Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I went for a ride today. A 300 mile ride.

There was a need for someone to travel south to Thompsontown to meet up with a person (Julie) traveling north from Baltimore. The object of this movement was the transportation of some 30,000 tiny little glass eels from the shores of Maryland to the fish labs at Asaph. There they will be kept to grow larger and--hopefully--more robust before being released into Pine Creek in late June.

I've mentioned before how the Tiadaghton Audubon Society (TAS) has linked up with the USGS Fish Labs in Asaph for the purpose of trying to get a healthy population of eels and thence mussels (which use the eels as hosts for their larvae) to the stretches of Pine Creek that run through Tioga County. The mussels would, in turn, help keep the creek water clean for trout species to thrive. (See previous posts here and here.)

Glass eels are very small, baby eels looking to make their way back into the streams along the eastern seaboard. They travel up those streams and pack on the grams before returning to the Atlantic to meet with and mate with other eels somewhere in the great Atlantic gyre. Dams along many rivers make the upstream trip problematic. The little guys (and gals--one assumes another eel can tell the difference) cant get over the dams and shun the easy solutions such as fish ladders. Hence, the taxi service.

In the past, members of the TAS have helped transport larger eels caught below the dams on the Susquehanna River. These were outfitted with a radio tag injected beneath the skin and set free in Pine Creek. But the capture of large quantities of these larger specimens (12-18 inches in length) is now always possible. Glass eels, on the other hand, are extremely numerous along the Atlantic shore at this time of the year. Tiny little things measuring approximately an inch or inch and a half in length and about as thick as a 7 mm pencil lead, they are, with the exception of their digestive tube, nearly colorless, hence the name glass eels.

The ones I was helping to move upstream were swimming off the sand at Ocean City, Maryland on Monday. Scooped from the surf, they spent the night in oxygenated bags of water set inside coolers--in Baltimore. From there, Julie (USGS staff member) transported them north and handed them over to me. I, in turn, brought them to the labs in Asaph. From Ocean City, MD, to Asaph, PA is approximately 370 miles. And they made the trip in just about 36 hours. Not bad for a little worm-like creature just an inch or so in length. (We could save time and gas money, however, if the little buggers would just evolve and grow a thumb so they could hitch hike on their own.)

Not only should they be thankful for the ride, but many of them would have fallen prey to stripped bass, sea trout, blue fish, and quite a few birds as well. Not that they'll find it much easier Once released into Pine Creek. At least they will get a comfortable place to rest and grow (I was told they will probably double in size) for the next three months without having to run the gauntlet to get to the upper reaches of Pine Creek.

No comments: