Saturday, May 11, 2013

Eels and Kids in the Creek

Twenty five 5th graders shrieked as they tried to lay down in the cold water. There was a lot of splashing and stomping around, but not much snorkeling. The water got murky fast from the sediments that were re-entrained off the bottom. I started to think this was a failure. But then I heard comments like “This is the best trip ever!” and “Hey look at the eel!” And while every kid didn’t spend all of the time in the river, most did, and most looked around. A lot saw some cool things, like elvers and darters. It was in that moment that I realized the trip was a connecting success. The aquatic standouts were the elvers, making their way back up the Octoraro. They stay low in the cobble which lets them move against the strong current but usually means we just get glimpses of the back half of their bodies. Eels reproduce in the Sargasso Sea, and these babies are the young returning to the Octoraro to live in this creek for the next 25 years when it will be their turn to migrate down river to the Sargasso. Eel numbers are dropping due to sediment choked gravel beds, overfishing, and dams that sever migration routes, so it was reassuring to watch the return of the juvenile eels and I was encouraged to see the next generation of both species getting to know the Octoraro. Here’s to the continued presence of eels and kids in the creek.

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