Thanksgiving trip to SC

On Friday, November 25th, Fritz and I met up with Tim to explore the Lynches River and surrounding waterbodies in South Carolina. We had a few sites in mind that Fritz’s had visited in the 80’s, and came up with an itinerary. Being Thanksgiving weekend, we all came from different parts of the state, and met at a gas station in Rockingham, NC.


From there we car pooled to our first location, Campbell Lake, near Patrick, SC.




Our main target here was to find lake chubsuckers, Erimyzon sucetta. Due to the knee to waist deep mud discovered on the bottom of this lake, seining was not a viable option, and we resorted to dipnets.

In the end we managed bluespotted sunfish, lined topminnow, everglades pygmy sunfish, sawcheek darter, and black banded sunfish.


Everglades Pygmy Sunfish - Elassoma evergladei
Everglades Pygmy Sunfish – Elassoma evergladei


Lined topminnow - Fundulus lineolatus
Lined topminnow – Fundulus lineolatus


Sawcheek Darter - Etheostoma serrifer
Sawcheek Darter – Etheostoma serrifer


Blackbanded Sunfish - Enneacanthus chaetodon
Blackbanded Sunfish – Enneacanthus chaetodon


Our next site was a 5 minute drive around the corner. It was a swampy area, with a surprising amount of flow, and quite a bit of SAV considering how late in the year it was. This site was absolutely loaded with pirate perch, with a few bluegill, everglades pygmy sunfish, eastern mudminnow, swampfish, blackbanded sunfish, lined topminnow, flier, and no doubt a few others that I am forgetting.






I did not photograph anything except the flier here, as the rest were already duplicates.


Flier - Centrarchus macropterus
Flier – Centrarchus macropterus


Our next stop was where SC 903 crosses the Lynches River, near Jefferson, SC.



Here we began seining in every conceivable fashion, without much luck. Tim was having no issues catching white suckers with his dipnet, and not wanting to be out fished by the new guy (street cred and all), we gave up on the seine and brought out the big guns.



I’m sure that I’m going to miss a few fish that we caught here, but from memory: brassy jumprock, white sucker, redbreast sunfish, warmouth, green sunfish, redear sunfish, mosquitofish, eastern silvery minnow, swallowtail shiner, whitefin shiner, piedmont darter, tessellated darter, and greenfin shiner.
Greenfin Shiner - Cyprinella chloristia
Greenfin Shiner – Cyprinella chloristia


Scartomyzon sp. cf. lachneri - Brassy Jumprock
Scartomyzon sp. cf. lachneri – Brassy Jumprock

Somehow we managed to lose the white suckers before we took any pics of them, but Tim assures me they are common in the area, so next time!

Our last stop of the day was at a known redlips spot. I had shot a few photos of redlips on a trip earlier in the spring, but didn’t really like the way they turned out, so we stopped to grab one for a quick photo. The location was a spot that Fritz had sampled a few years ago, on Deep Creek, just north of the town of Ruby, SC.

We made 2 passes with a seine, and caught a decent sized redlip shiner, as well as a few highfin shiners.


Redlip Shiner - Notropis chiliticus
Redlip Shiner – Notropis chiliticus
 And lastly, Tim was nice enough to bring me some Carolina Darters that he had caught the day previous to photograph:
Carolina Darter - Etheostoma collis
Carolina Darter – Etheostoma collis
6 hours of driving and 3 new species for the collection, all things considered, not a bad day!

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Bluefin Tuna Sampling

Bluefin Tuna
Bluefin Tuna


Work has kept us pretty busy lately, so in the spirit of adding new content as often as possible, I wanted to share some pictures from a few years ago. The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus is an incredibly large, fast growing, and pelagic fish native to just about the entire Atlantic basin. Our job was to take biological samples, including otoliths and fin clips, from recreationally landed fish for ageing and DNA samples. Unfortunately this is an incredibly dirty process, and I was unable and unwilling to subject my camera to the onslaught of oil and blood. Words cannot express how greasy these fish are! I did manage to take a few cell phone photographs of some of the age structures, but a majority of the photos were of the unloading process, and not of the sampling.

