Fish Count

Hello, welcome to The Springs!

I feel so much better about my work at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve since making the commitment to go organic. One barometer of healthy human consciousness is whether or not your thoughts, emotions and actions are in unity. The cognitive dissonance I was feeling about using poisons in the restoration effort is gone now and my thoughts, emotions and actions are unified in a renewed commitment to take care of the land; naturally.
Yesterday, it was my great pleasure to participate with a dedicated team of Wisconsin DNR Water Resource specialists as they conducted their annual fish count of the Scuppernong River. Fish Count in that they are viewed as key indicators of the quality of the water, the health of an ecosystem and even global climate change. We made significant changes to the Scuppernong River headwaters and valley last year by removing water cress dams, which freed the river’s flow lowering its depth 4-6″, and cleaning out springs to allow the water to join the river more directly. In theory (because I don’t have any data to prove it) these efforts should have reduced the “thermal pollution”, i.e. the temperature increase caused as the water warmed while slowly filtering through dense mats of water cress, which is a good thing because native brook trout like cold water. The downside is that we reduced a source of food and cover (water cress) and we disturbed a lot of muck. Did we inadvertently tip a delicately balanced system out of favor for the brook trout? I’ve been waiting for this year’s fish count with nervous anticipation since we heard about it from Craig Helker last November.

Meet Craig, Rachel, Adam and Chelsea.

Craig and Rachel explain the fish count.

And Adam provides the safety explanation.

That was on Tuesday, August 6, and unfortunately, there were problems with the equipment that could not be resolved and we had to reschedule for Thursday. I’m waiting for the crew at the gaging station bridge and here they come.

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We reviewed what the problem was on Tuesday (a faulty probe) and I got a more detailed explanation of the system. The generator in the white boat creates the electrical current that flows from a plate on the bottom of the boat, which acts the cathode, to the probes held by the shockers, which act as anodes (I mix this all up in the videos) creating an electrical field. There is a separate system, powered by a battery, that shuts the current off if either of the shockers looses control of their probe. The current flow is also stopped if a probe stops working for some reason, which did happen again on Thursday, but this time the team was prepared and simply reverted to using only one probe.

Here is my first attempt to use iMovie to string a couple videos together showing our shocking actions. Note that Shelly, also from WDNR Water Resource team, has joined us.

We finished at the Hotel Spring and they setup buckets and began sorting the fish.

Adam, Craig and Rachel measure and count the fish.

Chelsea gives us a close up look at four of the eight different fish species that were collected.

And Rachel delivers the final tallies.

I got 2010 – 2012 data from Craig. Let’s see how we’re doing (note that we may have also impacted the 2012 numbers since we began our work that spring).

2010

Mottled Sculpin – 240
Brook Stickleback – 59
Central Mudminnow – 69
Fantail Darter – 2
Brook Trout – 121

2011

Mottled Sculpin – 169
Brook Stickleback – 25
Central Mudminnow – 72
Fantail Darter – 10
Brook Trout – 213
Green Sunfish – 1
Johnny Darter –2
Grass Pickerel – 1

2012

Mottled Sculpin – 211
Brook Stickleback – 11
Central Mudminnow – 15
Fantail Darter – 8
Brook Trout – 92
Green Sunfish – 1
Johnny Darter – 1

2013

Mottled Sculpin – 86
Brook Stickleback – 1
Central Mudminnow – 5
Fantail Darter – 9
Brook Trout – 66
Green Sunfish – 1
Grass Pickerels – 4
Northern Pike – 3

The numbers are definitely down from previous years and I wonder if the appearance of Northern Pike is significant. There are a lot of variables that could affect the number of fish collected, including the changes we made to the river last year, but I don’t know if we can go beyond speculation to identify specific cause and effect relationships. We are assuming that removing as much water cress as we did last year did reduce the food and cover that brook trout need, and hence we are letting it grow this year, but not to the extent that it forms dams like it used to. We did collect some “young of the year” brook trout, which indicate that they are still spawning in this area of the river.

Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest stopped over to say hello and take this picture of the crew (Craig, Paul, Chelsea, Rachel, Shelly and Adam).

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I managed to pull a few weeds yesterday before meeting the DNR team. I got this queen anne’s lace along the first bridge over the river downstream from the Scuppernong Spring.

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And some of this purple nightshade on the south end of the loop trail

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Rachel showed me this chara plant, which is the source of the calcium carbonate that forms into marl.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon pulling spotted knapweed, common ragweed and hoary alysum on the sand prairie, which is poised for an explosion of color from rough blazing star, golden rod and many other flowers. Come and see the prairie!

Summer is flying by and you no longer have to walk way out along the marl pit channel to see the sun going down. I got these pictures from the marl pit bridge.

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See you at The Springs!

4 thoughts on “Fish Count

  1. Very interesting to see this happen, and to learn a little bit about it! I’m surprised to see the number of Brook trout so low the last couple of years. I also see the Brook Stickleback and Central Mudminnow numbers have also dropped.

  2. Pingback: Super Friends of the Scuppernong Springs | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

  3. Pingback: Scuppernong River Fish Count 2014 | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

  4. Pingback: The Garden of Weed’in | I Am The Buckthorn Man

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