Friday, July 6, 2012

Stranded Darter

The Barred Fantail Darter has joined Creek Chub and Black-nosed Dace on the list of fish species found at Blue Jay Barrens.  I saw a darter in the creek about 20 years ago, but didn’t have a camera or net with me at the time, so I couldn’t identify it.  This brings my list total up to three species.  Not too bad for a creek that spends so much time without water.

I found the darter in these last dregs of a drying pool.  I associate darters with clear, moving water.  The pool bore no resemblance to my mental image of proper darter habitat.

At first sight, I thought the fish was dead.  The color seemed off and I couldn’t detect any motion at all.  Then I noticed that the silt had been swept from the rock by movement of the pectoral fins.  Maybe it was alive.

A closer examination revealed that the head was actually out of the water.  Once again I decided it was dead, so I scooped it up for a closer look.  When it made a feeble flop against my hand, I reassigned it to the living column.

I’ve always been fascinated by darters.  Their lack of a swim bladder causes them to move by making short hops across the stream bottom.  I didn’t feel right about letting this little guy perish in a muddy pool, so I created a bowl out of a folded leaf, added water and transported the fish to the section of the creek that is the last to go dry.  A spring emerges a short way up the channel and the water disappears below ground just below this pool, but this portion is clean, cool and slowly moving.

If the fish survived the move, it should thrive here for a while.  I normally take greater care to acclimate fish to their new environment, but the fish had no chance of surviving where it was, so I gave my best effort towards an impromptu rescue.  I’ll probably never know the final outcome.  If it dies, I’m sure it’ll get eaten in short order.  If it survives, it will probably remain so well hidden that I’ll never see it.  Anyway, it was fun to find another fish species that utilizes the Blue Jay Barrens creeks.


  1. You did your best for the little fish. That's new information for me about their lack of a swim bladder.

  2. Hi Pat. Many years ago I maintained a few of these fish in an aquarium. The way they moved around reminded me of Mud Skippers. That made them a little more mysterious in my eyes.

  3. I've never heard of these fish- I learn something new every day!