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Looking for Mountain Redbelly Dace


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#1 minorhero

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 09:44 AM

Hello folks,

 

I live in central Maryland and this weekend the wife is giving me a whole day away from the kids to do anything I want. 

 

And what I want to do is find some Mountain Redbelly Dace. I have a whole day to do it but only a day. Its also... not really the season. That said, if anyone knows any streams or spots (preferably in public land) where I can find Mountain Redbelly Dace in Northern / North Eastern VA I would greatly appreciate the heads up. Front Royal is 2 hours from my house and while looking at historic reports there have been sightings of Mountain Redbelly dace that far north I am unaware if there have been any in say the last decade. So if I need to look somewhere else, it would be of great help to know before driving over that way. Thank you folks for any tips.



#2 andrew

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 02:03 PM

When I used to be an active collector, we hunted MRBD a lot looking for the closest spot in NoVA.  The closest we found them in good numbers were in the streams that leave the SNP near Sperryville.  You do have to be careful there though as the landowners do not like to see nets given those streams hold brookies.  

There are rumors that they are in a stream or two near Fredericksburg but I don't have first hand experience with that.  We did look at potential sites but never were able to find them. 

I do believe the reports near Front Royal (Happy Creek and Passage Creek) but again, no first hand experience there.  



#3 minorhero

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 03:05 PM

When I used to be an active collector, we hunted MRBD a lot looking for the closest spot in NoVA.  The closest we found them in good numbers were in the streams that leave the SNP near Sperryville.  You do have to be careful there though as the landowners do not like to see nets given those streams hold brookies.  

There are rumors that they are in a stream or two near Fredericksburg but I don't have first hand experience with that.  We did look at potential sites but never were able to find them. 

I do believe the reports near Front Royal (Happy Creek and Passage Creek) but again, no first hand experience there.  

 

Thank you! I am definitely interested in any areas you know about near Sperryville. Just looking on Google Maps I can see a thorton river that goes onto public lands so that's a possibility.

 

Sperryville is around an hour farther from me then Front Royal, my plans there were to go to Passage Creek as you noted. If anyone has knowledge within the last decade of Passage Creek Mountain Redbelly Dace populations I am extremely interested.



#4 andrew

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 08:23 PM

I don't have an exact location as it was years ago but I'm pretty sure the tribs (N. Fork Thorton River and Piney River) have them in good numbers. Many roads follow the rivers so you may just have to jump in at a crossing.

The two collections on fishmap.org for the Passage Creek sort of imply they are found throughout. Passage is another one that has brookies in the upper stretches so just be careful of where you go.

I haven't looked at the rules in awhile but afaik you can't "collect bait" in the SNP and the wildlife management areas. Downstream of them is pretty much fair game as long as they aren't stocked waters.

#5 minorhero

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 07:26 PM

I don't have an exact location as it was years ago but I'm pretty sure the tribs (N. Fork Thorton River and Piney River) have them in good numbers. Many roads follow the rivers so you may just have to jump in at a crossing.

The two collections on fishmap.org for the Passage Creek sort of imply they are found throughout. Passage is another one that has brookies in the upper stretches so just be careful of where you go.

I haven't looked at the rules in awhile but afaik you can't "collect bait" in the SNP and the wildlife management areas. Downstream of them is pretty much fair game as long as they aren't stocked waters.

Wow I am super glad you posted this. I had assumed that SNP would be the same rules as the rest of virginia. I forgot of course that its the fed and they will have their own special rules. I prefer not to entangle myself with the law whenever possible ;) I will stick to streams outside of the national park.



#6 minorhero

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 03:16 PM

I just got back home from my day of collecting. I am coming unfortunately to the realization that while I thought I caught a bunch of mountain redbelly dace, I probably only really have 1 and it is probably a female. What I thought were redbelly dace are probably some kind of sucker. A torrent sucker being my current guess.

