I took a friend (the aquarist at the Glen Echo Park Aquarium) out dipnetting to some sites on the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday. I wasn't expecting much because it seemed early to me. Last year, I didn't start collecting until mid-June, and although I caught my first blenny, it was a juvenile, and we only caught one. We didn't find any adults until about a month later. But what we found changed my opinion about the timing of collecting this ecosystem.
At our first spot, the SG was only 1.011 and the water temperature was 68F degrees. We caught the usual assortment of crabs, shrimp, a few mummichogs and three young four spined sticklebacks. I kept along with two species of Ulva, a few shrimp and some amphipods. We brought a ton of grass shrimp back to the public aquarium, as they make for great food for many of their larger fish. We collected a few naked gobies, but not many benthic fish at all at this spot.
All of my other spots in this region (considered "middle Bay") usually are within point of the specific gravity, but the second spot was actually 1.014, and our last spot was the same. We wound up catching quite a variety of species at these spots, including mummichogs, Atlantic silversides, rainwater killies, naked gobies, juvenile Atlantic croakers, one skilletfish, and two beautifully colored striped blennies. We also collected some invertebrates, including amphipods, shrimp, several anemones, a clump of mussels, some sea squirts, a couple jellyfish, and two species of mud crabs. But the cool thing was that we collected three species of benthic fish (two striped blennies, one skilletfish, and one naked goby) that were in oyster shells guarding eggs! We brought these male fish back to the public aquarium along with their eggs. When we returned to GEPA, the blennies were inside their oyster shells with the eggs. I thought that was amazing.
But, what I learned was the my preconception about it being too early to find blennies was all wrong. We found them in about 4' of water in discarded oyster shells with eggs, in May. I had much doubt that we'd find them this early, much less in spawning mode. It was quite a trip. Here are a couple pics:
Juvenile Atlantic croaker (these were released because they are well under the legal limit being a gamefish, and we didn't have our scientific collecting permit yet for this year- application in the works). These guys would have been great in their oyster reef exhibit. Hopefully, we will find them after we get our permit.
Male adult striped blenny, Chasmodes bosquianus, sporting his spawning coloration. We collected two of these guys, but no females collected this time. These colors were much prettier than this photo shows, especially the bright blue spot on the front of the dorsal fin that is really muted in the picture. We were so excited to catch these guys and that they were also both guarding eggs!
I have pictures of the sticklebacks, but they didn't turn out well. You will be able to see them in my tank thread in a video.