They’ve been like fish out of water since last fall. This summer’s splash down, such a relief.
The school is finally in.
With glee. Free finning. Fast tailing it.
Probably sculling away as fast as possible.
In case those scientist studying shiners change their minds.
Note to Smalleye and Sharpnose shiners: keep an eye out for those nets.
Not to mention the Igloo coolers….shiver.
The little shiners had heard horror tales about those from the largemouth bass.
(Well. can you really trust types like the largemouth or gar?
Those entreating gulps of “Here, little shiner. Quick hid in my mouth! If they scoop you up, you’ll disappear into those coolers and never be seen again! We love helping you little endangered guys.”
Maybe those big mouths were fear mongering?
Hooked on terror?
Should a tiny minnow believe a top-tier fish?
Come to think of it, did those large finned ones really transport gullible shiners to a world where life was nourished?
Or was that just a rumor by those sneaky channel catfish?
No one ever saw that shiner bunch again. Maybe they did find Nirvana? (They could have called.)
The little ones have never been able to count on help from the top of the food chain.
(Occupy the Brazos! Wait, that’s a little fishy.)
Unlike last year, the Brazos River is flowing now.
Encouraging for the dating Smalleye and Sharpnose shiners.
They may be petite at less than 4 inches, but they are athletes!
Their short lives are spent with wild abandon.
Living life in the fast lane, shiners insist on at least 100 miles of fast running water in order to party.
Their society doesn’t frown on the resulting semibouyant eggs drifting dozens of miles.
(Just think of party pinatas and Cascarones confetti eggs! It’s not litter!)
A popular snack in the food chain, the little shiners were managing despite the building of reservoirs reducing their playgrounds to just the upper Brazos River. Until the drought of 2011.
A Texas Tech biology professor, Gene Wilde, worked with state biologists to rescue thousands of the tiny fish who were transported to a state fish hatchery last fall.
The little fish guys survived, but weren’t really happy. Not feeling amorous.
Then the word bubbled out: the rains have restored the river.
The shinners were going home.
The hatchery waters rippled with excitement.
Rumors flowed across scales.
The middle section of the river, between dams, isn’t long enough for their marathon spawning swims.
And that toxic golden algae has caused fish kills there.
So that area is too much of a risk for the endangered shiners.
No pool party there.
But some would be going home to the upper Brazos.
(Returning after all that time! That would give the big mouths something to talk about!)
Some were invited to participate in higher education: 150 of each type were going to Texas Tech University to participate in research programs.
Not surprising. Everyone knows how important fish are for brain power.
Those shiners could hardly wait.
Blushingly, there was talk of wild spawning encouraged there.
It’s a college campus. (Toga! Toga! Party!)
And 700 of the strongest would be given a great challenge: to return to ancient channels of the lower Brazos.
Pioneer fish ready to spawn.
Sent in to re-establish a school in an old neighborhood.
A precaution. Spreading the risk with a separate population.
An attempt to guarantee survival of a species and a vital element of the fish food chain. (Well, bass, catfish and gar have to eat, too. Shiners seems to be realistic about it all.)
Send them in coach. They’re ready!
So recently 700 tiny hopes for the future were set free near Hearne.
So far so good
Some evidence of spawn has been spotted.
It will be a year before population growth and survival is know.
Shiners only live for 2 or 3 years. Some have spent half their lives in crowded captivity, depressed.
Another concern is whether the lower river conditions will support the shiners now that they have returned. Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Kevin Mayers says fish “tell us how the river is doing.”
So swim little shiners!
We’ll wait until you have something to say.
We know it will be important.
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge
CBS VIDEO. “Scientist Saving rare fish from drought damaged river” (Sept. 2011)
Houston Chronicle. “Rare Tiny fish receive big help in survival” ( June, 2012) Article of fish release.