Adventures with the Humpback Chub

Brandi Salmon, Guest Blogger

Well, I must say, going from large, saltwater fish to the not-so-large, freshwater specimens involves a slight amount of adjustment. Being a marine fisheries biologist in South Florida, I am constantly measuring anything from small grunts to huge sailfish. Southeast Florida is known for having a diverse fishery thanks to its tropical ecology, so when I decided to make a trip to the Grand Canyon and help in a study of the fishes in the Little Colorado River, I was surprised by the limited number of species that inhabited the waters.

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The Little Colorado River (Credit: B. Salmon)

I was selected to become a volunteer this past May with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Flagstaff, AZ to participate on a study of the native and nonnative fishes in the Little Colorado River, specifically focusing on the endangered humpback chub. We flew in by helicopter and camped down by the river for 10 days. Each day we would set hoop nets and come back the next day to see what was trapped inside. There are only four native species in the Little Colorado River—the humpback chub, bluehead sucker, flannelmouth sucker, and speckled dace; we saw each of those species throughout the trip. There are a few nonnative species that coexist in the river, as well—common carp, channel catfish, brown trout, and a few others.

For each hoop net that was pulled, all fish were taken out to be measured and thrown back alive. All of the chubs and suckers were sexed and scanned for PIT tags. If the fish had a PIT tag, the tag number was recorded; if the fish did not have a PIT tag, it was given one. Every now and then, a fish was required to get its picture taken for Facebook!

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Sampling fishes of the Lower Colorado River (Credit: B. Salmon)

Making this trip to the Grand Canyon was one of the most memorable and educational experiences I have had the pleasure of being a part of. Not only did I get to see one of the most unique areas in the world, but I traveled and camped with some pretty interesting and knowledgeable people, too. I can now say that I have a newfound respect for the freshwater realm—just because they’re smaller, doesn’t mean they are any less important!

 

Brandi Salmon (yes—a real fishy last name!) is a Fisheries Biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

 

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