From shrinking pool to mountain stream

Alan Elliott
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A guy doesn't expect to be part of a fish-restocking program, almost literally right outside his door.

We were strolling home from breakfast at the Country Cafe the other day, when in a stretch of ditch still with a foot or so of water, Shunda spotted a bunch of tiny fish darting about.

This wasn't the first time for such a sighting along the roadway. A deep ditch, and plenty of spring runoff from Fitzpatrick Mountain, this water would be the same as what enters the network of brooks in the area. These tiny fish were just swept along a different path.
Four or five years ago we'd spotted some little creatures just a little way up the road, in a pool of water left behind as the runoff had slowed. That time, quite an unexpected sight, it turned into a bit of a debate.

"I think they're tadpoles," Shunda said, and the kids sided with her. If they were indeed destined to grow up as frogs, they'd be all right we decided.

I wasn't entirely convinced though. I would pass the same spot every couple of days and always stop to check. The tiny creatures grew, but they sure didn't look like they were growing legs. I eventually began to vocalize those thoughts.

"Listen youse guys. I think those are fish, and they are definitely not going to survive there."

That's when I decided to pull a fish evacuation with a bucket or something. But just like that, from one healthy day on to the morrow, the little pool had shrunk and there was not a live fish to be seen.

I long felt guilty about that, for not acting. So this time, things were going to be different. That afternoon following the restaurant outing, I gathered what I needed: a bucket and fine-meshed swimming pool net. I enlisted the help of our youngest, Tessa, and her visiting friend. Surprisingly, despite her fondness for creatures great and small, Tessa grumbled, but came along anyway.

The kids spotted me from the road above -- for safety's sake, since, you know, it would be just like me to slip on a rock, hit my head and drown in a foot of water. I scooped a half-bucket of water, then started gliding the net through the pool. I got, one, two, or three at a time. I wish I could have known the species, just out of curiosity. Eventually, the muddy bottom and leaves and grass were stirred up making it hard to see. I would try to get in near a big rock where I figured they were hiding, then bring the net across again and would sometimes end up with one of the tiny silver darts bristling in a bed of grass and leaves.

I hauled my catch of minnows -- 25 or so -- back home and hopped in the car. The girls weren't interested in going for the ride, so I was on my own. Steadying the bucket with my right hand on the passenger seat, I used my left to steer and, alternately, shift gears -- not highly recommended, but I went pretty slow.

I got to the brook less than a mile down the road and gently let those guys swim away into a relatively calm pool -- little fish in a big pond now.

The next day I talked Shunda into going on operation rescue part two. We repeated the process and got another dozen or so to transfer to the brook. The next day, same thing, I got another 15 or more. And so on... as long as it lasted.
It was a good feeling, giving about 50 little fish a fighting chance, where otherwise they had none.

Now, if this were an Aesop's Fable, I could hope that maybe one day, while skipping across the brook on rocks, I might slip and hit my head and fall in the water unconscious. A school of fish, recognizing me, would get together and pull me to shore. I would live to tell the tale.

Bit of a stretch? I suppose, but fables do have their place. Facts get in the way too much. Where would we be without poetic licence?

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Recent comments

  • Lola
    January 18, 2010 - 13:18

    All of the local streams feed together locally Kelly, so they weren't introducing a foreign species! Just performing a heroic rescue mission for those left high (& almost dry) by receding waters.... good job Alan (Shunda & Tessa too!).

  • george
    January 18, 2010 - 12:26

    its great what you did but if the streams had not tied in with the place you put the fish those cute little minnows could have ruined ruin the spot for natice speices

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 12:08

    when in doubt regarding rules and regulations concerning the transportation of live fish from one area to another,regardless if it's thought to be the same origin,kindly call the provincial department of fisheries,Inland Division in Pictou to set you straight,i also believe this was an illegal act.

  • Kelly
    January 18, 2010 - 11:53

    While I appreciate that you were saving fishies, you also introduced wildlife into a habitat that it did not come from (and could get some flak over)

  • Kelly
    January 18, 2010 - 11:44

    Well that's good to know, kudos on the fish rescue!