On 9 October 2000, I traveled east of Caracas down along the Rio Tuy drainage system. We had driven along this route the weekend before on our way to the beach at Puerto La Cruz and the numerous potential collecting locations I had spotted had me very excited to return. I traveled east of Caracas for about 1.5 hours and crossed the Rio Tuy on Highway9 near the village of El Clavo.
A few kilometres beyond the Tuy is the Cano Canoa. A few notes on Venezuelan terms for rivers, streams, lakes, etc. The term Quebrada (kay-broad-ah) is applied to streams with a fair amount of current. These are usually located in the highlands. The term Cano (can-yo) is applied to lowland streams with a slack current. the term rio (river) is used in the highlands and lowlands for rivers and streams that remain fairly constant year round and are not radically effected between the dry and wet seasons. The term Lago (lake) is used for natural lakes while the term Embalse (im-ball-say) is the equivalent of a reservoir. Cano Canoa (can-yo can-oh-ah or Canoe Creek) is a meandering stream that flows north into the Rio Tuy.
The stream varies from 15 to 5 feet wide and gently flows through a series of pools up to 30 feet wide. The water is fairly clear with a slight tint. I would estimate water parameters to be: pH near neutral, very soft, and about 80°F. The bed is composed of sand / mud in the pools and small rocks in the stretches between pools. Since the stream flows through thick jungle,there is a fair amount of driftwood and sunken logs. In one large pool I collected numerous tetras of 4-5 different species. Among these was one species that grows rather large (possibly Astanyx bimaculatus) and I captured one that measured a good 5 inches SL. Also in the pool was a school of Corydoras venezuelanus fry less than one inch in length. Since the water was fairly clear, I could actually watch the little fellows swim right under my 4'by 4' seine. Despite my best attempts, I only managed to catch one C. venezuelanus. Julio Melgar suggested that I affix a motorcycle chain across the bottom of the seine for extra weight. This sounds like a great idea and I plan to try it soon.
The ubiquitous cichlids I normally come across were strangely absent from this location. The sole cichlid catch of the day was a 7 inch (SL) pike cichlid (more on this later). This fish was clearly a different species from the two species I normally encounter in the Rio Zuata drainage. The lack of cichlids, however, was well made up for by the abundance of catfishes. In the small riffle between two pools I captured a beautiful Ancistrus that looks like no other species I have ever seen. The fish is about 3.5 inches SL and the overall body is a slate gray (like Panaque nigrolineatus). The body is decorated with irregular black stripes that run horizontally. The overall coloration reminds me of P. nigrolineatus,but the stripes are irregular and broken. A very attractive fish and I plan to return to this location so I can collect a spawning colony.
I eventually met up with Jose and Jesus two local fisherman. Jesus went to his home and returned with a cast net and a hoop net. Neither of these was as successful as my seine, so Jesus decided to show me how to really do it right. Jesus waded into one of the pools up to his chest and then dove under the water. About 10 seconds later he surfaced with a 6 inch Rhamdia in his hand! In five or so dives he had collected three Rhamdia and the pike cichlid. I asked him to explain tome how he was catching the fish and he demonstrated on the mud bank above the water. Jesus dives down and feels for holes in the bank with his hands. When he feels one of the proper size he sticks his hand in the hole and pulls out whatever is in there. Since most of what he was collecting were pimelodids that pack a nasty sting, I declined to try this method myself. However, with this method Jesus brought up the catch of the day, a foot long Hemiloricaria sp.
This was also a great area for inverts and we collected many huge freshwater shrimps. These were the largest shrimps I have ever seen and measured up to 9 inches in total length. The shrimp are an overall dark brown and quite attractive. Also collected were huge apple snails the size of baseballs. By 11:00 am it was too hot to collect so we all sat down to take a well deserved break. The jungle in this area is just stunning with wild orchids growing everywhere. I handed out American cigarettes and Jose climbed a tree and picked a cacao fruit. Among the subsistence people in this area cacao is very important. Nearly everyone collects cacao in the morning and dries the seeds through the day. The following day they walk out to the highway and sell the dried beans for hard currency. The cacao bean (from which chocolate is made) is too bitter to eat raw, but the fruit that surrounds the bean is sweet and delicious. After sucking the fruit from the beans we spit them in a pile. Jose then collected the beans and put them in his pocket. Undoubtedly to be dried and sold.
I took home the smallest Rhamdia, the Ancistrus, the one Cory, and the giant Rineloricaria species. I also took a few of the various tetras. All fishes survived the trip well and the Ancistrus has already taken to cucumber. This is certainly a location I will return to for more Ancistrus and Rineloricaria. Thanks to friend, and fellow Potomac Valley Aquarium Society member, Francine Bethea I know have both 8 and 12 foot seines as well as two wire minnow traps. I believe that the baited minnow traps, left out over night, will be fantastic catfish catching machines. The longer nets will also allow me to return and sample places that a 4 foot net is just not adequate for.
Below is a list of the catfishes I have collected so far:
- Rineloricaria "Camataguita"
- Rineloricaria "Canoa"
- Hypostomus "Zuata" light colour small dots (fast water dweller)
- Hypostomus "Pao" Dark brown with large dots
- Hypostomus "Tuy" Very light with minute blacks dots,red on pectorals
- Farlowella "Pao"
- Rhamdia "Zuata" dark mottled gray
- Rhamdia "Tuy" mottled brown
- Corydoras venezuelanus
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