September 24 – The reef tank

Tuesday morning I received the assortment of marine invertebrates I had ordered from Gulf Specimen Marine Lab.  They were extremely generous, and sent me about twice the amount of stuff I ordered. Here’s the list:
sea anemones, starfish, brittlestars, sea urchins, sponge, sea whip, living rocks, hermit crabs, snails, sea cucumber.  It was a lot to add to the tank at one time.  Everything was alive, and continued to live, at least for awhile.  The hermit crabs (four big ones) immediately set to work picking on everything else, especially the sea stars, which got pretty beat up.  The anemones didn’t look too good, and from what I read, their prospects are not favorable.  The collection only has to last long enough for my students to get good long looks at them.  It will be interesting to see what persists.  

The little blue damsel was probably wondering what the heck was going on.  She had the place to herself until the invertebrates came.  there goes the neighborhood.

This is one of the problematic hermit crabs. 

The purple anemone was very impressive.

Wednesday we tagged 8 monarchs, mostly because one guy found the motherload and brought in five.  One student brought me the wrong species, but I was happy to see it.  It was in perfect condition, like it had just emerged.  I had only seen one once before, two years ago. 

The goatweed leafwing looks exactly like a leaf.  The dorsal aspect has lovely orange coloration, but they don’t show it off much. 

By Thursday the two sea stars were dead and mostly dismembered.  I suspect the hermit crabs played a role.  I bought some frozen shrimp and we fed everything that afternoon.  We noticed one little barnacle was living.  I predict the anemones will die next.  When I got home, a friend had left a snake for me to identify. 

It was a young Midland Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi).  I saw my first one last spring on a field trip with the plant class.  This one was not happy being held.

Friday was meeting day, starting bright and squirrely at 8 a.m.  We had a consultant in to talk about advising and diversity.  I had a student teacher to supervise, then the consultant again, then a division meeting to work on accreditation.  That was a full day.

Stacey and I were casting about for something interesting to do over the weekend, but ended up doing our normal garage sale run.  We actually got out of the house earlier than usual.  The first deal I got was a rod/reel combo for a dollar.  Not the highest quality rig, mind you, but it looks like it was brand new when the tip top broke and it was abandoned.  The next stop brought the best deal: a set of scuba gear.  It included two tanks, buoyancy compensator, regulator, gauges, full length wet suit (my size!), hood, fins, weight belt and carry bag.  I talked them down a bit in price.  When I got home I looked up some of the stuff online, and the value totals something over ten times what I paid.  I’ve wanted to learn to scuba since Stacey and I went snorkeling in Florida three years ago.  Now I gotta get certified!

I spent the rest of the morning cleaning up the stuff, though it’s all in good condition and of recent vintage.   I spent the afternoon framing and mounting prints, mostly for a contest at Stacey’s agency. 

Sunday I took the kayak out to Wakonda State Park.  It just opened a couple of weeks ago after being closed all summer due to the flood.  I remembered one of my students saying that the fishing was best after the flood of ’93.  I was counting on the same effect.  Given the addition of a bunch of river fish and the lack of fishing pressure, I could understand.  There were a lot of fish hitting the surface when I arrived.  I tied on a hula popper and got a couple of strikes right away.  I tossed it over a log, gave it a couple of pops and hooked into a nice bass.

15 inches

A few minutes later another log and another bass, half an inch longer.   I thought it was going to be a big day for bass, but I had a long dry spell after that.  There weren’t many logs.  I fished around the island, but still got nothing.  There were acouple of guys in a bassboat off a point of the shore.  I didn’t want to cut them off, but they appeared to be anchored.  I went around them.  On the other side of the lake the surrounding fields are still covered with water and, as a result, hundreds of waterfowl.  I climbed up on shore for a look (and a pee). 

American white pelicans and Canada geese.  Train freaks will note the freight cars in the background.

This could be my first photo of a great egret.

Pretty sure this pelican was dead.

When I got back near the island I was ready to head in to the launch ramp, but those two guys were still in their bass boat.  One reeled in a nice crappie.  Ah ha!  That’s what they were up to.  An older couple in a jon boat was near them, and I moved in farther down shore.  I tied on a crappie jig and casted about.  I caught the world’s smallest bass.  Shortly, the guys in the bass boat left.  I took their spot and anchored after conferring with the jon boat people.  I thought I’d nail maybe 10 crappies then go home.  I tried many lures and retrieves before I got a bite, and the first crappie was too small.  I released it.  I picked up maybe two more, and changed lures a few times, even boating a little bluegill.  The older couple was slaying them.  I think they had live minnows and I didn’t, but I thought I should go with something white.  I rooted through the little tackle box I carry on the kayak (gotta save space) and pulled out a small spinner with a white jig that highly resembled a shad.  Shad were jumping and getting slammed everywhere.  I started picking up a fish here and there, including some larger ones.  I hooked a largemouth once that gave me a nice tug, and surprised the couple.  They eventually left.  I had the whole place to myself.  I decided I’d settle for five, then go home.  But they were really starting to bite better.  So I persisted after number five was on the stringer.  Something hit the lure, and hard.  I fought it while it turned my boat around.  It was the bonus fish, a white bass (or perhaps a hybrid white/striped bass).  It was 14 inches.  I can just imagine what an 18-incher (like the one I caught last June) would feel like in the kayak.  It’s a good thing I quit after that, as I found later I had no hooks on the lure.  When I pulled the kayak up to the launch ramp the park rangers pulled up in their squad car.  They checked me for my license, which I had.  I don’t think they even looked at my fish.  I got the kayak mostly loaded and moved of
f the ramp, as there were two trucks waiting to load their boats.  I pulled over to get the last few straps on, walked around the car and bonked my head on the stern of the boat.  Can’t see things overhead with the dork hat on.  Bit my tongue pretty badly too.

I think I caught five species: l.m. bass (5), white bass (1), bluegill (1), black and white crappie (10, didn’t keep track of which was which). 

There’s nothing quite like a big thunderstorm–at five o’clock in the morning.  That was our alarm on Monday.  Neither I, the wife, nor the dog were happy.  It rained like mad for awhile, but quit before I left for work.  Sleep deprivation is not fun.

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