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2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008
, J. Atchison

Tropical Fish, Angelfish and Bettas

In May, 2000 my daughter, Katy, graduated from Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri. What an opportunity to take a few days and do some collecting in the Osarks. Katy and I were on the road minutes after the ceremony was over...and the good-byes...and the hello/glad to meet yous...and lunch with the family.

We had to drop her Mom and Sister off at the airport in Kansas City, then headed East to spend the first night in Jefferson City. Jefferson City is more or less in the middle of the state and on the North edge of what one might consider the Osarks. I'd be remiss if I led you to believe that the trip actually started in Missouri. While Katy may have been going to school in Missouri, the family lives in California some 1500 miles to the West, two time zones away, several weather systems removed and I had never been in the areas we were to collect in.

The trip really started nearly a year prior to the actual trip as an idea of mine. I had wanted to go collecting for native fish having caught the native bug from a friend, John Boylan. John and Andre, another fish friend from Holland, have been on several trips and the fish they have shared with me really took me down a road...this time to Missouri.

Thank goodness I have an understanding family. My daughter of course agreed to go with me...but my other daughter, Sarah, was going to have to manage the hatchery while I was gone and of course my wife was more than generous by letting me play in the water.

A trip like this one is not really all that difficult while in the field. But the planning did get a little daunting at times. I borrowed a couple of books on specific fish of Missouri and read them three times...maps you ask...three kinds are in our possession. We have compasses (who needs GPS when you are a Boy Scout?)...we have Styrofoam boxes in duffels bags, we have cameras (including an underwater one) and film...we have nets and bags...we have waders and bugspray and sunscreen and sunglasses and we have our notebooks to keep track of the details...we didn't have room for the kitchen sink. The airline has a restriction of 3 bags per person. Oh well, we decided we didn't really need a sink in the field anyway.

Through the planning process, several alternatives were developed in the case of weather challenges. I'm glad we had alternatives because just a week before the scheduled trip torrential rains struck the area just 70 miles East of  our prime collection sites. Luckily the rains were in a completely different river system, so we could keep to alternative "A". Most importantly, because we had planned alternatives I could stay focused on the preparation for the trip and not worry about the weather.

Planning for the trip is an obvious requirement of any collection effort. Part of the planning was learning about some of the fish that we would be interested in collecting. I love to read about fish so that the reference work was not a big deal. The hardest part of the research was deciding which fish we would not seek out and if we did find them we would not attempt to bring them back. Constructing biotopes that would be appropriate for the various fishes that might be coming back was also fun. Downsizing the hatchery so that we could make room for the new fish was the most difficult thing we had to deal with. The facility was not designed with native fish in mind. Larger tanks and longer tanks are at a premium in the hatchery and we would need all that could be made available to house the fish we wanted to bring back. Gravels and rocks were added to some tanks, algae was actually encouraged to grow. In anticipation of the new fish and their needs, additional mosquito barrels were started early in the winter. The plan came together pretty well.

The Saturday before we left, I bit into a cookie and broke a tooth. My dentist understood completely...it was an emergency. I couldn't afford to have a broken tooth while on a fish collecting trip...two trips to the Dentist during the week and the final details for the trip were in place.

You probably get the idea. The upfront part of the process was a little more involved than one might think. We had fun through the process, but the trip...

Day One: Dropping off the Mom and Sister...off to the Ozarks
Day Two: The Marie River System...looking for Darters and Shiners
Day Three: The Spring River System...Madtoms and Crawdads
Day Four: The Last Day...How do we get all this home?
Some Final Comments about the Trip