Hands on Stoneflies and Sculpin

Hands on Stoneflies and Sculpin: Exploring the Logan River Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Exploring the Logan River
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Harvest Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/ Benthic Macroinvertebrate Harvest
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

Merriam-Webster Benthic: of, relating to, or occurring at the bottom of a body of water

Student with a Stonefly Nymph Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/ Student with a Stonefly Nymph
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

Stonefly Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/ Stonefly
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

Sculpin Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS) Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/ Sculpin
Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer

I remember my father on wintery Saturdays mounting his fly tying vice on the kitchen table, and then, from the cavern under the stairs, he’d emerge with his hooks, pheasant and peacock feathers, and other magical threads. I’d watch him spin intricate flies but never realized as a child that they were imitations of creatures I would meet and teach in the wild. When he took me to lakes and rivers to fish, we just used worms and pink marshmallows.

On an animal adaptation learning journey at Wood Camp along the Logan River this fall, our Edith Bowen Laboratory School first graders turned over river rocks, sweeping up all sorts of aquatic critters with nets and buckets to then probe playfully with tweezers and bare fingers. Trip Armstrong, Assistant Director of the National Aquatic Monitoring Center at Utah State University’s Department of Watershed Sciences, led our young investigators and several adult volunteers in identifying these benthic macroinvertebrates, especially the stonefly nymphs we found in every scoop.

These especially intrigued the children because they resemble something from outer space scurrying about on six legs. Stoneflies, both the nymphs and the adult insects, are large compared to mayfly and other critters you find in a river sample, so they stand out in a crowd. The adults have long wings, thus the Greek name Plecoptera meaning “braided wings,” but they are known to be poor fliers. The larvae have two tails or what biologists call cerci, while mayflies have three. Stoneflies have two hooks on their legs; mayflies have one. Stoneflies like oxygen-rich water flowing through their gills along their thorax and under their legs. We noticed some doing push-ups in the bin of river water, indicating it was time to return them to their habitat. Both mayfly and stonefly nymphs are pollution-sensitive, so finding them in such large numbers indicated that this part of the river was very healthy.

When a student approached from the river’s edge with a larger specimen cupped in her hands, I was stunned and a little spooked. “It’s a sculpin,” Armstrong said. These are bottom-dwelling fish that some say are basically big mouths with tails and have unflattering nicknames like “double uglies,” yet I learned later they are quite common. I’d just never met one. In fact, although biologists have determined that the Utah Lake sculpin has been extinct since the 1930s, the native Bear Lake sculpin and sculpin living in the Logan River are sources of food for the Bonneville Cutthroat and other trout.

I guess the lesson, as a wise first grader reminded me this week during our opinion writing session, is “Don’t yuck somebody’s yum.” Stoneflies and sculpin: flyfishers and bigger fish love them. I’m thankful for opportunities to teach in Utah’s wild places because every time I do, I learn something new.

I am Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Edith Bowen Laboratory School (EBLS)
Experiential Learning Eric Newell Director & Photographer https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin
Text: Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading

Beaudreau, Andrea. 2017. Why I Love Sculpins (and Why You Should Too). Coastal Fisheries Ecology Lab. https://annebeaudreau.com/2017/09/05/why-i-love-sculpins/

Bouchard, R.W. Jr. 2004. Guide to Aquatic Invertebrates of the Upper Midwest. 2004. https://dep.wv.gov/WWE/getinvolved/sos/Documents/Benthic/UMW/Plecoptera.pdf

Curtis, Jennifer Keats with Stroud Water Research Center. 2020. Arbordale Publishing. https://www.arbordalepublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=CreekCritters

Dickey, Amy. Water Quality and Macroinvertebrates. https://deq.utah.gov/communication/news/water-quality-macroinvertebrates

Larese-Casanova, Mark. 2013. Aquatic Insects, Harbingers of Health. Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/aquatic-insects-harbingers-of-health/

Leavitt, Shauna. 2017. Bear Lake Sculpin. Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/bear-lake-sculpin-cottus-extensus/

National Aquatic Monitoring Center. https://namc-usu.org/

Pennsylvania League of Angling Youth. 2006. PLAY. https://www.fishandboat.com/LearningCenter/PennsylvaniaLeagueofAnglingYouthPLAY/Documents/AquaticMacrosEnaElpaMayflyPondstream_Allpages.pdf

Stroud Water Research Center. Macroinvertebrate Resources. https://stroudcenter.org/macros/

