Northern Longnose Cory, Panzerwels (Germany) - Corydoras(ln1) septentrionalis Gosline, 1940
Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded June 01, 2002.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then Ill begin. Not so long ago, an ordinary Scotsman and his intrepid wife made the trip to meet, for the first time, old friends in far away Venezuela. Fish collecting - specifically catfish hunting - was top of the agenda. For all involved this was an historic summit; all have seemingly no end of tales to tell from the handful of days we spent together. There stands out, for this hobbyist anyway, one story in particular.
I should set the scene. It was to be our last day in the field for that trip. Setting out from our base in the highlands we descend in a roomy 4x4 onto the flat plains. Travelling along an irregular dirt track (more used to the touch of hooves than tyres) and nearing our main destination we (with some good natured difficulty) cross a bridge the top of which is comprised of large irregular stones cum boulders. A sturdy bridge but one no saloon car could safely cross. Even in our 4x4 it was a bumpy passage. Maybe 10 to 12 feet down was the remnants of the river that had once flowed here. Now, at the end of the blistering dry season, all that remained were isolated pools; promising territory for prospecting aquarists with high expectations of rich pickings.
We jostled and slid our way across the bridge to collect in a flowing river a few miles on. Here we collected many catfish. Royal and clown plecos were found in numbers. Other, more sparse finds included Lamontichthys, Aphanotorulus and some nicely coloured Loricaria types. On the tree leaves that dipped into deeper water we discovered Farlowella, Hypoptopoma and L92, the last in large numbers. In shallow (1 or 2 inch deep) fast flowing areas we collected many Otocinclus, presumably feeding from the smooth, algae covered pebbles exposed to the sun.
In mid afternoon we returned to the isolated pools we had passed earlier by the rocky bridge. It was hot but tolerable, as some clouds obscured the worst of the sun's efforts to burn us to a crisp.
Most of the team were exhausted by earlier exertions on the river proper and were content to observe us from the lofty position atop the bridge vantage point. Down below, two of us entered the water again, expecting to find Corydoras septentrionalis in the pools. Personally, Im of the view that each cast, trawl or dip of the net in such muddy waters is akin to a rolling dice. Like Forrest Gumps box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.
One bank of the pool was muddy; in the shade of the trees and bushes higher up the river bank this area had not dried up yet. By the bridge, the pool was strewn with rocks similar to those found on top and presumably surplus to those used in its construction. Nothing but a dip net could collect from the water between the rocks there.
Straight from the seine
Thus the two of us elected to trawl the length of the pool with a seine net of 6 or 7 meters long. The first few hauls brought us some lovely coloured Aequidens and "Cichlasoma", a few different types of Characins; guppies and shrimps we collected by the hatful. Yet no Corydoras. On the next haul we observed that when leaving the water and running the net up the riverbank we could see swift, darting catfish escaping underneath the net! On the next pull we, very slowly and carefully inch by inch, pulled the lower edge of the seine out of the water. Our reward for painstaking work was two C. septentrionalis. Their colouration in the sun - now emerged from the clouds and silently cooking us - was delightful; emerald green shone from the flanks of the prone catfish.
While collecting we noticed another, smaller and shallower-looking pool further up the dry section of the riverbed. Perhaps because it offered welcome shade, or perhaps the promise of more Corys for less effort drew us to collect in this pool next.
I should explain here that the hand nets are made of 1" tubing frames, about 2ft by 18 and no handle. You simply hold the apparatus by each side (gold prospector style) and push it through the water. A few pulls of our nets produced little, so I decided to try blindly trawling underneath one of the larger logs half submerged in the pool. I felt something big fighting in the net. Perhaps it was a stranded large pleco? I pulled up and in the instant that the net broke out of the water I found myself eyeball to eyeball with a caiman.
Both caiman and aquarist recognised this was not a good situation. While it thrashed its tail in an attempt to free itself from the net, my response was to loudly yelp, throw the caiman (and net) away from me into the water and splash chaotically back to dry land. Now, returned to their preferred elements, the surprised caiman and gibbering aquarist had time to reflect. A long few minutes later I gingerly recovered the net and decided that there probably werent any Corydoras in that particular pool and returned to the larger one.
I never saw the caiman but for that brief instant in the net. Though we caught many more C. septentrionalis that day, through all that toil I felt an ancient pair of reptilian eyes study my every move.
Copyright information for the images used in this article can be found on the species' full Cat-eLog page.
Back to Catfish of the Month index.