Collecting Venezuela

Shane Linder  

ello all, Just thought I would relay some of my collecting notes from this weekend.  Later, I will write up a description of the terrain since understanding the terrain is necessary to understanding the aquatic habitats.





Sat. 2 Sept. 2000.
From Caracas we traveled south down the Cordillera de la Costa towards the Northern Llanos. Basically, this journey brings you down from the mountains to the large flat plains known as the Llanos. Several rivers drain south down these slopes into the mighty Orinoco. I drove as far south as El Sombrero in the Northern Llanos. Unfortunately, since it is still the wet season, I found collecting here impossible. These flooded plains are just saturated mud at this time of year and it is impossible to get near any water without sinking dangerously deep in the mud. I attempted collecting in one roadside creek and quickly found myself knee deep in the mud and stuck. The mud was so thick that it literally sucked one of my sandals off of my foot. This made me mad as these were my collecting sandals which I have always used, collecting from the States to Ecuador. At this point I decided to leave the Llanos until the dry season and headed north back into the mountains. 

The next collecting location was the Rio Pao just outside of San Sabastian. The Rio had a small amount of current and was muddy brown with sediment (as are most rivers in the wet season). The water temp was near 80F and the Rio was about 15-20 feet wide. The typical depth was 6-12 inches with deep areas near cutbanks. By running a four foot by four foot seine along the shallows I was able to collect wild guppies and a number of cichlids. I seined the outside cutbanks where there were many overhanging land plants and managed to collect a fair number of Farlowella. The water was about two feet deep on the outside banks. Also collected was a small (2 inch) Hypostomus sp. This fish was collected from the center of the creek in the strongest rapids by basically pure luck. It got caught in my net as I was crossing the river. I continued up the mountains towards Caracas and stopped to sample the Rio Zuata in the village of San Casimiro. The collecting site was beautiful. A crystal clear mountain stream with a bed of fist-sized rocks. By seining near the banks I turned up pike cichlids, Hoplias, and a small species of tetra. In the main rapids I was able to collect a Chaetostoma sp. by kick seining. Although this was the most beautiful place to collect, it was also difficult. In the clear water the fishes could see me from far away and scatter. I saw many loricariids (sp. unknown) scramble away from me. I plan to try this site again with a 12 seine which should work much better.



Mon. 4 Sep. 2000.
On Monday I headed east out of Caracas through the towns of Guatire and Caucaqua. There were beautiful rivers, but they were still too full of mountain run off to attempt to collect from. At this point I headed west towards Santa Teresa along the Rio Tuy. Just outside of Santa Teresa I collected at a spot where a creek enters the Tuy. The beautiful creek was unproductive so I kept moving towards the juncture of the creek and river. The silt from the creek was piled high at the juncture and I sunk 3-4 inches deep with every step. The mud flats also smelled to high heaven! Surprisingly, seining the mud flats was very productive. Every net (4 ft by 4 ft seine) brought up 2-3 Corydoras aeneus. All fish were adults of about two inches. I retained 5 for myself. Interestingly, Caracas is listed as the collection location of the holotype of C. aeneus. My guess is that the holotype was collected in the Rio Guaire which flows through Caracas. However, this river is now so polluted that no fish could live in it. The Guaire flows out of Caracas and joins the Tuy. Since I was collecting C. aeneus as close to the Guaire as it is possible, it should be as close as is possible to the actual holotype of C. aeneus. Corydoras aeneus from the wild are beautiful! They are a true bright metallic bronze color. You have to have collected this fish from the wild to know what I mean about the color.

The last highlight of this spot was that I collected a huge (7-8 inches SL) Hypostomus. This fish was collected against the mud bank at the confluence of the creek and the river. Several small cichlids were collected as well, but no tetras. This past Saturday (9 Sep 2000) I headed south to Embalse Camatagua about 1.5 hours from Caracas. Camatagua is a huge reservoir famous for peacock bass (various Cichla spp. and not Bass at all) fishing. I scouted out the area where the Rio Guarico exits the lake and it was teeming with fish. The main problem with collecting there was that the river is choked with aquatic vegetation.  The vegetation is mainly Elodea, but there are many other species of plants growing here. I headed south along the lake to a small creek not on the map. The creek appears to be a small tributary of the Rio Camatagua and is referred to by the locals as Quebrada Camataguita (translation: little Camatagua stream). A bridge crosses the stream and provides a nice collecting location. Two small boys were on the bridge fishing with a tiny hook and what looked like large bloodworms for bait. They had collected a cichlid lovers dream with their little hooks. Most of their catch were large tetras, Acara, pike cichlids, and what appeared to be Biotodoma and Festivums. There were also spp. of cichlid that I could not identify and Hoplias. Collecting the stream with a 4 foot seine turned up numerous species of cichlids and tetras. The catch of the day was a small Rineloricaria-type loricariid about three inches in length. There were also various Leoprinus-looking fishes that proved too fast to capture. I came across one large (six inch) Hypostomus species but could not catch it. The fish kept moving around a large rock in the middle of the stream and I kept chasing it around the rock, but the pleco was always faster than I.

Also, at this location I caught some large (2-3 inch) freshwater shrimps. The water in this location was crystal clear with a stream bed of gravel and small rocks. The stream was 4-6 feet wide in the riffles with a pool every 10-15 feet.  The pools were 15-30 feet in diameter and from 2-4 feet deep. They were home to the various cichlids and many tetras. Other tetras, pike cichlids, loricariids, and hoplias were also found mainly in the riffle sections. The water was very warm (about 80F) except in a few shaded pools that were no longer connected to the main stream. These pools turned up guppies, a few small cichlid fry, and a young Hoplias about 2 inches long. The temperature in the shaded pools was about 76F.  I took video footage of the stream and the fishes collected before returning them to the creek.

I hope to return to this location soon with a scuba mask and a large hand net in hopes of snorkeling the pools and collecting from them.  They are too deep to be collected with a small seine. I also am convinced that I need to modify my nets with larger heavier weights on the bottom. Since so many loricariids stay so close to substrate, they often swim right under my net. Hopefully larger weights will better anchor the net to the substrate and prevent some of this.




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