fisheries biologist. He was very handy to have around, and also a very nice guy. He helped identify a lot of the fish we got in our seines like anchovies, pinfish, flounders, pipefish, and others I can’t remember. He also helped us with our crab identification skills and showed us how to tell a blue crab from a lesser blue crab.

Dusty showing us the ways of saltwater fish identification.

After we got done at that spot we headed back over to Port Aransas and seined the open ocean. It was pretty difficult to do, but I enjoyed it. We didn’t get a wide variety of species here but we caught ladyfish and a species of jacks that I don’t remember.

After that we went back to camp to gather up our fishing supplies and headed back out on the jetty. No one was successful in catching anything but a few of us got hooked into quite a few fish, but couldn’t quite keep them on to get them up onto the rocks. It was fun just being out. Later that night a few of us decided to go get some supper, which was a pain, because almost everything was closed. We finally found a place with a goofy name and decent food. After getting back from camp a few of the other students on the trip decided to go out crabbing one more time, which I planned on doing as well, but I was too tired and decided to call it a night.

I enjoyed every single part of the trip, except for the wrong turns and long car rides. Each day was very educational and eye opening. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I hope to return to Port Aransas one day when the fishing is more promising, or when it isn’t so hot.

Seining in the Big Thicket

 

Upon waking on April 23, we a group of eight from Valley City State University made our way to the Big Sandy Creek. Our objective was to identify and collect species through seining. The group split into two teams and sampled different parts of the river. We seined and identified fish with the help of Dr. Casey Williams. After sampling the Big Sandy we sampled turkey creek.

At the Big Sandy, my team chose to sample upstream while the other team went down stream. I noticed a backwater area that seemed like it could be connected to the main creek during high water. We seined the backwater and after the first seine haul, I leaped with joy. In the bottom of the net was a pirate perch and warmouth (figure 1). Two of the coolest fish that we               

 

Figure 1    Warmouth and Pirate Perch Caught at the Big Sandy creek, 4/23/17

talked about in class were in the bottom of our net. The biggest tadpole I had ever seen also made an appearance in our net. We seined the same spot once again and on the second pass we collected a flier and some very beautiful sunfish (figure 2).After multiple passes in the backwater, we switched to seining the creek and found additional interesting fish species. Darters and shiners were quickly added to our pails. About 2 hours later, both groups met, identified fish and released the samples back to the Big Sandy. In the first spot, we caught 15 plus species of fish.                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

Figure 2   Sunfish caught at the Big Sandy creek Sandy Creek, 4/23/17                                                The diversity and ecology of streams in Texas differed greatly from those of North Dakota.The second spot on the Big Sandy  lead to many other amazing finds. My team seined an oxbow that yielded a red fin pickerel and a black stripped topminnow(Figure3). More species were added to our list and the other team caught a big spotted bass (figure 4). Backpack electro fish shocking was used at this site. Fish were shocked but the effectiveness of the shocking was in question The conductivity of the

Figure 3   Red Fin Pickerel and Black Stripped Topminnow caught at Big Sandy Creek, 4/23/17                                                                                                                  

water probably played a major role in the questionable effectiveness of the backpack shocker. At this stream, we added about ten more species to our list.

Cypress trees and fallen debris lined the Turkey creek. The river shaded by trees was cold.  Utilizing the backpack shocker in tandem with the seine provided sample collection. Seining proved to be very difficult, so the shocker did most of the work.

Figure 4   Spotted Bass caught at Big Sandy Creek, 4/23/17

Some unique sunfish were shocked in this site, including one of the most beautiful long eared sunfish that you will ever see (Figure5). However, our luck quickly changed from respectable to meager.Casey let out a warning that he had just spotted a cottonmouth. The rest the class retreated to higher ground to view it. He said jokingly, “Where there is one, there are many.” Not 5 seconds had passed when I heard a woman scream, I quickly turned around.

 

Figure 5   Long eared sunfish caught at Big Sandy Creek ,4/23/17

The scream came from Dalton, who had a 5 to 6-foot banded water snake mere feet from his foot. I leapt behind Dalton and used him as a human shield. My respect for snakes caused me to react in not such a heroic way. The snake slithered passed and that concluded our sampling for the day. We headed back to camp reminiscing about the day’s experience and listening to Snake Farm.

