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The best fishing trip ever!


Earthwatch Australia

Protected Areas of the ACT Bush Blitz | December 2018

Today Alyce, Sandra and I went looking for fish in Namadji National Park. Of course, we didn’t go alone – in fact, we were tagging along with the experts: Michael Hammer from the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and Matt Beitzel from ACT Parks.

Michael and Matt had already sterilised their gear to avoid introducing chytrid fungus and weed seeds to the catchments we would be working in. Before leaving, we sterilised our boots with a specialised spray. We traveled to Namadgi National Park via the Ranger station as our vehicles also needed to be sprayed down with a high-pressure hose to ensure we weren’t introducing anything to these ecosystems.

We were looking for Galaxids and leeches, but most of all leeches. Not just any sort of leech… an unidentified leech which is potentially a new species! Michael explained that ecologists have seen it, but it hasn’t been identified.

Today’s technique was electrofishing, and the first three locations were in the Upper Cotter River. After watching Michael and Matt collect some fish at the first location, Alyce got the waders on and helped out at the second. She even collected up a super cute looking liverwort for the non-vascular plant team. It needs to go to a lab to be fully identified, but they could tell us that it is a Cladonia.

the best fishing 1

When we arrived at the third (and most picturesque) location, it was my turn to wade! After only a few minutes in the river, and we found ourselves within reach of a Copperhead snake IN THE WATER! A net was used to place it on the bank, but it continued to enter the water. We were ready to abort mission and clamber up the opposite bank after three failed attempts to keep the snake on the land, when it finally decided to comply. And just as well, because lo and behold WE FOUND WHAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR! A two-spined black fish was plucked from the water, with something attached to it. Something that looked a lot like a leech (a very small one). When Michael put it under a microscope, it was confirmed. It IS a leech, and it seems to be an unidentified species! It will now be preserved in ethanol and sent to a leech expert for full identification/description. How exciting!!!

the best fishing trip 2

In addition to our prized catch (which is the smallest thing I have ever been excited to catch), over the course of the day we also caught some Galaxids, and some Rainbow trout. The trout are introduced. They’re pretty, but they’re also pests.

As an added treat, on the drive back, Matt and Michael spotted a Blotched Blue-tongue Lizard on the road. They stopped so that Matt could move it out of harm’s way, but not before we got a good look and some photos.

the best fishing trip 3

Last day in the field tomorrow ☹. I don’t want this experience to end!