Initially, the fish are tagged, and hoisted off the boat. During the hoist, the fish are weighed for an initial weight.


Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


You will notice in the second picture, that the operculum and gills have been removed. This is done by the angler’s at sea, in order to cool the fish down as quickly as possible after the long fight. The gill cavity is then filled with ice for the ride back in.


Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing



Once the fish are off the boat and weighed, they are measured using the curved fork length. This information will be submitted along with the tag numbers to federal and state fisheries. The fish are then picked back up, and lowered onto a cleaning table, this is where the job gets messy!


Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


The dorsal, anal, and pectoral fins are cut off first:

Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Then the head is removed:

Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Next up, the caudal fin:

Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Now the remaining gills, and all of the guts!

Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


What is left is then loaded into a harness and craned into a deep freezer for the ride to the market. (Most likely in Japan, although some NY and LA restaurants will buy them)

Bluefin Tuna Processing
Bluefin Tuna Processing


Until sometime in the 1970’s, bluefin tuna wasn’t really marketed for human consumption, as it is an in incredibly bloody fish. Old timers talk about selling them to dog food manufacturers, or to burying parts of them in their gardens for fertilizer. How much of this talk is just hyperbole, I don’t know, however in today’s market, these fish command very high prices, and I can’t imagine any dogs getting to enjoy it.

Bluefin Tuna Processing


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New Photography Methods

Lately we have been playing around with shooting fish on white backgrounds. The gist of the process is to use two strobes behind a phototank and pointing at a white wall, then a third strobe to illuminate the fish. You want to overexpose the wall to create the white background. The process is a bit tricky, and one that Jesse can explain much better than I can, but the results speak for themselves!

We still aren’t sure if we like this method better, I am still a fan of the black, but it is very useful for showing features of fins that are lost on black. Since it is winter and fish weren’t exactly jumping into our dipnets, we picked up a few aquarium fishes to test. Any thoughts?



Cherry Barb - Puntius titteya
Cherry Barb – Puntius titteya


Shortfinned Molly - Poecilia sphenops - Var Gold Dust
Shortfinned Molly – Poecilia sphenops – Var Gold Dust


Zebra Danio - Danio rerio - Var. 'frankei'
Zebra Danio – Danio rerio – Var. ‘frankei’


Bluefish - Pomatomus saltatrix
Bluefish – Pomatomus saltatrix


'Oriental River Shrimp' - Macrobrachium sp. c.f. nipponense
‘Oriental River Shrimp’ – Macrobrachium sp. c.f. nipponense


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Speckled Killifish - Fundulus rathbuni
Speckled Killifish – Fundulus rathbuni



In the last few months, Ryan Crutchfield over at, has been working to create an API in order for us to display his wonderful range maps on ncfishes. Because this coincided with a database rewrite, we have been slow to implement it, but I wanted to share a sneak peek of what it will look like when finished:


Fundulus rathbuni



Check out his website at !

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2015 Year in Review

As no doubt you have noticed, we may have slacked off a bit on reporting our trips this year. Rest assured that we made many trips, and photographed many new species, however the work of documenting our progress fell to the wayside. Since I have been asked about this, I decided to do a quick summary of our fish adventures from 2015! Enjoy…


We started out in January looking for new places to collect:



We worked on some bluefin tuna sampling:





In February we worked on collecting speckled trout cold stun event data:







In March we had an article written about the site in a local magazine:



And people started fishing again!



