On Friday, February 19th, I was wading up to my knees in the main current downstream of the dam at Oxford Mills, counting Mudpuppies. The count was 140 that night – 20 shy of our record! I was training the big spotlight on the pinkly glowing sinuous shapes of giant feathery-gilled salamanders when I was startled by a phalanx of large, ghostly grey, linear shapes moving upstream toward me.
The last fish we saw here this season was a cold-stunned Rock Bass, waving its pectoral fin helplessly in the air as it was carried around in an eddy after having been swept over the dam. Traditionally fish let themselves drift downstream towards Kemptville and the Rideau River when winter chills the upper creek. In the summer below the dam we see Pike and Perch, Rock Bass, Sunfish and Bullheads – and large Carp too.
On early winter Mudpuppy Nights we have netted a Fallfish or two, and once Fred took a rare Rhynicthes cataracta (Longnose Dace) out of the mouth of a Mudpuppy – but fish sightings are rare here after the beginning of December.
After we settled at our table in the Brigadoon Restaurant Fred passed me his journal page so I could do a memory sketch of the fish I’d seen “running” up toward the dam in a tight school – because we’re not sure what they were! They were grey with noticeable scales and a broad dark green lateral stripe. I took two photos, which mostly show beautiful ripples and a couple of probably warped fish head shapes. Perhaps they were Fallfish, but why they were tightly schooled and approaching the dam is an interesting question… The school of about thirty individuals, each about 3o cm in length, dispersed as it went past me, and we saw no more coming after – except a half-sized one hanging out near the bridge on the west side.
Life is an adventure – you never know what’s going to happen once you put your waders on and get out into it! (Fred’s waders have holes in them – that’s why I’ve been delegated to Friday night wading on Mudpuppy Nights).