Last Sunday morning, the Wookie and I joined 4 other volunteers from the Sackville Rivers Association to do a species survey of a brook in the Sackville watershed. It involved driving to a spot on the highway, about 10 k from Sackville, hiking about a kilometre into the woods, donning insulated chest waders, and insulated gloves, then elctro-fishing a section of the brook. Colin led the way with the electro-fishing zapper (I'm afraid I don't know the technical name for it), Will was right beside him to scoop anything that surfaced, and Gwen and I took up the rear with a net across the width of the brook to catch anything that got by Colin or Will. It took an hour to travel up stream a few hundred metres. Phew!
The zapper emits an electrical field that once a fish enters results in it getting a stun. Cool. The zapper is quite the device, really, and apparently quite expensive. The TD Bank gave us $10,000 to go towards its purchase - thanks TD Bank! Anyway, we were able to scoop up the stunned fish and put them in a bucket for identification and measurement after we got to the lake from which the brook emerges. We caught a couple of trout, several small mouth bass (which we don't like - they're an invasive species in this watershed), and many eels.
All the info we gather on these types of outings help us determine what part of the watershed perhaps needs human intervention in the form of clean up, un-straightening of the flow of water (remember, we want it to meander, not flow in a straight line), and placement of digger logs and sills (to better oxygenate the water and provide shelter and cooler spots for the fish). It also can give us an idea of the fish species population. And all this information can help us to get funding for various projects.
Small mouth bass are aggressive fish and will destroy other populations. It's not a good sign when you find them. Finding a few trout today was a good sign, though, and the eel population is quite good, too. Colin's field of study concentrated on the American eel, an amazing animal few people understand. Eels hatch in the Sargasso Sea. They find their way all over North and Central America where they enter bodies of fresh water. Once they reach maturity (4-20 years), they swim down stream to the ocean, and back to the Sargasso Sea where they spawn and die.
And we even found a couple of frogs (accidently zapped while we were electro-fishing). After a few seconds they were ok and they swam off to a safer place. On the hike back to the highway, the Wookie pointed out what he thought was a frog on the side of the very mucky and puddle covered road. Against my better judgement, I decided to go the route he was taking so I could see the frog. I was back in my sneakers by this point in time, carrying the chest waders and other gear we had used in the field. One wrong step and my left foot landed in a puddle of muck, leaves, and water. But I did get to see the creature identified as a frog, even though it turned out to be a toad. All in all it was a good adventure.