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Five Aquatic Species You May Not Know Live in Utah. Mottled Sculpin. https://wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks/962-r657-29–government-records-access-management-act.html

Utah State University Extension. Bugs Don’t Bug Me. https://extension.usu.edu/waterquality/files-ou/Publications/AllBugs.pdf

Zarbock, William. 1952. Life History of the Utah Sculpin. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1577/1548-8659%281951%2981%5B249%3ALHOTUS%5D2.0.CO%3B2

I’m Out Fishing

I'm Out Fishing: Hatchery Brood Fish Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Hatchery Brood Fish
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Hatchery staff loading about 8 lbs of fingerling trout onto a scale before loading into a plane tank via a funnel. Courtesy & © Mary Heers Hatchery staff loading about 8 lbs of fingerling trout onto a scale before loading into a plane tank via a funnel.
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

The minute I heard there was a well stacked community fishing pond just five miles down the road from where I live, I dusted off my old fishing pole, slipped out of the house, and threw my line into the Wellsville Reservoir. I had the place to myself. There was snow on the ground but the water wasn’t frozen. Within the first hour I felt the tug on the line and reeled in a 12 inch trout. I was hooked! I returned just about every evening to catch my limit of 2. I called all my friends who liked to eat fish, and started to consider adding fresh fish delivery to my resume.

About this time I heard that although trucks from the state hatcheries stocked the community ponds, the hatchery in Kamas delivered fish to high mountain lakes in the Unitas via airplane. A few phone calls later, and I was lucky enough to get invited to watch the loading of the fish.

It was 5 in the morning when I followed the Kamas hatchery truck out onto to tarmac at the Heber airport. A specially designed Cessna 158 was waiting for us. There – just behind the pilot’s seat- was a water tank neatly divided into 7 compartments. 7 levers stuck out from the dashboard that would open and close a portal on the belly of the plane.

The crew got right to work. One pumped water into the plane’s water tank. Another netted about 8 lbs of fingerling trout onto a scale and dumped the lot into a funnel. Suddenly an especially feisty fingerling jumped out of the funnel and landed at my feet. I picked it up, cradling it in the palm of my hand, awed by the sleek beauty of this tiny trout that was exactly the size of my index finger. I wished it well as I tossed it back.

“Flush,” said the man in charge. And another man with a red bucket of water sent the fish through the funnel into the plane. Soon the pilot took off. When he got to his target lake, he would drop down and skim over the tops of the trees on the water’s edge. He would then open the portal in the belly of the plane and the tiny trout would flutter down like leaves into the water below.

If our feisty fingerling can avoid predators (mostly birds and bigger fish) it will grow to about 5 inches by September. When the water temperature drops to 30 degrees the fish become lethargic and stop growing. Next June, if the lake warms up to 50 degrees, the trout will grow 2/3 inch an month. At 60 degrees, the fish will grow an inch a month. But if the water temperature reaches 70, the amount of oxygen in the water will drop. Any higher and the fish will be severely stressed.

Growing up and backpacking with my family, I was always delighted to come across an alpine lake because it meant that I could take off my pack and stop hiking. But once I got hooked on fishing, I found myself agreeing with the poet Edgar Guest:

    “A feller gets a chance to dream
    Out fishing.
    He learns the beauty of the stream
    Out fishing….”

Now, as far as getting up to the high mountain lakes in the Unitas, one thing is for certain. The fish are already there.

This is Mary Heers and I am Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
Photos: Courtesy
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

Edgar Guest, 1881–1959, Biography, Poets.org, https://poets.org/poet/edgar-guest

Edgar Albert Guest, Out Fishin’, InternetPoem.com, 2018, https://internetpoem.com/edgar-albert-guest/out-fishin-poem/

Betancourt, Sarah, Flying fish: video shows Utah wildlife agency restocking lake by plane, The Guardian, July 13, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/13/fish-plane-video-utah-lake

Facer, Austin, Who says fish can’t fly?: Aerial stocking places fish in lakes via airplane drop, ABC4 Utah, July 12, 2021, https://www.abc4.com/news/digital-exclusives/who-says-fish-cant-fly-aerial-stocking-places-fish-in-lakes-via-airplane-drop/

Knighton, Conor, In Utah it’s raining fish, CBS Sunday Morning, Oct 24, 2021, https://www.cbsnews.com/video/in-utah-its-raining-fish/

Grandaddy Basin

Grandaddy Basin: Oft Have We by Alfred Ralph Robbins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Oft Have We
by Alfred Ralph Robbins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Oft have we, my friends and I,
Left cares of home, and work day woes
To find a haven, there cast a fly;
And where we’ll camp–God only knows.

