Sunday, July 15, 2012

On Sunday, the 15th of July, the 26th day of summer, decide how to enjoy 68 days of summer, all lined up. It is the day of the Largemouth Bass.

I see that purple loosestrife has made its assault upon Hidden Cove
Marsh. I haven't noticed it before, but I have studied the marsh these
last few days. I remember no sign of purple in this marsh last year.
The loosestrife can seed three million plants with seeds from a single
plant. So it moves quickly from marsh to marsh, helped by the wind. I
have seen pictures of loosestrife crowding out cattails and turning
entire marshes purple. I understand beekeepers like the loosestrife
because its plentiful flowers provide plenty of nectar. However,
marshes need cattails.

There's sterile variants of the loosestrife that are planted by
gardeners for their flowery stalks, which shows that a plant in the
wrong place is a weed. A species of leaf beetles, Galerucella
calmariensis, has the power to eat loosestrife like so much lettuce,
decimating a stand. At the Theater Bar in Grand Haven, I met a woman
who studied at Grand Valley State University, where she developed a
method for mapping the Karner Blue butterfly in fields around Newaygo.
People with money actually get in the car to drive up to Newaygo to
see this butterfly with the brilliant blue wings, so Newaygo is
setting aside land where the Karner Blue can do that voodoo that it
does so well. She landed a job with a firm based in Leamington,
Ontario that sells custom insect vectors, everything from preying
mantises to ladybugs. I am thinking of buying her a few rounds of
sparkling wine, her preferred glass, and asking to buy a marsh sized
supply of Galerucella.

We have a boardwalk along the final reach of Cress Creek, and I arrive
home from Jack's BP with two big cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, PBR y'all,
and took up residence in a zero gravity recliner set out by the
apartment complex, Hidden Cove. I went to the rail to see what the
creek had to show, not wanting to write about robins or seagulls yet.
I have thought I would run out of animals to study in this ecology,
but below my view, in shallow water, a Largemouth Bass idled. I was
planning on asking to look into bait buckets and creels to see fish
for my continuing series. The bass cruised ten feet down the creek,
slowly, to avoid my shadow, and I studied its characteristics. I
couldn't see how far back its mouth reached behind its eye orbit. I
couldn't see that tell tale black stripe on its side. I didn't see the
tiger stripes of the smallmouth and I didn't see the larger scales of
the shad. It's the first time I have seen a decent game fish in the
creek. Usually, I see a handful of large shad in the creek during the
spring. When the shad are dying from asphyxiation in Mona Lake in
Spring, a few are smart enough to find oxygenated waters in a
tributary, Cress Creek.

I was promised bass were working in the creek, which has plenty of
places for a bass to hide along the cattail bank. A fellow named Mo I
met at the Mona Lake Boat Club asked about the water depth, which is
twelve inches at most. He was happy to hear that depth because his
boat is flat bottomed, needing only three or four inches of water to
make way. He's a catch and release fisherman who has worked Mona Lake
for more than four decades, a lifetime resident of its shore. He
doesn't love the White Bass, though. As far as Mo is concerned, the
White Bass can wind up in the eagle's nest as dinner. After reading
about the White Bass, the fish that drives the fisherman wild in
Texas, I was pretty sure I wasn't calling a white bass a largemouth.

The creek continued its show. I saw the water boiling in a small patch
of lily pads. I saw a fin go up into the air three or four times, and
I wondered if I was seeing the spectacle of a carp orgy. I first
noticed a carp orgy in the shallow rocky water off the lighthouse
point of Mission Peninsula. Hundreds of carp were meeting up to rub
scales, and I assume, starting carping. The drama resolved itself when
my mink swam away, and I looked in vain for a fish in his mouth. Just
as I am not fully confident I saw a largemouth bass, I am not fully
confident I was looking at a mink swimming away. Although, minks love
to wrestle fish and prevail with a deadly bite to the neck. My
landlady, whose discernment I question, tells prospects that this is a
baby beaver. I have never notice another beaver on this stretch of
creek, nor a dam. After four seasons, I haven't seen this mammal grow
any larger or show signs of a large, flat tail.

The evening kept on giving. I saw an older man with a Cabela's cap on
his head taking his daily walk along the boardwalk. I told him about
the Largemouth Bass. He held out his arms broadly and told me about
the huge carp he spotted Friday night. I believe carp might be taken
with bow and arrow in Michigan, and then used to fertilize petunias. I
am glad that this one doesn't leap out of the water and knock old men
down. I walked down to the end, and two young men were surveying the
creek, the final feet where the creek joins waters with Mona Lake.
They accused the mansion owners for the algae blooms, now appearing.
It is true that fertilizer does wash off the great lawns of Mona Lake.
However, the Annis Water Resources Institute of Grand Valley State
University has counted that point source, and it's very minor. I
pointed in the direction of the Celery Flats, across US-31, a flooded
set of fields through which Black Creek flows, guided by dikes. The
dikes have crumbled, and the water from the flats carries fertilizer
into the creek.

The mother showed up, who had just moved her family into a new
apartment, probably for the academic and sports programs at Mona
Shores High School. I told the boys how shore fishermen fill up their
buckets with White Bass, Bullheads and Catfish. I told her to keep her
eyes open for Eagles, and she grew visibly excited. She was aghast
with how beautiful the marsh looked as the sun grew wan, and asked for
more details about viewing the eagles.

I wished them a good stay at Hidden Cove Apartments, and walked back
to my zero gravity lounger to drink a PBR, watch the sundown and look
for the return of the Blue Herons.

The Largemouth Bass is an alpha predator that will devour all the
local fish and crayfish from its local habitat. I love how easy it is
to fish for them because a golden spoon drawn across its lurking lair
will make it strike in defense. I hear the lunker can swallow a small
alligator, and if we keep having mild winters with no freeze over of
the lakes, we will be up to our necks in alligators.

It saddens me to see only one Largemouth Bass in the creek. The creek
has a dearth of forage fish. I remember seeing hundreds of whitefish,
I think, in the harbor of Pelee Island. I remember seeing all kinds of
yellow perch and bream in the shallows of Euler Lake growing up. I
keep walking out on docks lately and muttering the same line, "no
visible fish". I love to see fish underwater, and have even bought
blue blocker sunglasses to increase my viewing pleasure. I want to see
fish of all sizes, and a fish pond with all kinds of species swimming
about is a frequent dream of mine. One day in Florida, on the shores
of Marco Island, I saw thick schools of forage fish. I could see the
outlines of predator fish and the predators, the forage fish keeping a
lunge length away. I have heard that parts of the underpopulated
regions of the Russian Federation have unspoilt, unfished streams
where plentiful fish swim. I have heard that Great Lakes tributaries
once flocked with so many desirable fish, a fisherman could walk
across streams on their backs. In 2012, I spotted a single Largemouth

It's sad that Big Mouth Billy Bass only sings "Don't Worry, Be Happy"
and "Take Me to The River". I would like him to sing advocacy songs
about improving fish habitat.

The purple strife is loose!
The beetle that ends the strife:
They call Newaygo the countryside. Call me Karner Blue. Karner Blue:
The Alpha Fish:
The world's most successful Big Mouth Bass:

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