What (I’m certain you are asking yourself), does a “stinky cheese log” have to do with a blog on fish? And for that matter, what in the world is a stinky cheese log? Rest assured, Dear Reader, that I had no idea that such a thing existed until very recently. Well, it is a much better known fact that catfish are attracted to malodorous items such as dead animals that have lain on the bottom of a river for several days, so it may not come as a surprise that catfish would be attracted to a stinky cheese log with their highly developed olfactory sense. These fetid amalgamations of food stuffs consist of cheese, corn, soybean and other grains, and well, I’m not sure what else but feel free to use your imagination. There are many recipes for smelly catfish baits, and the makers of the stinky cheese logs we used seem to have a recipe that would vie for the prize in a contest.
The operation in which we needed to deploy the baits was a test run to try out equipment for a project backed by the ODNR to comprehensively assess the current fish fauna of the Muskingum River, pre-Asian Carp invasion. The rationale for the project is based on recent e-DNA results taken from the Muskingum River that showed several positive samples for Silver Carp (e-DNA, or Environmental DNA, is a recent innovation where genetic material in an animal’s waste products is taken from water samples). To date no live specimens have been captured in the Muskingum, but the e-DNA may have come from adult Silver Carp cruising up the Muskingum from the Ohio River where several adults have been captured.
We set out on the morning of a fine September day in the Fish Division flat bottom boat. Our cargo consisted of five sets of hoop nets, the 8 foot otter trawl net, and various accouterments necessary for deployment and maintenance of the equipment.
At each hoop net site we dropped a concrete weight, buoy and flag tied to the hoop nets and another weight at the back end.
The hoops are rings of iron, seven in total, sized from a three foot hoop to a one foot diameter. The netting is fitted around the hoops with enough material to drape loosely between the hoops, and includes a net wall with a slit that lets the fish swim in but prevents them from swimming out. On the way back from setting the hoops (five sites in all) we stopped at each site and made three passes with the bottom trawl.
There were no big surprises for the bottom traul hauls for this stretch of the Muskingum River, notwithstanding that the gear has provided some remarkable discoveries with its ability to sample where no sampling equipment has gone before over the past few years. But two days later we headed back out to the hoop net sites to pull in our catch. Not knowing what to expect from the hoop nets I was in for a rewarding experience! Picking channel kitties out of a net is a ticklish task, you must be careful of their barbed dorsal and pectoral spines while doing your best to ensure their health and survival (try not to break their spines to extract them from the netting). Thankfully it wasn’t a particularly warm day which helped ensure they didn’t suffer overly much; every one was observed swimming away from the boat vigorously as we threw them in the water one by one after taking weight and length measurements. Now the nets are put away until next spring, when I look forward to helping with more hoop netting, trawling and electroshocking on the Muskingum River!
OSU Grad Student Paul Larson “weighing” one of the several big Flathead Catfish from the hoop nets
All photos in this post were provided by Paul