Oft have we hiked the trail uphill
To see it pass, and again return–
Walked mile on mile, to get the thrill
Of a meadow lake and a creel filled.

Oft round the lake we’ve cast and fussed
And wished it something we might shun;
But something deep inside of us
Just holds us fast till day is done.

Breathtaking Beauty by Alfred Ralph Robbins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Breathtaking Beauty by Alfred Ralph Robbins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Utahn Alfred Ralph Robbins loved exploring the Grandaddy Basin in northeastern Utah’s High Uintas with a group he called The High Country Boys. He compiled his labeled-and-dated sketches of camp and lake adventures among a sprinkling of black-and-white photographs in a scrapbook spanning the 1920s through the 1960s. They were casting at Governor Lake in 1927 and resting at Pine Island Lake in 1952 with 125 trout strung between the trees. I know they fished Pinto Lake, Trial Lake, Betsy Lake, and just about every lake in the area for 40 years. I know they, outfitted by Defa’s Dude Ranch, even stopped “on top of the world” on their way to Hatchery Lake with Alvis Newton Simpson, Robbins’s son-in-law and my grandfather, because he captured and preserved it.

Alfred Ralph Robbins and Grandson Jerry Newton Simpson 1947 Utah Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Alfred Ralph Robbins and Grandson Jerry Newton Simpson 1947 Utah
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
As my father handed down copies of this family fishing scrapbook to his grandchildren, my sons and daughters, after what they called a Fishing-with-Grandpa Simpson Saturday, he included a cover photograph of his Grandaddy Robbins, in his fishing waders, holding five-year-old grandson’s hand. My father added, “I only made one horse pack trip to Grandaddy Basin with Grandpa Robbins, but it was a very eventful week. It stormed one day and we could hear the rocks tumbling down the mountain when the lightning would strike and dislodge them. Another day there was a mayfly hatch as we were fishing one of the lakes. When that happened, the fish would bite on anything that hit the water. The mosquitoes just about ate us alive, and repellant didn’t help much. We saw some fish about three feet long near the rocks on shore, but we couldn’t get them to bite. We caught plenty of other fish and ate fish for supper most days that week.”

Do you have similar memories in the wild with your grandparents recorded somehow? Turning to one of my favorite books, “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place,” I read again how Terry Tempest Williams described the memories with her grandmother among avocets, ibises, and western grebes during their outings in Utah’s Great Salt Lake wetlands. Grandmother Mimi shared her birding fascination with her granddaughter Terry along the burrowing owl mounds of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Williams wrote, “It was in 1960, the same year she gave me my Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds. I know this because I dated their picture. We have come back every year since to pay our respects.”

I’m not a grandmother yet, but I will one day make a trek over Hades Pass again, gaze at the Grandaddy Basin below, and capture nature’s poetry with pen, camera lens, and little hiker hands in mine. Bloggers have technologies today to share instantly with me and the rest of the world their adventures in this Grandaddy Wilderness region. Documenting autobiographical history has evolved from dusty diaries and scrapbooks with black-and-white photographs to today’s digital image- and video-filled blogs in exciting ways that can include the places in Utah you love with the generations you love. Consider it your contribution to history.

Grandaddy Ohs and Ahs by Alfred Ralph Robbins Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Grandaddy Ohs and Ahs
by Alfred Ralph Robbins
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

I would not miss the Oh’s! and Ah’s!
I’ve seen in Doug’s and Noel’s eyes,
When first they saw Grandaddy Lake
From the summit, in the skies.

They are thrilled I know, and so am I.
They show it in their face;
While I just swallow hard and try
To thank God for this place.

I am Grandaddy Basin poet Alfred Ralph Robbins’s great granddaughter Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Williams, Terry Tempest. 1992. Refuge: an unnatural history of family and place. New York: Vintage Books. https://www.amazon.com/Refuge-Unnatural-History-Family-Place/dp/0679740244

Andersen, Cordell M. The Grandaddies. 2015. http://cordellmandersen.blogspot.com/2015/06/photoessay-backpack-1-2015-grandaddy.html

Wasatch Will. Fern Lake: Chasing Friends in Grandaddy Basin. 2018. https://www.wasatchwill.com/2018/06/fern-lake.html

Delay, Megan and Ali Spackman. Hanging with Sean’s Elk Party in the Uinta’s Grandaddy Basin. 2015. https://whereintheworldaremeganandali.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/hanging-with-seans-elk-party-in-the-uintas-grandaddy-basin/

Rhodes, Shannon, Wild About Nature Journaling, Wild About Utah June 22, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-about-nature-journaling/

Cisco Fishing and Then Some

Cisco Fishing and Then Some: Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers
Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach
Courtesy & &copy: Mary Heers

Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach
Courtesy & &copy: Mary Heers

Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach
Courtesy & © Mary Heers

Bonneville Cisco: Male and Female The more colorful male is larger below the tape. Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer. Bonneville Cisco: Male and Female
The more colorful male is larger below the tape.
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer.

