Missouri’s Stream Fish

And now for something completely different…  I have been working on the following video off and on for most of the summer.  I’ll post it up here, and will speak a little about it and share some stills and other photos below.  I would love to hear any thoughts you might like to share.

Working on this video has been educational in more ways than one.  All the footage used was taken with the GoPro Hero 3 (gifted to me by my lovely and generous wife, Sarah.  Thank you!).  Although capable of tremendous quality, there are challenges and many things to learn when making this type of video.  Although I improved with a little practice, a few problems are still apparent in the final cuts.  There is a back available for the GoPro that allows you to see what is being filmed in real time. However, this piece cuts the already limited battery life by a lot, and I do not own one.  This resulted in the fish being partially or fully cut out of the frame more often than desirable.  I partially corrected this problem by finding some prescription swim goggles (quite cheap!), snorkel and swim shoes.  This combination allowed me to get in the water and behind the camera.  After a little practice, filming the different species in such a way as to not intimidate them became easier.

Another issue that I had is obvious at different parts of the film – early stage hypothermia.  Although these clips were made on some of the hottest days of the summer, these spring-fed streams cooled me down so much that I could not control my limbs from shaking.  I am considering investing in a wet suit to avoid this in the future.

This activity helped start me on knowing Missouri’s fishes a bit better.  I had never given much thought, but so many species have to be in-hand in order to get a proper identification (at least by me).

Long-eared Sunfish
Long-eared Sunfish

The Long-eared Sunfish were incredibly brilliant.  When filmed in less than three feet of water under direct sunlight, the colors dazzled.

Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass

The Smallmouth Bass were quite common, slowly patrolling the pools that were their private hunting grounds.

Hogsucker
Hogsucker

The bottom feeding Hogsucker were one of my favorites.  Quite colorful and contrastingly patterned, they could still disappear easily on the sun-dappled stream bottoms.

Green Sunfish
Green Sunfish

The Green Sunfish were one of the most common and surely the least shy stars of the film.  Quite often they would inspect the camera and our skin with their mouths.

Minnow
Minnow

Even with field guides I find it impossible to name some of the minnows.  These guys were surprisingly large.  I think they may be a shiner species, but am unsure.

Red Horse
Red Horse

There were many large Red Horse species found in deeper stretches of the streams.

Spotted Bass
Spotted Bass

This was the only Spotted Bass individual we were to come across.

Darter
Darter

Greenside or Johnny Darter?  I just can’t say.

Yellow Bullhead
Yellow Bullhead

The star of the film?  I think so…

Wood Duck Drake
Wood Duck Drake

The out-of-water footage was taken via canoe along the upper stretches of the Jack’s Fork River.  A terrific trip we had, back in May, where the weather was fine and the birds were plentiful.  Getting to know the underwater vertebrates really helps to appreciate the roles many of the birds play along an Ozark stream and how all the members of this intertwined ecosystem make their respective livings.  This Wood Duck drake posed for a short time towards the end of the day.

Osprey
Osprey

Finding an Osprey is a telltale sign that there is a quality fish community below our seats.

Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk

The high-pitch sound of the Broad-winged Hawk almost always precedes a look.  This was no exception.

Green Heron
Green Heron

Green Heron know where the fish are to be found as well.

Spotted Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper

Typically, if you spot a shorebird along an Ozark stream bank, it will be the Spotted Sandpiper.  Look for the indicative bobbing of the tail as it makes its way along the rocky shores.

Common Map Turtles
Common Map Turtles

Common Map Turtles were found anywhere they could get a surface on which to bask.  They were so keen on heating themselves up that we were allowed to float by at pretty close distances before they took the plunge back into the water.  These guys will feed on the invertebrates such as mollusks and arthropods as well as any fish they are able to catch.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Finally, it just isn’t a trip out to any significant Missouri waterway without finding a Bald Eagle or two.

 

 

 

Bill & Steve’s Excellent Adventure, or On Quest to find an Overland Route to Jam Up Cave

I had read about and viewed photos of Jam Up Cave along the Jacks Fork River for a number of years.  Every source I could find made specific mention that the only way was by boat along the river.  The case being that I am still most comfortable and knowledgeable on my lug-soled boots, I figured it would be a while before I got a chance to see it.  Then, in one of the recent cover stories from the MDC’s Conservationist, Brett Dufur highlighted the Upper Jacks Fork and mentioned Jam Up Cave that lies at the confluence of Jam Up Creek and the Jacks Fork.  This prompted my friend Steve and his father to find an overland route via the Jacks Fork Natural Area.  Within a few days of their visit Steve graciously showed me the way.  I have marked what I believe was our general route to the cave from a small pullout.  County Rd OO 491 can be accessed off of OO north of Hwy 60 just east of the town of Mountain View.

Jam Up Cave Route

The hike was not too long, but it deserves highest marks in terms of the difficulty of the terrain.  We bushwhacked our way mostly along ridge tops but enjoyed the burn of moving up near 500 vertical feet.  I had my first look at the end of Jam Up Creek, a losing stream that vanishes underground among boulders and rubble of the karst topography that dominates this watershed.  We then entered the rear of the cavern where we were treated to views like these.  Can you find Steve in this one?

IMG_3419

“The Grand Perspective″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG, ISO 400,  f/8, manual blend of three exposures

This next one is a bit deeper into the cave looking towards the front entrance across the forbidden pool.  The drop from this side to the pool would have been near 30-40 feet.  From both sides of the pool, impressive looks can be had of an underground waterfall.  Try as I might, I could not find an interesting way to make a photograph of it.  Did we find Smeagol?  We’ll never tell.

IMG_3449

“The Forbidden Pool″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 25mm, ISO 320,  f/11, manual blend of three exposures

From here we made the climb out of the cave and up to the top of the bluff that offers great views of the Jacks Fork as it bends its way around the bluffs.  The ancient cedars attached to the edge of the bluffs were quite impressive and are not easily forgotten.

IMG_3363

“Jacks Fork Lookout″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG, ISO 100,  f/11, 1/100 sec

The “front door” of Jam Up Cave is this cavernous maw, the roof of which stands at over 100 feet high and nearly as wide.  This opening funnels into a much narrower tunnel that leads through a rubble field for ~500 feet to the other side of the forbidden pool that I discussed above.  This is a classic karst feature of the Missouri Ozarks and should rank up there with Grand Gulf, HaHa Tonka, the classic Ozark Springs and Devil’s Well.

IMG_3500

“Cavernous Maw″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG, ISO 100,  f/11, manual blend of three exposures

On the way out of the cavern we saw this impressive site and decided to give it a bit more sense of perspective by putting a certain pathetic creature into the scene.

IMG_3648

“Jam Up″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 47mm, ISO 160,  f/11, manual blend of three exposures