“Fall” fish

As the Harvest Moon wanes, a new season gathers steam, and grocery stores across the country struggle to keep up with the insatiable crowds of pumpkin spice fiends and Halloween-ers. For many, Autumn’s onset floods us with nostalgia, and cozy memories. We wrap each other up in fleece and take our children apple picking. We sit by the campfire and dip Amish donuts in our coffee. We relish the fleeting opportunity to recover from summer’s brutal heat before winter’s cold. There are several species of fish who get to enjoy the “fall” year round, and they are just as cool. But, these fish don’t particularly care for falling leaves. These “fall” fish are named for their preference for falling water.

photo by @bowcastbeauties https://www.instagram.com/bowcastbeauties/
photo by @newjersey_fly https://www.instagram.com/newjersey_fly/

The Fallfish (Semotilus corporalis) is found in northeastern North America where it inhabits cool, fast flowing streams, and often prefers deep plunge pools created by waterfalls. They are members of the chub family, and one of the bigger ones at that. Some anglers love to pursue these giant minnows on light tackle. And their spawning colors can rival any autumnal scene.

A quality shoal bass. No, it’s not a smallmouth.

The scientific name for Shoal Bass is Micropterus cataractae. “Cataracta” is Latin for “waterfall”. This often overlooked species of black bass is endemic to the Apalachicola River Basin in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Anglers from all over the country travel to get their butts kicked in the rocky shoals of the deep south, but few understand the value of this migratory species, or the threats it faces. Dam construction has flooded many of the larger shoals, and in the shoals that remain, sediment from poor land development practices erodes into the river and fills their hidey holes so they can’t survive. For more information on what you can do to help shoal bass, contact the Flint Riverkeeper.

Scientists Discover the Secret to a Cavefish's Weird, Waddling Walk | WIRED
photo by Dante Fenolio

The third species of waterfall fish is miraculous. While the fallfish and shoal bass are restricted to habitats beneath large waterfalls, this species can climb them. The waterfall climbing cavefish (Cryptotora thamicola) is an endangered species of loach endemic to Thailand, and is so-named because it can literally climb up waterfalls. It has evolved robust pelvic fins, which allow it to walk and climb like a salamander1. This is slightly different than the waterfall climbing gobies of Hawaii and Puerto Rico which use a suction cup fin to grip the waterfall’s slippery rock surface. And get this: it is blind. Like many other species of hypogean fish, this loach lives in the dark, so it doesn’t need eyes, or body coloration to live its best life.

Check out this cool article on Dr. Brooke Flammang’s research on this crazy fish.

  1. Flammang, B., Suvarnaraksha, A., Markiewicz, J. et al. Tetrapod-like pelvic girdle in a walking cavefish. Sci Rep 6, 23711 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep23711https://www.nature.com/articles/srep23711

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