For two weeks every January at Bear Lake, the Bonneville Cisco, averaging 6 to 8 inches in length, swim out of the deep waters to spawn in the shallow, cobbled shoreline on the eastside. They come in the thousands, broadcast their eggs and sperm into the shallow water, and leave.

In the recorded history of Bear Lake, there is a picture of a Swedish immigrant who, in the early 1900’s, took his gill nets to the Eastern shore and caught Cisco. Over the years, after gill nets were outlawed, people started using small nets on long poles to pull the Cisco out of the shallow water. Bear Lake, at close to 6,000 ft elevation, is cold in January. Anyone fishing would tend to hop from foot to foot trying to stay warm. From a distance it looked like dancing. And so the Cisco spawning run got its name: Cisco Disco. In 1980 it became part of the Bear Lake Winter Festival, including a free fish fry breakfast at Cisco Beach.

So on Jan 22 I showed up at daybreak and found a fire blazing in a firepit, and hot oil starting to boil over propane cookstoves. Out in the water, up to their waists in hip waders, people were swinging their nets through the frigid water. No one was catching fish.

The Cisco were running late.

So we ate whitefish instead, and homemade scones with raspberry jam, and agreed the Cisco would probably show up the next week.

I borrowed some hip waders and boots from a friend. As I drove back to Bear Lake, I noticed the outside temp showing up on my dashboard said -6 degrees. I wondered if I was tough enough to fish for Cisco. But when I pulled up at Cisco Beach I was surprised to find that for the first time in six years, the water had frozen. People were hammering holes in the ice with shovels and pick axes.

The Cisco were already there. Soon the air rang with happy cries of “I got some!” Everyone was counting. When they got to 30, the Cisco limit, they gathered up their takings and left. Most were going home to put the fish in the freezer. Come warmer weather, they would use the Cisco as bait when fishing for the bigger fish in the lake, the Whitefish, the Cutthroat, the Lake Trout. After all, Cisco are the main diet of these larger fish, and a very tempting bait.

I thought I was done with winter fishing until I started to notice more and more pop up tents on Bear Lake and the local reservoirs.

“Ice fishing?” I asked friends.

“We love it!” they said. I asked if I could go along.

I had always thought ice fishing meant standing over a hole in the ice, shivering and hoping against hope a fish might come along. Boy, was I wrong.

The propane heater quickly made it cozy inside the pop up tent. The auger, powered by an electric motor, drilled down through 2 feet of ice in less than 2 minutes. Then the sonar fish finder took over.

“Fish at 12 feet,” my friend said. I let out some line.

Its so much easier to catch fish when you can drop of tasty bit of bait close to them. The 3 of us caught 38 fish in three hours.

And I got hooked on ice fishing.

This is Mary Heers and I am Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Audio: Shalayne Smith-Needham and technical engineers J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin
Text: Mary Heers

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

Bingham, Lyle with Ron Goede, Voice by Linda Kervin, Bonneville Cisco, Wild About Utah, February 11, 2009, https://wildaboututah.org/bonneville-cisco/

Fishes of Utah: A Natural History (Hardcover)
by William F. Sigler (Author), John W. Sigler (Author), Joseph R. Tomelleri (Illustrator),
http://www.amazon.ca/Fishes-Utah-William-F-Sigler/dp/0874804698, pp 23, 24, 194-196

Are Bear Lake’s Ciscos a Joy or Curse?, Angler Guide, http://www.anglerguide.com/articles/112.html

Winter Fishing Comes Naturally at Bear Lake, Utah Outdoors, http://www.utahoutdoors.com/pages/bear_lake_winter.htm

Bonneville Cisco (Prosopium gemmifer) [Version 2020-04-20], Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, https://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/sensitive_species/fishes_bonneville_cisco_2020.pdf
Bonneville Cisco, USGS, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=922