The shad started to run, and we began writing identification guides:





And the yellow perch made a good showing:

yellow perch


In April we began an article on the infamous amberjack worms:


and we shot some video of sheepshead minnows mating:

and we caught some vividly colored rainwater killifish:

Rainwater Killifish - Lucania parva - Female
Rainwater Killifish – Lucania parva – Female


Rainwater Killifish - Lucania parva - Male
Rainwater Killifish – Lucania parva – Male


And we sampled a few new locations:




In May we visited the Green Swamp:



Lined topminnow - Fundulus lineolatus
Lined topminnow – Fundulus lineolatus


Fishing really started to pick up:


juvenile amberjack




Common Dolphin - Coryphaena hippurus
Common Dolphin – Coryphaena hippurus – Juvenile


Permit - Trachinotus falcatus
Permit – Trachinotus falcatus – Juvenile


Greater Amberjack - Seriola dumerili
Greater Amberjack – Seriola dumerili – Juvenile


and encountered all of the commonly caught Lepomis species in the Trent River:

Sunfishes of North Carolina
Top to bottom: Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus), Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus), Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus), Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)


In June we began working on a flounder ID guide:




And did a little bit of microfishing:







and a bit of deep sea fishing:







and lastly, did a bit of spearfishing:





In July we did some backpack shocking on the Black River:








We also managed a few shrimp trawl trips:



Spotted Whiff - Citharichthys macrops
Spotted Whiff – Citharichthys macrops


Fringed flounder - Etropus crossotus
Fringed flounder – Etropus crossotus


American Harvestfish - Peprilus paru
American Harvestfish – Peprilus paru


Bay Whiff - Citharichthys spilopterus
Bay Whiff – Citharichthys spilopterus


In August we sampled seagrass beds and charter docks:












In September we did more dockside sampling:



Spanish Mackerel - Scomberomorus maculatus
Spanish Mackerel – Scomberomorus maculatus


Spot - Leiostomus xanthurus
Spot – Leiostomus xanthurus


Pinfish – Lagodon rhomboides
Pinfish – Lagodon rhomboides


In October, we took a slight deviation from the normal routine, and sampled some sites in the Amazon:





0029peru 0015peru killie3 apisto1reshoot 0074peru 0033peru


In November work kept us pretty busy, but we managed to sneak a few trips in:


(Yes there are actually fish in that little pond)

And lastly, in December we made it out a few more times:

striped bass






Swampfish - Chologaster cornuta
Swampfish – Chologaster cornuta


Eastern Mudminnow - Umbra pygmaea
Eastern Mudminnow – Umbra pygmaea


Pumpkinseed - Lepomis gibbosus
Pumpkinseed – Lepomis gibbosus


Bluehead Chub - Nocomis leptocephalus
Bluehead Chub – Nocomis leptocephalus


Green Sunfish - Lepomis cyanellus
Green Sunfish – Lepomis cyanellus


Creek Chub - Semotilus atromaculatus
Creek Chub – Semotilus atromaculatus




We will do better keeping updates in 2016!



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Species Range Maps in R

The Range of Chologaster cornuta in NC
The Range of Chologaster cornuta in NC


Lately we have been toying with the idea of developing species range maps for North Carolina fishes. Although we wish we could run this project full time, work keeps us rather busy, and having gone back and forth for a while, neither of us really had any concrete solutions that we could accomplish in our limited free time.

Enter R.

R is a statistical programming language that you can read all about here and here. Basically, R allows you to clean, manipulate, and plot data in a very efficient way, for free. As in open source free. Now, neither of us are programmers by trade, but we can read stackoverflow and use google with the best of them. Our code may not be optimised, or use best practices, but it works!  Our script creates range maps using data sets from, and a few crucial R libraries (ggplot2, Cairo).  If you wish to produce your own maps, head over to fishnet, make a data query for the state of NC and download the CSV. We would like to make the download automatic for you, but fishnet requires an api key to interact with their servers, and we aren’t going to share that. Feel free to take a look at the code, rip it apart, and let us know what you think!

Head on over to Github to check out our code: Github

We created a quick markdown file explaining the process here.

