Monday, July 14, 2008

Conservation Commission Hosts "Fish Fry"

photos by Laurie Meeder

Volunteers from the Effingham Conservation Commission assisted biologists from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and environmental scientist Rick Van de Poll in electroshock fish sampling today on the Pine River and Wilkinson Brook. The sampling is part of the Wildlife Action Plan study in Effingham, which is the state's first.

The team entered the river downstream from a beaver dam on Long Point in the Lost Valley development and worked up against the current. Fish and Game personnel operated three battery-powered units and directed the netting.

The shock briefly stuns fish and other aquatic creatures which the netters can scoop up and place in buckets. It causes far fewer fatalities than other sampling methods and yields a vastly larger number of specimens according to Van de Poll. He and the other ECC volunteers were surprised, however, that the ones gathered today did not float as visibly as he had observed them to do in previous samplings. That and the silt made the netting challenging.

The river bottom contour changed radically in places. The bottom varied between sand and mud, with boulders and water-logged tree trunks. A knee-deep section could give way to a hole several feet deep. But the day was warm, and so was the river. The only danger was the electricity, but no one got shocked in any of their dunkings. The shockers responded instantly to any outcry or large splash.

Species included brook trout, pickerel, yellow perch, fallfish, white sucker and a couple of crayfish.

Naturally I netted the primo crustacean for the day. Anyone surprised?

After lunch, which did not include seafood, the team moved on to Wilkinson Brook, a much narrower stream. I managed to forget my camera when I nipped home on the lunch break to pick up some other things I'd wished I had, like binoculars (still looking for that heron rookery), so I have no pictures of that jungle slog. For a small stream it had some surprisingly deep holes. We also missed capturing a brook trout large enough to laugh off our puny voltage. We did gather a number of burbot, more perch, a catfish and more brookies.

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