A Migratory Fish Photo Adventure on Deer Creek

Saturday, May 24, 2014, is the inaugural World Fish Migration Day. People across the globe will be learning all about fish that are making magnificent treks in order to reproduce, live, and hopefully thrive. To get into the spirit, I spent a day in the field with a fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Jim Thompson. It was fantastic to be out on the river on a beautiful day listening to the sounds of nature and learning about migratory fish sampling. As you can see, Jim and I are ready for our adventure!

Jessie and Jim on Field Adventure, Deer Creek, MD | © Jessie Thomas-Blate

© Jessie Thomas-Blate

First, we went out to a dock on the Susquehanna River in Maryland to see the DNR crew electrofishing in the river for fish to bring back to the hatchery. Maryland DNR Fisheries Service Hatcheries Division is responsible for production of nearly two dozen species for fish stock enhancement, education and outreach, shellfish production, cooperative fish culture projects, and restoration of anadromous species in Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay.


© Jessie Thomas-Blate

Next, Jim and I traveled around the bend to a tributary of the Susquehanna River called Deer Creek.  Apparently, Deer Creek is a popular spawning location for river herring and hickory shad.

Deer Creek, MD | © Jessie Thomas-Blate

© Jessie Thomas-Blate

Jim planned to take samples of spawned eggs at five locations along Deer Creek over the course of the day. At our first stop, Jim talked about the egg sampling, and I captured his explanation for you to see in the video below.

On our way to the next site, we were traveling down the river and saw a beautiful bald eagle hanging out in a tree. I guess it was also appreciating the bounty of migratory fish available for lunch. Yummo!

Bald Eagle, Deer Creek, MD | © Jim Thompson

© Jim Thompson

Further down the river, we did some more egg sampling. I took a close-up so that you can see what the eggs look like!

Jim egg sample, Deer Creek, MD | © Jessie Thomas-Blate

© Jessie Thomas-Blate

We also had to work around some friendly people fishing. They didn’t seem to mind us, and we were happy to see them out enjoying the river!

Fishermen, Deer Creek, MD | © Jessie Thomas-Blate

© Jessie Thomas-Blate

Further down Deer Creek, Jim thought that he saw some blueback herring, so he threw out a cast net to see if he could take a sample of the fish.

Castnet on Deer Creek, MD | © Jessie Thomas-Blate

© Jessie Thomas-Blate

Alas, they were alewives and not blueback herring. While alewives are a migratory species, they are not a target of this particular study.  So, we let them go about their business in the river.

We also took a quick stop to clean out the Wilson’s Mill Fish Ladder. You can see some videos about that adventure in another blog.

Finally, the moment had come. Jim was going to let me do a sample myself! While I am a fisheries biologist by training, it has been a while since I have been out in the field. I was excited to get out into the river. So, I put on Jim’s wading boots and tried not to slip on a rock and fall flat into the river. Thankfully, there is no video of this. Just a picture to document the event for posterity.

Jessie sampling on Deer Creek, MD | © Jim Thompson

© Jim Thompson

All in all, it was a great day out on the river. I appreciated Jim’s hospitality in letting me tag along his sampling adventure, and was so grateful to be outside enjoying the day. Now to find the next excuse to get out on the river… you should too! Also, don’t forget to celebrate World Fish Migration Day on May 24th!