On Monday, 4th September 2000, 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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