Jewels of the Ozarks (1985)

Uploaded by mooutdoors on 05.06.2012

Jewels of the Ozarks (1985)
Narrator: Like silver threads joining to make a ribbon,
rivulets run down a hillside to a small valley.
Here they join and grow to form a small headwater creek.
From these modest beginnings, a stream is born.
But streams are more than water running downhill.
They are made up of unique habitats,
which differ in physical appearance and the kinds of animals which inhabit them.
Missouri is a land of streams;
over fifty thousand miles of streams add character to our state's landscape.
All are important in their own way.
Ozark streams in particular offer a rich blend of aquatic life
not found anywhere else.
spring branches,
and backwaters are special stream environments.
Jewel-like fish,
strange insects,
and other creatures inhabit these underwater domains.
and other creatures inhabit these underwater domains.
Most play out their role in the life of a stream unseen by surface travelers.
There's hardly a creek too small to have sunfish,
they just don't seem to need much water.
In the dry summer months, when headwater creeks shrink to small pools,
the green sunfish is still waiting to provide fishing fun.
But there's more than sunfish beneath the surface of a headwater creek.
Water, running from the hillsides,
brings leaves and other organic material into the headwaters.
Leaves are quickly colonized by fungi and bacteria,
becoming a high protein spread on a leafy cracker.
Insects with strong jaws,
like stonefly nymphs, munch on this organic snack.
Smaller leaf particles and organic material are snared
and eaten by collector insects,
such as the net spinning caddisfly.
Then, the insects are eaten in turn and a food chain is established.
Large compact schools of stonerollers graze slowly across the bottom
like sheep in a watery pasture.
A flash of bright colors is likely to be a male redbelly dace,
or several, gathering over their spawning area.
Even more brilliant is the orangethroat darter.
Darters are designed for stream bottom living.
Their large fins are pressed down by the water current,
so they stay in place on the bottom.
Disturb one of these little fish and you’ll see how darters got their name.
All of these headwater inhabitants have one thing in common.
Like the green sunfish, they get by even when the creek is low.
The fighting spirit of the rainbow trout is legendary.
To catch this aristocrat of game fish, fishermen in the Ozarks head for a spring branch.
The rainbow trout requires cold, clear water,
55 to 68 degrees is ideal.
And here he finds it along with his natural diet of insects and small fish.
Trout are not native to the Ozarks, but they have adapted well.
Artificial flies can bring a trophy to the surface.
Although a battling rainbow may be the center of attention,
there's more than trout in an Ozark spring branch.
Look quickly, small sculpins are hard to see.
They spend most of their time motionless on the stream bottom.
Both the mottled sculpin and the banded sculpin are masters of camouflage.
Their colors change to match the background gravel.
The spring branch is home to another kind of rainbow;
the tiny rainbow darter is common in Ozark streams,
but has a special fondness for swift water.
This little jewel hunts for insects beneath stream bedrocks.
White suckers have underslung mouths that let them vacuum the stream bottom for insect larvae.
Infect insect larvae are bread and butter for spring branch fish.
Mayfly and stonefly nymphs with their long,
wispy tails hug the stream bottom rocks.
The force of the current passing over their flattened,
streamlined bodies holds them in place.
Other insects like the hellgrammite have strong claws
that enable them to move easily along the bottom, even in swift water.
Throughout their lives, insect larvae run the risk of becoming a fish's meal.
Fisherman's lures successfully mimic these dainty morsels.
A quiet pool can be welcome rest for the canoeist.
Time to explore fern-covered cliffs and mossy banks,
or just drift for a while.
(birds chirping)
Or for those daring enough, it's a chance to cool off and have some fun.
Girl: All right. (Splash)
Narrator: The water is deep and tranquil, but beneath the surface is a busy world.
The hogsucker moves gravel as he roots for insects.
Turtles stir up the bottom too, especially the long-nosed softshell turtle.
Always an opportunist, this longear sunfish waits
for a soft shell to uncover a few insects to share for a meal.
Other bottom dwellers include the checkered mad tom,
small but flashy in Halloween yellow and black.
The logperch who uses his pointy snout to turnover rocks in search of food.
And the stream's biggest fish, the flathead catfish.
During daylight hours each big cat can be found in its favorite resting place,
often under a submerged log.
They come out at night to hunt the shallows for smaller fish.
You may not see the rock bass at first.
Not only is he shy, but he can change colors
like a chameleon to match his surroundings.