 

Here are some pictures:

 

1xQhC4K7.jpg

 

C3TCSce.jpg

 

GxbHg0k.jpg

 

My guess is that 1 is my dace. Kind of hard to make out through the bag but it looks about right. 2 and 3 is some kind of sucker that I now have half a dozen of. 

 

I also caught several darters and let them go and brought home 3 sculpins, I think either black or banded. 

 

Can anyone confirm my sucker suspicions? 



#7 andrew

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 04:42 PM

Where did you end up?

Suckers appear to be Northern hogsucker, Hypentelium nigricans. Sculpins are most likely mottled sculpin, Cottus bairdii.

#8 minorhero

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 06:07 PM

I went to a small park off of Happy Creek for my first site. That is where I found my only 2 mountain redbelly dace. (the second one literally jumped out of my hand while trying to identify it and successfully escaped). I did catch quite a few blacknose dace and some species of shiner (mountain or possibly mirror, not really sure) and a lot of darters (tessellated I think) and the sculpins. A lot of juvenile sculpins. I kept 3 of those and the dace. 

 

Then I went to another park off of the rush river. That's were I caught the suckers and probably the same species of shiner and some more darters (definitely tesselated this time). There were more blacknose dace there as well but I never caught a mountain redbelly dace there. 

 

Spent probably about 2 hours at each location. Method of collection was a 6 foot seine.

 

I looked for places to go on the thorton or piney rivers but there were very few parks around and none on those rivers that I could find. I figured the rush was close enough but sadly it was not to be.


Edited by minorhero, 10 November 2019 - 06:27 PM.


#9 El Todd

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 07:27 PM

I caught a MRBD in a minnow trap a couple weeks ago in Washington and Jefferson National Forest. I always see quite a few in this very small creek I go to whenever I make the trip to W&J. I don't think it's too far from Luray. 



#10 Matt DeLaVega

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 08:09 PM

First fish isn't MRBD but it could quite possibly be a rosyside dace. I am not familiar with torrent sucker, but it looks good for it. Pretty sure your Cottus would have to be bairdii, you are out of range for carolinae.


The member formerly known as Skipjack


#11 minorhero

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 09:24 AM

First fish isn't MRBD but it could quite possibly be a rosyside dace. I am not familiar with torrent sucker, but it looks good for it. Pretty sure your Cottus would have to be bairdii, you are out of range for carolinae.

 

Its a really terrible picture, here is a better one in my quarantine tank

 

C6XqOQ1.jpg

 

Here are some pictures of two of the sculpins

 

HGpMEqB.jpg

 

NkWe8V8.jpg



#12 Matt DeLaVega

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 08:49 PM

Whoa, That is MRBD. It looks very odd though. very plump.


The member formerly known as Skipjack


#13 minorhero

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Posted 12 November 2019 - 06:47 AM

Whoa, That is MRBD. It looks very odd though. very plump.

 

Well fed? Heh I am quite the novice so I can't really say. But the other one I had my hand on for 5 or 10 seconds before it escaped looked very similar. So maybe something regional?



#14 andrew

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Posted 12 November 2019 - 03:36 PM

We've identified differences between the Rappahanock drainage MRBD and specimens from their "native" range.  It's hard to describe but they just look different.  I'm suspecting the Potomac drainage ones are similar.  

 

I also went back and read your report and realized that you found the sculpin in the Potomac drainage so your sculpin should be Blue Ridge sculpin (Cottus caeruleomentum) or Potomac sculpin (Cottus girardi).  



#15 Matt DeLaVega

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Posted 12 November 2019 - 07:23 PM

I was way off. Didn't even know these sculpin species existed.Lol.


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#16 Chasmodes

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 12:18 PM

Very cool minorhero.  Of course, after hearing about your trip on the other forum, I had to come here to check it out :)

 

MRBD in the Potomac drainage?  Does that mean that they either have or will make the trip downstream to Maryland?


Kevin Wilson


#17 minorhero

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 02:28 PM

Very cool minorhero.  Of course, after hearing about your trip on the other forum, I had to come here to check it out :)

 

MRBD in the Potomac drainage?  Does that mean that they either have or will make the trip downstream to Maryland?

