Sunday, May 6, 2012
No Fish but Plenty of Blood
Conditions sucked. The water was murky, and there weren’t any fish. I didn’t expect to see anything but hoped for shad. It is a very rare trip when I don’t see any fish, or any bottom dwelling invertebrates…snails, crayfish, mayflies, caddis. Fish or not, I floated and relaxed in the gentle flow, and enjoyed the quiet and separation being underwater brings.
I swam through a snow storm of sycamore seeds. The frilly tufts that carry then though the air also keep them suspended in the water and they swirl about like snowflakes. There is a collection of walnuts behind a rock in a small rapid.
Algae covers everything. Probably a function of over fertilization…the Octoraro is one of the most heavily impacted streams in the area by nutrients, and nutrients make algae grow. But the excess algal growth is also a function of season. More sunlight due to lengthening day along with a forest canopy not yet fully unfurled, and fewer grazing animals, like aquatic insects due to colder temperatures mean algae can really take off since nothing is there to control its growth.
These are the life blood of the stream. Streams get their energy that fuels their food chain from items that drop into the water from the surrounding land and from algae that grows in the stream. Aquatic insects eat the leaves, seeds, wood and algae. The insects are eaten by fish and so on. While too much algae is an unhealthy creek condition, too little is equally harmful to the system. And even though I didn’t see any life larger than algae, I was still able to witness the amazing ecology of our streams.