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longnose return to cootes

some good signs from the fish barrier...

Kaz Novak, the Hamilton Spectator
No crocs at Cootes
But American eel and longnose gar mark two firsts


The Hamilton Spectator

(May 7, 2010)

An American eel and longnose gar mark two firsts at the Cootes Paradise Fishway this spring, but Royal Botanical Gardens staff report no sightings of either crocodiles or alligators.

Tys Theysmeyer, head of conservation at the RBG, said the eel, an endangered species once abundant in Lake Ontario, is the first caught since 1997, when the fishway began operating to keep destructive carp out of the Cootes marsh at the far west end of Lake Ontario.

He said it might be one of 144,000 released into the St. Lawrence River in a 2006 restocking effort. Eels are small enough to swim through the fish barrier, so it was just chance it was caught in one of the steel baskets used to sort carp from desirable species allowed into Cootes to spawn.

Longnose gar is a large, primitive predator species with an elongated snout and many large teeth. Young males have turned up at the barrier before, but the recent catch was the first female and the first big gar, 1.2 metres long. Theysmeyer said they can grow to 2 metres.

"They are a normal, big, wetland predator fish historically wiped out in Cootes Paradise, but they have hung out in warm water near the steel mills in the harbour, where the Hamilton Naturalists' Club once counted more than 200."

A heavy rain in March submerged the fishway, giving carp a brief free pass into Cootes, but Theysmeyer said few appear to have taken advantage, so the marsh remains largely free of the invasive fish that uproot plants and stir up mud, making the water murky.

He reports the water level in Cootes is down half a metre from last spring's near-record high.

"It's no fun if you're a fish," but it could give a big boost to Project Paradise's efforts to restore vegetation to the wetland.

Instead of planting seedlings as it's done for years, this summer the RBG is fencing off mud flats near the mouth of Spencer Creek, hoping seeds will germinate and grow in much larger numbers than could be planted. The fences are to keep Canada geese from munching on the sprouts.

Theysmeyer said: "The water hasn't been this low in the spring since 1961 and has approached this level only twice since, most recently in 1999, so we've changed our approach to plant regeneration.

"We're focusing on protecting seedlings. There are about 10 hectares of bare mud at the creek mouth now and if we get plants growing on even seven, it would make a dramatic change in the appearance of the marsh. It would also help rebuild as much as half a kilometre of the creek channel. It would make the marsh much more interesting for fish and people."

emcguinness@thespec.com

905-526-4650



http://www.thespec.com/News/Local/article/764918

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