Trip Report – Morehead City, NC

On Thursday, October 16th, I drove by the Morehead City visitors center looking for a sergeant major (Abudefduf saxatilis) that frequents the floating docks. Although I failed to find that damsel, I did notice a number of gobies swimming around in a storm water retention pond in the parking lot. This struck me as odd, being that it is freshwater, and has no obvious flow into the sound. I really wanted to capture these gobies, however I quickly realized that this was going to be a two person job, and decided to wait for an opportunity to seine the pond. Due to some bad weather, we weren’t able to return until Saturday. Although retention ponds were never really a focus of ours, sighting gobies really got us excited, and the pond definitely did not let us down.

Morehead City Visitor's Center
Morehead City Visitor’s Center

 

The sheer amount of algae growing in this pond really hindered our efforts, but in the end we pulled seine nets, and dip netted the every square inch, and were incredibly surprised with our catch:

 

Eastern Mosquitofish Gambusia holbrooki
American Eel Anguilla rostrata
Fat Sleeper Dormitator maculatus
American Freshwater Goby Ctenogobius shufeldti
Lyre Goby Evorthodus lyricus
River Goby Awaous banana

 

Although the american eel, the mosquitofish, and for the most part, the freshwater goby, are ubiquitous around here, the lyre was a nice surprise. The lyre is not necessarily rare, but it was our first time encountering it.

American Freshwater Goby - Ctenogobius shufeldti
American Freshwater Goby – Ctenogobius shufeldti
Lyre Goby - Evorthodus lyricus
Lyre Goby – Evorthodus lyricus
Fat Sleeper - Dormitator maculatus
Fat Sleeper – Dormitator maculatus
Fat Sleeper - Dormitator maculatus
Fat Sleeper – Dormitator maculatus

On the topic of rare gobies however, the river goby, A. banana is quite rare in the United States, and it just so happens that Jesse caught one in his dipnet. Other than one specimen collected after a fish kill in a tributary of the Cape Fear River in 1996, our catch is the only other known occurrence of this fish in North Carolina, and is without a doubt the furthest north of any recorded specimen.

River Goby - Awaous banana
River Goby – Awaous banana
River Goby - Awaous banana
River Goby – Awaous banana – After 18h in formalin

After exploring the pond for a few hours, we determined that the gobies and eels must have entered the retention pond during spring tides that corresponded with rain events, and came up the pond’s overflow that flows into Bogue Sound. This is the only plausible explanation, as the overflows are graded in such a manner as to prevent fishes from reaching the pond during normal weather. Either way, it is a catch for the record books!

 

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Trip Report – Cove City, NC

On Tuesday, October 7th, we drove to Cove City, NC in search of ironcolor (Notropis chalybaeus) and dusky (Notropis cummingsae) shiners.

A coworker had pointed out a few creeks in the area to us that looked suitable for collecting, and after some research, and an hour and a half drive, we were pleasantly surprised. The main creek running through this area is Core Creek (even though Google calls is Grape Creek), which was our first stop this day. The creek itself was at a very low water level, and was a coarse sand bottom punctuated with chest deep pools.

We managed largemouth bass, black crappie, tessellated darter, redbreast sunfish, bluegill, dusky shiner, and a fair number of shrimp and crayfish.

Bluegill
Bluegill – Lepomis macrochirus
Black Crappie - Pomoxis nigromaculatus
Black Crappie – Pomoxis nigromaculatus
Dusky Shiners
Dusky Shiners

Since ironcolor and dusky shiners are so difficult to distinguish in the field, we kept a bunch of them and systematically identified each individual. In this case, they were all dusky shiners. After a few photographs, we moved on to our next site.

Eastern Grass Shrimp - Palaemonetes paludosus
Eastern Grass Shrimp – Palaemonetes paludosus
Dusky Shiner - Notropis cummingsae
Dusky Shiner – Notropis cummingsae
Largemouth Bass - Micropterus salmoides
Largemouth Bass – Micropterus salmoides
Dusky Shiner - Notropis cummingsae
Dusky Shiner – Notropis cummingsae

Our next site was Grape Creek, just below the confluence with Core Creek.

Although Grape Creek wasn’t much to look at, it held a surprising variety of fish species.

 

Grape Creek, Cove City, NC
Grape Creek, Cove City, NC

 

Grape Creek, Cove City, NC
Grape Creek, Cove City, NC

In our first pull of the seine, we landed:  pirate perch, warmouth, bluegill, redear sunfish, mosquitofish, dusky shiner, redbreast sunfish, crappie, and a flier. Not bad for a little puddle really. Because we had already photographed a majority of those fishes, we only saved the redear.

Redear Sunfish - Lepomis microlophus
Redear Sunfish – Lepomis microlophus

After crossing the road, we seined one more time on the backside of the creek, and although substantially deeper, we were able to catch another incredibly diverse group. This haul contained: redear sunfish, bluegill, redbreast, flier, black crappie, mosquitofish, and creek chubsuckers. The creek chubsuckers weren’t new to us, even though they were unexpected, but adult creek chub suckers were new. Up until this point we had only encountered and photographed juveniles, and the adults were a bit of a challenge due to their size.

Redbreast Sunfish - Lepomis auritus
Redbreast Sunfish – Lepomis auritus
Creek Chubsucker - Erimyzon oblongus
Creek Chubsucker – Erimyzon oblongus
Redbreast Sunfish - Lepomis auritus
Redbreast Sunfish – Lepomis auritus

By this point it was starting to get dark, so we packed up and headed home. All things considered, this unassuming creek was definitely worth the effort to sample, and worth a revisit in the future.

 
 

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