First order of business, we have a surprisingly good graph of size distributions of the scarlet shiners we caught at Limestone Creek and Estill Fork. I broke these down as increments of 5 mm in length. For our large data set from Limestone Creek, you can see evidence of three year-classes of fish: those born last summer are 20-40 mm long, those now in their second year are 40-60 mm long, and those in their third year are longer than 60 mm long. The much smaller sample from Estill Fork is also on this graph, seemingly slightly larger on average than the Limestone Creek young-of-the-year. This is useful to us because it supports the idea that the adult scarlets we've been working with are mostly third-year fish, >60 mm long. I wasn't sure before whether or not breeding adults were all third year fish, or also a fair number of second year fish.
In other news, we made our first run to Coosa and Tallapoosa counties in central Alabama looking for the stippled studfish, Fundulus bifax
. And even better, we found some. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so I don't have any pictures. But we caught a single studfish at the first creek we stopped at, Elkahatchee Creek in Coosa County. The water was turbird and a little high; we may stop there again in the future. We also stopped at another nearby branch of Elkahatchee Creek, where James must have tossed his cast net about 70 times without catching a single fish of any kind. So, we headed off to Hillabee Creek in Tallapoosa County, on State Route 22 near Alexander City. Hillabee turns out to be this wide, beautiful creek full of fast riffles flowing over step formations of sandstone(?) upstream of the bridge. After bringing the truck down the muddy clay access road from the highway we were able to wade out and deploy our seine on the edge of flowing runs. In just over an hour we caught 6 stippled studfish. I have a suspicion that the Hillabee Creek system is a stronghold of stippled studfish, as it's a good sized stream draining much of the county. We also caught a surprising number of small shadow bass, and lots of Tallapoosa shiners and ribbon(?) shiners (the latter a Lythrurus
species for sure). With four people along this was fairly easy, so thanks to James, Andrew and Kayley(?) for going on this all-day venture.
The only odd part of the day was finding a recently executed yellow dog laid out on a low hummock along the creek, with a single gunshot through the head. Another dead dog was also further up under the bridge. If anyone has any insights on the attraction of executing your dog under a highway bridge along a creek and leaving the body, please tell me. This is a weird Southern thing that drives me crazy. I can understand wanting to do a quick, cheap euthanasia. But why leave the dog's body behind to rot in an otherwide beautiful creek? My cynical thought is to use this as a measure of whitetrash influence in an area. But that's probably way too simple.