Back by popular demand, we are able to schedule a summer version of a unique field trip that we first did last fall on September 27, 2014. Aside from anglers, fish don’t get a lot of attention in this region and even anglers pay little attention to the small fishes found in our local rivers and streams (the subject of this field trip). And it doesn’t take a doctorial degree to realize the reason for that; it’s just hard to see them down in their watery world. So what do you do if you want to study them? You catch em’! And that’s exactly what our trip leader Bill Zimmerman plans to do on this field trip, which not only sounds really interesting, but also sounds like a lot of fun.
Since 2014 Bill has led this trip for us three times with great success. Bill has extensive interests in nature and is very knowledgeable and skilled on a number of natural history subjects including birds and insects. But Bill is also a fish enthusiasts, from the largest to the smallest species, and is also skilled at fish identification much the same as many of us are into bird identification.
On this field trip Bill, and maybe a couple of his like-minded buddies, are going to show us how to catch, identify and release fishes and other aquatic species from the Little Miami River. The species they are after include a variety of darters, minnows, chubs, darters, madtoms, sunfishes, shiners, dace, stonerollers, suckers and the fry of larger species. They also invariably catch a few other aquatic species along the way such as reptiles, amphibians, crayfish, hellgrammites and other invertebrates. When I said “show us” I literally mean it. Bill will equip anyone willing with what they need to catch fish and they can then wade into the river, side-by-side with Bill and crew trying their luck.
The location for this trip is Bass Island, a Hamilton County Park property situated along the south/east bank of the Little Miami River just below the Newtown Bridge (at US 50). The Little Miami River is very shallow here and has extensive exposed sand and gravel bars that extend into the river. Bill will set up shop here and their equipment will consist of an assortment of dip nets, seining nets, buckets and a couple of display tanks to, as Bill told me, “be sure everyone can get a good look at whatever we find”. Our leaders will know what everything is, but a field guide to fishes will be at hand as well. Bill told me he expects that we will find at least ten different species of fish, probably more, as well as aquatic invertebrates and some reptiles and amphibians to boot. On our last trip in 2016, Bill and crew amazed us by collecting 16 different species of fishes (all of which were released) that they placed in temporary aquariums’ so the trip participants could get good looks and take great pictures.
Folks should wear clothes that they can wade in and some old tennis shoes or water shoes. Bill says sandals tend to fill up with gravel pretty quick. Supervised kids are welcome and encouraged. A fair warning here, there could be some slippery algae covered rocks in the water and a slippery spot or two along the banks down to the river. The trip is planned for at least two hours and Bill says they will probably stay longer if folks want to. The site is convenient. Bass Island is also a trailhead for the Loveland bike trail and there is a sizable parking lot about 200 yards from the river. But it’s a popular spot and the lot does get crowded at times. There are restroom facilities at the parking lot. There are also lots of businesses nearby. Because it is a HCPD property a Motor Vehicle Permit is required on each vehicle ($3.00 daily, $10.00 annual).
So come and join us for what should be a highly entertaining field trip at a pleasant time of the year, learn about our native fishes, take some pictures of the specimens captured before their released and have some fun while you’re at it. Feel free to contact Bill if you have any questions.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to the nature of this field trip, heavy rainfall, flooding or high water levels will cancel the trip. If you have any doubts at the time, contact one of the trip leaders.
Directions to Bass Island:
From Wooster Pike (U.S. Rt. 50) in Mariemont go east and turn right onto Newtown Road. Go across the Little Miami Bridge to the Bass Island parking lot on the right, just about 200 yards past the bridge.
From I-275 & Rt. 32 (Eastgate) follow Rt. 32 west for 4.7 miles and turn right onto Newtown Road. Go about .9 miles to the Bass Island Parking lot on your left, about 200 yards before the Little Miami Bridge.
For some information on Bass Island visit the Hamilton County Great Parks link below