Tuesday, May 24, 2016

World fish migration day at Riveredge Nature Center


Did you know there was a World Fish Migration Day? I didn’t. But Riveredge Nature Center in Ozaukee County was honoring it and I found out when I got a Facebook invitation to attend. So I went. It was on Saturday and the weather—finally—was splendid and warm enough to feel like summer had arrived. Reason enough to go for a walk in the woods along the Milwaukee River!

According to the official World Fish Migration Day website, the one-day “global-local” event is intended “to create awareness of the importance of open rivers and migratory fish.” Although I don’t really need a reminder that open rivers are healthy rivers and fish need to migrate freely, I was curious about the event.

I arrived at the river just as a team of fish specialists from the Ozaukee Fish Passage Program, which co-sponsored the day, was wrapping up a fishing expedition. Clad in hip waders, they used electroshocking to stun the fish and scooped them up with nets. Then they brought the catch back to a floating dock where visitors including several families were waiting to see what they had.

The fish were dumped into a tank on the shore where children could press their faces up against the glass and get a good look. Some of the kids eagerly reached in and held up a wriggling specimen. Most of the fish were no more than a few inches long. The prize of the day, however, was the approximately 18-inch smallmouth bass (top). I asked if that was an unusual size and was told that the record at Riveredge was 20 inches, so yes indeed, it was a good find.

In the tank along with the fish there were a couple of healthy, native crayfish. This was a good sign as the invasive rusty crayfish has been aggressively competing with the natives in Milwaukee’s rivers.

Later I went for a walk in the woods where I found a wealth of spring wildflowers and, of course, collected some photographs. 


Tangles of roots, dead trees and branches in the river provide good habitat for migrating fish, as the crowd was told by the fish specialists.

A particularly lovely fungus specimen on a stump

 The may apples, which were budding but mostly not quite ready to flower, were the most spectacular ground cover species I noticed. Here they carpet a hilltop.

May apple, worm's eye view

I only saw this one tent caterpillar colony, however it doesn't take but one to give me the willies. The devastation the caterpillars can cause to a woodlot is one of my earliest childhood memories relating to the balance of nature.

The forest was full of trees bearing bright red-orange markings. I enquired about them. Some years ago a team from U.W. Stevens Point had done a tree study in order to improve forest management techniques. The types of marks indicate a variety of tree species and conditions.

The original owner of the land that is now Riveredge Nature Center had developed a modest version of a Dells-like resort, I was told. Crumbling and overgrown foundations are all that remain of the endeavor.

false rue anemone, vole's-eye view

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