Andrew joined me on Saturday for a visit to two creeks just south of Russellville, AL, in Franklin County due south of Muscle Shoals. It was a beautiful, clear, warm day, fun to be in the water. But we found no flame chubs.
The first creek was Cedar Creek where it's crossed by County Road 63. It's a fairly broad creek at this point, much of it with slow-moving waist-deep water. Using my four-foot seine we were able to work almost 200 meters upstream from the bridge. Early on we found a few brook silversides, the first I've encountered for a while, and lots of rainbow and Tennessee snubnose darters. Several small bass allowed themselves to be netted, unusual in my experience. We focused on shallower areas along the banks more typical as flame chub habitat, but no flame chubs. A TVA crew had sampled this area in June 2004 and found one flame chub. The creek seems to be in reasonably good shape, with a high TDS value of 283 ppm and pH of 8.2.
Our attempt to find Robinson Creek took some doing. Both my Mapquest map and the Delorme Gazeteer show the site as just across Highway 43 from Cedar Creek. No way. The roads in this area bore little resemblance to what the maps claimed. For instance, we had to find County Road 36 and then quickly turn left on CR 61. Our maps showed CR 36 due west across Highway 43, with CR 61 running off of that. What we found was the CR 63 crossed Highway 43, with no roads running south from it. After looping extensively around CR 46, the next crossroad to the south, Andrew finally had the realization from the Gazeteer that CR 36 was fairly far south. Sure enough, we found it, and CR 61 ran south off of it, quickly crossing a creek.
Robinson Creek was in sorry shape. It's a series of long, disconnected pools with no current flow. Some broken limestone bedrock that should be a riffle system had obviously been dry for a while. We extensively netted through the pools, especially "downstream" from the bridge where the pools were cleaner over sand rather than oil-contaminated soft mud like upstream. The fish were fairly easy to catch in these pools. Under the bridge, in a deep, shaded pool we found some big stonerollers and striped shiners, along with lots of Gambusia everywhere. Scarlet shiners and small creek chubs were common, along with rainbow and Tennessee snubnose darters and a few black-spotted topminnows.
But no flame chubs were found. The TVA crew in June, 2004, reported that they found 36 flame chubs at this site and have them in their collection. We may have missed flame chubs, although we sampled a lot of fish. Maybe flame chubs have disappeared from this stretch of creek under the duress of the drought. Or did the TVA people misidentify small creek chubs as flame chubs, which is easy to do? I don't know. These sites are numbers 52 and 53 in my creek survey of historic flame chub sites, and the current total is: flame chubs were found in 18 of 53 sites visited.
Looking downstream on Robinson Creek, through what were probably riffles at one point.
A pool under the bridge.