Today, 11 March 2001, we drove south from Maracay along the eastern edge of Lake Valencia. The map shows a number of small rivers in this area that flow into the lake. Sadly, this area is now so built up and populated that we did not find a single viable collecting location. We decided to head southeast to San Juan de Los Morros for lunch and to scout out the area a bit. Just outside of San Juan de Los Morros, we came upon a nice looking creek and decided to check it out. The creek was 10 - 15 feet across and less than a foot deep in most places.
Walking along the banks, I was amazed at the concentration of fishes! On one large rock where there was slightly more current, we could see Hypostomus, Farlowella, and a small Panaque-type fish. Below the rock in the leaf litter we could see a number of Rineloricaria. Seining turned up all of the above as well as the usual cichlids, guppies, Hoplias, and tetras.
Two small boys, about 8 years old, watched us for some time and then said they could show us where there were "bastante corronchos" (lots of plecos). We followed them upstream to a pool near a large boulder. A few seine pulls turned up some small Rineloricaria. One of the boys then dove into the deepest part of the pool and came up with a foot long Loricaria! I was very excited and asked if he could catch more. The boy and his friend just kept diving down and grabbing a fish with every sortie. Basically, they just swam to the bottom and, with both hands, grabbed into the thick leaf litter. In about 15 minutes we had 5 Loricaria between 12 and 18 inches long as well as a half dozen nice sized Rineloricaria.
As we prepared to leave, I offered to buy the boys a soda. They replied, "No thanks" and stood near us staring at the ground. Eventually one boy pointed to my seine and asked how much it cost. Needless to say, the method of payment had been named! The boys were delighted when I told them they could keep the net. I figured that a ten dollar net was more than a fair trade for five giant Loricaria and a handfull of Rineloricaria. As we pulled away in the car, we saw the boys outside of their bamboo and mud home carefully hanging the net to dry. I am sure that the net will provide their family with many meals.
On the way out, I stopped and asked a man what the name of the creek was. Imagine my surprise when he informed me it was the Rio Guarico! I checked the map and sure enough I was only about 15 kilometers up stream from my normal collecting location east of San Juan de Los Morros. The dry season had changed the river so much that I thought I was in a small creek.
The environment: The exact location was 4 kilometers NW of San Juan de Los Morros on the road between that city and Villa de Cura, Aragua State. The water was clear and very warm (about 82F). The substrate was sand and gravel, but due to the slow current caused by the dry season, there were large amounts of leaf litter. The current was sluggish with occaisional small riffles. The total take in less than one hours was:
- Countless juvenile Farlowella about 4 inches. No adults were seen or captured.
- 5 large and 2 juvenile (4 inches) Loricaria
- Many juvenile Hypostomus
- One small Panaque-type sp. that I have yet to identify. These fish were common, but very hard to catch as the were mostly in the shallows over sand. It appears to be of the L-122 complex.
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