Saturday, September 01, 2012

Swishes For Florida Native Fishes

Bear and I are going dipnetting for some of our beautiful native Florida fishes for my classroom aquarium ... and for my various ponds at home.

You can tag along if you like.

There are a few rules of course ... aren't there always?

  • You need a freshwater fishing license to do this legally.
  • You need a strong dipnet that won't bend or break when you swish it through the aquatic vegetation.
  • Dress to get wet.
  • Don't cover your hands and arms with mosquito repellent, then handle your captives, AND expect them to survive.
  • Be snake aware and realize that anything could come up in your net.
  • Don't do this in parks.
  • Don't be a fish hog.
  • Plan for areation to keep your catch alive. I use a battery powered airpump that hangs on the side of the bucket. IT IS VITAL THAT YOU PROVIDE AREATION.

Fish gravitate towards cover, so find yourself a nice ditch, creek, or pond and look for plants.

That should be the best dipping site.
If the water is really flowing, as it was at this location, look for quiet eddies.
Fish like to rest too.

This place was near perfect ... a ditch draining a river swamp that was connected to a small permanent river.

The constant rains since Tropical Storm Debbie, not only broke our drought, but they have flooded our swamps and wetlands resulting in an awesome explosion of aquatic life.


I like to go downstream and work up against the current, swishing the shoreline grasses as I do.
This works especially well with a friend to move the bucket along as you progress.

Here's a nice haul.
A fat girl gambusia or two, a gold-spotted topminnow, and some tiny grass shrimp.

On this day, I was not only after aquarium fish, but also some gambusia to stock my pond.
Now that it is holding water, I need them for mosquito control.
They breed like the guppies they resemble and they truly, truly love wrigglers for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all between meal snacks.

A dace ... southern red belly flavor?
Not sure yet, but pretty dacey.

The prize of the day!
A very young Florida Gar ... I think.
The Spotted Gar are pretty similar and young fish are tricky.

It's funny to think that these are high priced aquarium fish in places farther north or across the pond.

Of course, the high priced fish in our pet stores are just ditch and creek fish back in their native lands too.

Here in North Florida, where we have real winters, there's not much chance of dipping up exotic fish species. Obviously, if you are dipping and swishing down in South Florida, you could pull up almost any tropical fish found in Petsmart.

... and I suppose, down there, you had better be python aware too... sigh.

Bear wants me to add that in Florida, you need to remember that wading in a  brushy creek, ditch, or pond puts you in alligator habitat and it's really no place for a dog.

The only freshwater he wades around in are those spots that are clear, shallow, and where I can see anything coming a long way off.

But back to the fish ..

... on this day, the catch included:
  • crawfish
  • gambusia (mosquito fish)
  • gold spotted topminnow (a type of killifish)
  • dace
  • madtom catfish
  • grass shrimp
  • water scorpion (accidental take)
  • darters
  • bluegill (1 inch long)

Not bad for about 20 minutes.

Some went into my ponds, but the gar is living in a large aquarium in my classroom that is set up as a Florida Spring habitat.

Gosh, just thinking about this post has me wanting to get back out there and dip some more.

In fact, I'm going to do just that a little later today.

Not to be redundant, but I'll be sharing that too.


Anonymous said...

Wow, looks like you made a pretty good catch. Interesting variety. But city girl that I am all I could really think about was eek! snakes!

robin andrea said...

Wowsers! That's a lot of very cool fish. I really appreciate the abundance and diversity you have there.

Kat said...

That looks like sooo much fun! I'm jealous!

threecollie said...

Ah, the treasure hunter in me is happy now.

tai haku said...

That little gar is awesome and goldspotted topminnows are pretty cool too. Also can't agree with you enough on this:

"Plan for areation to keep your catch alive. I use a battery powered airpump that hangs on the side of the bucket. IT IS VITAL THAT YOU PROVIDE AREATION."

Caroline said...

Bear took some might fine pictures of you while you were dipping!

Island Rider said...

Have you seen that video of the elephant being Ttacked by the crocodile? It is enough to scare Bear to stay in the truck. And me too.

Floridacracker said...

I think about them too!

Hey Robin,
I loves me some fishy diversity!

It's awesome fun, a treasure hunt for sure.

Glad to oblige. More treasures to come!

That has to be priority one. And yes, that garling is awesome. Hoping for just a few more.

Bear is a dog of awesome capabilities.

Cathy S,
Have not seen that, but I have tremendous respect for the power of the gator clan.

Charles said...

Cool mangrove creatures! It's been a long time since I went to a mangrove in Florida.

Anonymous said...

Blue fin killifish - (Lucania goodei)