As I have said before, 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 the reason is a no-brainer; 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 are trip leaders are going to do on this field trip, which not only sounds really interesting, but also sounds like a lot of fun. This is actually the third installment of what is becoming an annual ASO field trip. Our trip leader Bill Zimmerman and his able band of accomplices have conducted this trip the past two years and have had considerable success. Last year they outdid themselves 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. At the time Bill told me that he would like to do an earlier spring date for the same trip; one reason being that many of the species have more vibrant breeding colors in the spring. We are more than happy Bill is willing to continue to conduct this field trip.
Our trip leader Bill and his able assistants, Joshua Eastlake and Brian Wulker, all have extensive interests in nature and are very knowledgeable and skilled on a number of subjects (birds, insects etc.). But they are also fish enthusiasts, from the largest to the smallest species, and are into fish identification the way many of us are into bird identification. On these field trip they show us how they do it. The species they are after include a variety of minnows, chubs, darters, madtoms, sunfishes, shiners, dace, stonerollers, suckers and the fry and fingerlings of larger species. They also invariably catch a few other aquatic species along the way such as reptiles, amphibians, crayfish, hellgrammites and other invertebrates.
The location for this is Bass Island, a Hamilton County Great Parks 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 usually has extensive exposed sand and gravel bars that extend into the river. Bill and crew 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, “to 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. Also note that spring migration is just past peak on this date and Bill, Brian and Joshua are also avid birders. Bill has told me twice he will guarantee a Connecticut Warbler on this trip. I think he was kidding, but I don’t put anything past these guys.
Folks are welcome to try their hand at collecting but 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 Bill for what should be an 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. Should this trip need to be cancelled we have set up a rain date for Sunday June 19, 2016. Same time, same place.
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.