In the meantime, we are working on integrating our maps into the site in order to give our readers more detailed collection information, and provide a better experience.



Cyprinella nivea Range in NC
Cyprinella nivea Range in NC
Cyprinella galactura Range in NC
Cyprinella galactura Range in NC
Cyprinella analostana Range in NC
Cyprinella analostana Range in NC
Cyprinella pyrrhomelas Range in NC
Cyprinella pyrrhomelas Range in NC
Cyprinella chloristia Range in NC
Cyprinella chloristia Range in NC



Fish specimen data used in this map obtained from the North Carolina State Science Museum, (Accessed through the Fishnet2 Portal,, 2013-12-21).

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Trip Report – Rockingham, NC

On the 24th of September, we headed down to Rockingham, NC to a previously visited site, Hinson Lake. Hinson Lake is a well known spot for both the lined killifish, Fundulus lineolatus and the blackbanded sunfish, Enneacanthus chaetodon. Having not had any luck in previous attempts to collect F. lineolatus, I wasn’t holding my breath.


The lake itself is about an hour and a half south of Raleigh, and is situated just to the east of downtown Rockingham.

Hinson Lake
Hinson Lake, from the lodge looking east.

The weather was terrible, windy, rainy, and the first cool day of fall, yet after our first swipe of the net, we had two blackbanded sunfish, and one F. lineolatus.

Blackbanded Sunfish
Blackbanded Sunfish
Lined Topminnow
Lined Topminnow – Fundulus lineolatus

With every swipe of the net, we landed more and more blackbanded sunfish. This place is absolutely full of them. We were also netting some species of Lepomis, however, they were entirely too small to properly identify. If I had to guess, I would have said either redbreasted, or dollar sunfish. There were a number or bluespotted sunfish caught as well, being that this fish is ubiquitous in NC, we didn’t bother photographing them.

We had originally planned on spending a few hours collecting at the lake, however we caught all of our targeted species in a single net swipe! The waters around the boat ramp were a little too deep to seine, so I imagine there are a number of other fishes that we missed by just using dipnets. However due to the weather, we didn’t want to hike with all of our gear to find shallower water. Our total catch  from Hinson Lake:

Blackbanded Sunfish E. chaetodon 15
Lined Topminnow F. lineolatus 2
Bluespotted Sunfish E. gloriosus 3
Golden Shiner N. crysoleucas 5
Lepomis spp. 4
Swamp Darter E. fusiforme 1

Our next stop was a few miles down the road, at at Cartledge Creek, off of the Pee Dee River, and just below the damn at Blewett Falls Lake.

Cartledge Creek was at an extremely low water level. Although this concentrated a number of the fishes, it also created deep mud along the banks. Dipnets produced plenty of tessellated darters, and the seines produced tons and tons of spottail shiners, an eastern silvery minnow, a satinfin shiner, a few southern brook silversides, a sandbar shiner, and a few spotted suckers.

Cartledge Creek - Peedee River
Cartledge Creek – Peedee River

Our final stop was at the dam itself, however due to low water levels, photographs were the only thing we could capture.

Blewett Falls - Rockingham, NC
Blewett Falls – Rockingham, NC


Swamp Darter - Etheostoma fusiforme
Swamp Darter – Etheostoma fusiforme
Lined topminnow - Fundulus lineolatus
Lined topminnow – Fundulus lineolatus
Spottail shiner - Notropis hudsonius
Spottail shiner – Notropis hudsonius
Southern Brook Silverside - Labidesthes vanhyningi
Southern Brook Silverside – Labidesthes vanhyningi
Eastern Silvery Minnow - Hybognathus regius
Eastern Silvery Minnow – Hybognathus regius
Blackbanded Sunfish - Enneacanthus chaetodon
Blackbanded Sunfish – Enneacanthus chaetodon
Satinfin Shiner - Cyprinella analostana
Satinfin Shiner – Cyprinella analostana
Sandbar Shiner - Notropis scepticus
Sandbar Shiner – Notropis scepticus
Golden Shiner - Notemigonus crysoleucas
Golden Shiner – Notemigonus crysoleucas