Both the male rock bass and the brilliantly colored longear sunfish
fan out gravel saucers on the on the pool floor for their
After the female lays her legs on the gravel, the male guards the nest.
Intruders beware.
A real gravel architect,
the hornyhead chub carries rocks in his mouth to build a mound nest,
which may be as much as three feet in diameter.
The purpose of the nest is to protect the female's eggs,
which she lays while construction is in progress.
But minnows sneak their eggs in too.
Any eggs which don't find safety in the small crevices between the rocks
become dinner for small fish.
The smallmouth bass prowls the shoreline in search of crayfish.
Like other pool fish the smallmouth prefers
slow-moving water and plenty of hiding places.
He's partial to root wads, boulders and beds of water willow.
Schools of minnows flicker through the pool's mid-water area.
During breeding seasons, the fins of the male Ozark minnow sparkle
with tinges of yellow-orange.
And, almost magically, duskystripe shiners respond to their natural spawning urge
by developing coloration to rival the most exotic tropical fish.
An underwater patch of shimmering red moves by,
signaling a school of duskystripes.
Northern studfish skim along, just below the surface of the pool.
Their mouths tilt upward to help them feed on insects that fall on the water.
Studfish belong to a group called topminnows
because they stay in the top few inches of water.
At night, during the spawning season,
redhorse suckers move into the shallow riffle areas of the pool.
Here is where spawning takes place.
Groups of males accompany a female to fertilize her eggs.
Spawning is a frenzied activity accompanied by much splashing.
These small disturbances remind us
there is life below the water's calm surface.
A riffle is a lively place.
The water is shallow, fast, and clear.
You can see the bottom easily…
(indiscernible talking and splashing)
…and watch crayfish scoot from rock to rock.
Little fish dash around,
sometimes stopping long enough to nibble at small toes.
But most people don't stay long enough
or look closely enough to discover the riffle's treasures.
But those who take the time find tiny fish
like this darter in every color of the rainbow.
These are the living jewels of Ozark streams.
The Missouri saddled darter
and the greenside darter live in swift, gravely riffles where they forage for insects.
Caddisfly larvae, recognized by their cases of pebbles and twigs, are a favorite food.
A large aquatic salamander, the hellbender,
looks like a throwback to prehistoric times.
It spends much of its time under rocks searching for crayfish.
There are other treasures hidden in the riffle.
The streamlined chub usually remains hidden
by resting beneath stones out of the current's force.
So does the Ozark madtom, a tiny cousin of the catfish.
An overturned rock may reveal one of the stream's oddest insects,
the water penny whose flattened body acts like a sucker
to help keep it attached to rocks in swift water.
Riffles are also home for mussels of all kinds,
many with unusual names like heelsplitter,
purple wartyback.
With its siphons extended, looking like a periscope on a miniature submarine,
a single mussel will draw in about ten gallons of water daily
in order to filter out tiny animals used at food.
And crayfish are always entertaining, especially if you try to catch one.
Backwaters are for slow, easy summer days.
Backwaters are for slow, easy summer days.
The water is still here, out of the stream's main current,
and the plant growth is lush.
and sometimes even water lily,
combine to give an almost tropical appearance to these out of the way places.
This is an ideal spot for the scrappy bluegill
who seem almost eager to accept a fisherman's offering.
The warm water and abundant vegetation
makes most backwaters ideal homes for largemouth bass.
Like the smallmouth, largemouth bass ambush small fish
or unlucky frogs from favorite hiding places.
Largemouth are the stream's largest sunfish,
often weighing over five pounds, and are a real fishing trophy.
At the other end of the scale is the tiny least darter,
the Ozark's smallest fish.
It rarely reaches more than one inch in length.
The blackspotted topminnow, like its pool-dwelling cousin,
the studfish, is well suited for feeding at the water's surface.
So is the brook silverside.
This ghostly, almost transparent fish, is very active in daytime or on moonlit nights.
But on dark nights, it lies motionless at the surface.
Creek chubsuckers and yellow bullhead feed along the backwater's silty bottom.
A small monster also lurks here, the dragonfly nymph.
This tiny, but fearsome hunter scoops up other insects,
and sometimes small fish, with its shovel-like lower lip.
If it escapes being eaten itself, the nymph will someday crawl out of the water onto an emergent leaf,
and the beast will become a beauty, another jewel of the Ozarks.
spring branch,
each has its own hidden beauty.
We, as surface travelers, see only a few of the stream's treasures.
But it’s a pleasure to know there are so many more beneath the surface.
With care, we can assure these treasures will still be around when we, or our children, return.