Today was the annual clean out of the fish ladder at Heffler's Mill. I've blogged about this before, but will refresh your memory. The fish ladder was built to aid fish, like salmon and eels, get upstream. The ladder runs next to a falls on the Sackville River and every year at this time, the Sackville Rivers Association cleans out the debris that accumulates over the winter in the rungs of the ladder and in the holding cage at the top. The holding cage is kept open all winter and closed over the summer and fall to allow us to count the number and species of fish traveling through. (We also are able to catch a few female salmon, while they are in the holding cage, that we send to a fish hatchery about an hour away.)
I can help clean out dead leaves, branches, and rocks that get caught in the top and sides of the cage, but I leave the shoveling of the rocks at the bottom of the cage and rungs to younger folks. That's when I usually go on a coffee run for the group of us. So there's not a lot I can do, physically, except sometimes empty buckets of rocks into the main part of the river.
The best part of the exercise, for me, is discovering the creatures that live at the bottom of the cage, normally on the river bottom. First though, pictures of the fish ladder rungs at capacity, and then after we block the water from entering:
I discovered a tangled mass of roots from some long dead plant or shrub that had been washed into the cage. In this mass were the usual suspects, like wormy insect nymphs, rocks, and stones, but also something I was unaware of until today. Pea or fingernail clams!! Tiny little things, freshwater, and food for fish and leeches. Cool.
One of the other volunteers found an insect nymph that would scare the hardiest of Alien hunters, if they were any larger than they are. Take a look at it to see if you can figure out what this nymph will be in another month or two (hint: the eyes and legs are the only thing that remain the same in the adult and the nymph)
If you said "dragonfly" you'd be right. The eyes are really the giveaway.
And while sitting on the edge of the empty holding cage, I spied a worm like creature at the bottom in the muck....a closer look revealed a leech. I took it out for an even closer look and pictures, of course. It stretched out to about the length of my thumb:
Because we had a relatively mild winter, there wasn't as much debris in the holding cage as in previous years. Actually, last year we had to delay the cleaning because the water level was extremely high and the river flow was too fast.
We had several young women join us today, newcomers to the organization, and really hard workers. Hopefully they had as much fun as I did.