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Trip Report – Croatan National Forest

On the 10th of August, Jesse and I headed out to the Croatan National Forest for a day of sampling. Our targets included Swampfish, Chologaster cornuta, Pirate PerchAphredoderus sayanus, Banded Sunfish, Enneacanthus obesus, Bluespotted Sunfish, Enneacanthus gloriosus, and the ever elusive Lined Topminnow, Fundulus lineolatus. The Lined Topminnow has been reported from many sites near here, and after many failed attempts to locate this fish, we are starting to doubt it actually exists. 

Our first stop was on Catfish Lake road, where it crosses the east prong of Brice’s Creek.

We have had success here in the past, but recent heavy rains have really made this site difficult to sample. After many small pirate perch, some millimeter length swampfish, and a visit from Jesse’s new reptilian friend, he who shall not be named, we moved on.

Exactly what you don’t want to see whilst waist deep in a swamp.

Our next stop brought us a few miles down Catfish Lake rd, to Black Swamp Creek, a tributary of the White Oak River that drains Catfish Lake.


As its name implies, it is a very tannin stained creek, but looked very promising.

Black Swamp Creek
Black Swamp Creek – Croatan National Forest

This spot turned out to be our biggest producer, catching numerous pirate perch, bluespotted sunfish, mosquito fish, redfin pickerel, and flier.

Pirate Perch - Aphredoderus sayanus
Pirate Perch – Aphredoderus sayanus
Redfin Pickerel - Esox americanus americanus
Redfin Pickerel – Esox americanus americanus

As mentioned earlier, this is an excellent spot. We caught new fish with every swipe of the dipnet, or pull of the seine. It is a bit full of branches, but seines still worked. There was a lot of submerged vegetation, and the bottom of the creek was about two feet of leaf litter, making walking easier said than done. Other than the fact that a man high on what I can only imagine was meth stumbled upon us, this site was definitely worth the stop. We would have stayed longer if not for our desire to leave that strange man behind.

Next we worked our way to Catfish Lake proper, but after a few pulls of the seine realized that it was not worth the effort. There was so much abandoned fishing line, gear, and trash in the water, our nets kept getting caught up. So we pushed forward down a new road, Black Swamp Road, that we had vaguely remembered seeing on the collection maps before the trip. This brought us into some old growth pine forest that looked like something out of the cretaceous.


Black Swamp Road - Croatan National Forest
Black Swamp Road – Croatan National Forest

There were ditches that ran along side of the road, and even though they looked like pristine habitat, we were unable to locate a single fish. Our ultimate goal however, was Holston Creek, near Maysville.

Continuing with the cretaceous analogy, we were ready for a dinosaur to pop out at any moment here. This creek, which flows into the White Oak River, was clean, cool, and prehistoric. Fishermen are generally not the most eco-friendly people in the world, and we commonly encounter all sorts of junk from old tires to beer cans and fishing tackle, but this creek seems to be far enough in the forest, that there was no litter. I don’t know why this is a big deal to me, but it was the first time I’ve ever seen that.

Holston Creek - Croatan National Forest
Holston Creek – Croatan National Forest


Holston Creek - Croatan National Forest
Holston Creek – Croatan National Forest

We trekked through the creek for about an hour, catching various fishes but nothing new for today. The water level here was still pretty high from all the weeks rain, which made catching dispersed fishes all the more difficult. I would like to take this moment to try and express the number of biting and stinging insects that we encountered here. If you ever decide to check it out, you wont regret it, just remember to bring your bug spray. We were visited by a fellow collector here, who we had not met up to this point, who gave us a few pointers for places to try next time we were in the area. Since once again the lined topminnow eluded us, we will most likely be back to take him up on his advice.

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