I spent the morning with Alan Weaver and Robbie Willis, who work in fish passage for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. This time of year, their job consists heavily of sampling the anadromous fish that come up river to spawn in the James and Rappahannock rivers. For scientific purposes, sampling means going out on a boat with a generator and two probes that put electrical current into the water. The probes look like two big metal octopi attached to long bars, and they temporarily stun the fish long enough for them to be netted. That’s what Robbie and I did while Weaver drove the boat between Ancarrow’s Landing and just upriver of the Mayo Bridge. It was a blast, and needless to say, the anglers all around us took a keen interest in what we were doing.
Robbie Willis, of the DGIF, holds a flathead catfish on the James River near Mayo Bridge.
The goal was to record info like sex, length, weight and total numbers of fish like striped bass, blueback herring, alewife, hickory and American shad, all of which are here to spawn right now. But we also saw plenty of fish we didn’t sample. For instance: longnose gar, white perch and quillback. We also netted some blue catfish and flathead catfish for a study the DGIF has commissioned researchers at Virginia Tech to undertake that will look at the diet of catfish in Virginia rivers.
All in all, it was a great time on the water. The fact that we saw all this fish life, not to mention bird life (ospreys, Canada geese, cormorants, etc.) while in downtown Richmond makes you realize how good we have it here.
Willis holds a very nice striper.
Recording measurements of herring.