Monday, April 16, 2012

Field Notes: Week 1 on the Conasauga River

One of TNACI’s conservation projects is propagation and augmentation of Conasauga Logperch (Percina jenkinsi).   We, along with Conservation Fisheries, Incorporated (CFI), have been working with this endangered fish for the last couple of years.  One aspect of this project is studying the genetics of the Conasauga Logperch.  We want to make sure that we are maintaining the naturally high genetic diversity of the population when we reintroduce captive bred logperch into the Conasauga River.  In order for CFI to get broodstock to hatch juveniles, and for us to get fin clips for genetic sequencing, each year we work on the river to catch the fish.  They are usually found in riffles and fast moving water, so in the past we have snorkeled at bridges along the river, working in nearby habitat that looks favorable for Conasauga Logperch.  This year, we decided to try something different.  To cover more habitat in less time, we took boats in various shapes and forms down the river, stopping in the riffles to look for fish.  On April 5th, Pat and Crystal from CFI joined us in their canoe, Ashford and Evan took kayaks, while Anna and Dave took paddle boards.

It was a great day to be on the water.  We were in for a treat as the buffalo were running upstream to spawn.  Many of them had scars or lampreys attached.  We saw tens of thousands of these fish!

School of buffalo

Catching logperch can be quite challenging as they're pretty smart.  The best way to catch them is to snorkel until a fish is spotted, then herd it into a small dip net. These fish tend to be found in fast moving water over coarse substrate like cobble and gravel.  This can make the task of catching the logperch challenging. Many times the fish would begin to swim upstream, and they are much faster at it than we are.  
Herding a Conasauga Logperch
However, we were able to catch seven of these imperiled fish.

Crystal from CFI after catching a Conasauga Logperch
Percina jenkinsi
We weren’t keeping any of the fish this trip. Once we caught a Conasauga Logperch we took its photograph and a small piece of the anal fin for genetic testing. It was then released back into the river.

We will be back out there on April 12th and 13th, looking for more of these very special fish and to release juveniles. 

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