 

Well I speak with absolute authority that I haven't a clue ;P In order to find this location in Virginia I did a bit of searching and found some historical references (more then 10 years old) to them being in Passage Creek / Front Royal Area. I haven't found any reference anywhere of them being closer to Maryland then that. I was intensely interested in finding them as close by as possible simply to eliminate extra driving. 

 

However 2 hours of using my seine in a stream only turned up 2 of the little fellows but did turn up lots of other fish. Maybe its the time of year or maybe I really needed to be 20 minutes further south to Sperryville as suggested. I haven't found online an equivalent in Virginia of the stream studies you showed me in Maryland so its hard to know where they might be located and in what numbers.

 

We've identified differences between the Rappahanock drainage MRBD and specimens from their "native" range.  It's hard to describe but they just look different.  I'm suspecting the Potomac drainage ones are similar.  

 

I also went back and read your report and realized that you found the sculpin in the Potomac drainage so your sculpin should be Blue Ridge sculpin (Cottus caeruleomentum) or Potomac sculpin (Cottus girardi).  

I went searching for information on these two species and came up with an old thread on this forum about Blue Ridge sculpin and apparently how they were found not far from where I turned up my fish. I am thus guessing they are Blue Ridge Sculpin. Apparently this is a species that has only been described for less then 20 years which is pretty nifty. It also means there is pretty much no literature on them but /shrug I am guessing they are pretty similar to other sculpins around these parts.



#18 andrew

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 02:42 PM

Very cool minorhero.  Of course, after hearing about your trip on the other forum, I had to come here to check it out :)

 

MRBD in the Potomac drainage?  Does that mean that they either have or will make the trip downstream to Maryland?

 

In theory, yes.  They are found in both the N. Fork and Happy Creek dumps into the main stem right at the confluence so I wouldn't be surprised if they are downstream.  That's a long way to Harper's Ferry...  

 

One day you'll be catching MRBD and rainbow darters from the same stream! 



#19 Chasmodes

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 02:52 PM

 

In theory, yes.  They are found in both the N. Fork and Happy Creek dumps into the main stem right at the confluence so I wouldn't be surprised if they are downstream.  That's a long way to Harper's Ferry...  

 

One day you'll be catching MRBD and rainbow darters from the same stream! 

 

Oh man, I can't wait for that!!!


Kevin Wilson


#20 andrew

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 02:54 PM

 

Well I speak with absolute authority that I haven't a clue ;P In order to find this location in Virginia I did a bit of searching and found some historical references (more then 10 years old) to them being in Passage Creek / Front Royal Area. I haven't found any reference anywhere of them being closer to Maryland then that. I was intensely interested in finding them as close by as possible simply to eliminate extra driving. 

 

However 2 hours of using my seine in a stream only turned up 2 of the little fellows but did turn up lots of other fish. Maybe its the time of year or maybe I really needed to be 20 minutes further south to Sperryville as suggested. I haven't found online an equivalent in Virginia of the stream studies you showed me in Maryland so its hard to know where they might be located and in what numbers.

 

I went searching for information on these two species and came up with an old thread on this forum about Blue Ridge sculpin and apparently how they were found not far from where I turned up my fish. I am thus guessing they are Blue Ridge Sculpin. Apparently this is a species that has only been described for less then 20 years which is pretty nifty. It also means there is pretty much no literature on them but /shrug I am guessing they are pretty similar to other sculpins around these parts.

 

If you were solo seining, it may be tough to catch them.  We had the best luck with a 10' seine going through 4-6' deep holes.  One you coral them, they are easier to pick off with a dipnet or smaller seine I suppose.  If you found two, I'm sure there are a good amount more. 

 

Regarding the sculpin, Matt was right in the sense that they used to be mottled sculpins (C. bairdi).  There were a few discussions with some of the fish that I posted years ago about where they fell in line with the 3 species.  Dave Neely was pretty active on the forum at the time and is co-authored here https://www.research...n_United_States.  





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