The Poisonous Snake State

 

Texas, a state known for their long-horned cows, size, and to us, their poisonous snakes. At Big Thicket we had a few close encounters with some deadly snakes. To start out the day, half of the class jumped into the van, including me, to go seine some fish while the other half went canoeing. After driving for about a half hour we arrived at our first creek.  Only have seined fish once I was eager to seine and see some of the different fish that were in Texas. A few of the class members started out and brought up multiple cool fish such as: mad-tom, black tailed chub, and mosquito fish. Then it was my turn to handle the seine. Not even 10 minutes into seining I was dragging the net trying to move it as fast as possible I went from 3 feet of water to what it felt like 5 feet of water. Water was pouring into my waders and I was stuck in the mud unable to get out. When I did finally get out I emptied my waders and surprisingly we still caught fish. After bringing our bucket of fish to Dr. Williams his excitement grew with each fish he identified, yelling “we need to keep this one, and this one, and this one!” After putting all the fish into the alcohol we were back into the van and off to a new site.

Fish Seining at First Pond

The second creek went right under the road from where we parked the van. At this creek, the group separated into two smaller groups. In my group, we went down the creek seining as we went along. When it was Tabby and my turn we seined a narrow snag filled area where more tripping was involved than seining. Surprisingly we caught the coolest fish that round compared to our others from this site. Most of the fish I couldn’t identify, but the one that stood out to me was the war-mouth fish. At that time, it was what I thought to be the prettiest fish we caught so far. Eager to show Dr. Williams our findings we headed back to find a large pond on the side of the creek that we decided to try. One step into the pond we knew it was a no go. Ben was almost up to his knee in mud. The only positive thing about that pond was that we found a rope swing and I went to swing on it and it didn’t break. After catching up to Dr. Williams and the other group we saw their spotted bass that they caught and got to watch them electrofish, which I had never seen before.

War-mouth Fish

After catching more neat fish, like a pickerel fish, we were back in the van. The smell of fish and creek had now filled the van immensely, yet we were so use to our stench we barley smelt it. We stopped at what was going to be our third creek and got out. According to Dr. Williams map it wasn’t that far of a walk so I decided to stay in my waders thinking it would be less changing and keep me warm since I am always cold. I found out quick that it was a bad idea! What started out as a short hike ended up as where is the creek? Where is Casey? After the first 2 miles, everything on me was sweating and I was beginning to get blisters on my feet. I found out waders are not meant for walking in. We all got to sit down and rest for a bit as Dr. Williams turns off the path and goes into the thick forest. After what felt like 20 minutes of Dr. Williams disappearance we were thinking what we would tell Dr. Dennhardt when we came back without Casey. Finally, Dr. Williams emerges from the thick trees to tell us to turn around, the creek was dried up. We headed onto our 3-mile hike back, my wader’s shoes squeaking the whole way back. Into the van we went. For the first time I was in favor of having the air conditioning on high.

After getting out of the van we walked on a trail that lead us into the trees, until we all paused at once. Before us was what looked like an abandoned house or a meth house, still undetermined. We all walked past it in hopes there was no one home. We finally arrived at the creek and there were cypress knees everywhere. We started seining and electrofishing and caught some awesome fish. One of the fish we caught was a long-eared sunfish.

Long-Eared Sunfish

I decided to help electrofish since I have never done it before. While, in the middle of scooping up some minnows up the rest of the group started yelling “SNAKE! Get out of the water!” After hustling out I saw all of them frantically scurry away from what I later found out was a water moccasin. Then just after Dr. Williams tells the group when there’s one there’s more the loudest girlish screech I have ever heard came from Dalton’s mouth. The group gathered onto the highest ground they could find. As our electrofishing group walked over we found out what was the commotion. On one part of the creek was a water moccasin and on the other half was a diamond back snake. From then on, the class of Texas Ecology will forever associate Texas not for being the lone star state but for being the poisonous snake state.

Electrofishing around Cypress Trees

Water Moccasin Snake