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February 19, 2014

KITCHELL: Eel reveals peculiar winter visitors

It was a bone-chilling, frigid day when I relieved my cabin fever by trudging to Riverside Park and walking across the new footbridge over the Eel River.

Winter had long silenced the hushing flow of the tide into ice. But there sitting near the south bank, clad in government-issued brown and green uniforms, were two men ice fishing. I introduced myself and they tipped their sock caps. Their names were Ray Spawnworthy and Arnie Ankledeep.

“What are you fishing for?” I asked.

“We’re not really fishing so much as doing research,” Ray said. “We’re from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Rare Species Unit. We’re here because we’ve traced some unusual migration patterns of the Ackwards Bass.”

“I’ve not heard of that fish before,” I said. “We’ve had Gar, Sunfish, an occasional trout and some decent catfish, but to my knowledge, not that one here.”

What Ray went on to explain is that the Ackwards Bass only migrates to places where things have somehow gotten in reverse order. Amazingly, he said it was not the ecosystem of the Eel that prompted the pre-pre-pre-spawning period of the bass, but the community around it.

Arnie pulled one flapping, 16-inch bass from a hole and compared it to a drawing in his aquatic species manual.

“Yep,” said Arnie. “This one is a snowicus emergenius. We suspected it would be here because Logansport didn’t have a viable snow emergency plan in place before the winter storms hit. Now, police officers are going door-to-door, asking neighbors to move their cars so snow plows can clear streets. Had there been a plan in place before this winter, it could have been noted on parking signs and residents might have taken the initiative to move for the plows so that so much work wouldn’t have to be done after the fact. Downtown business areas and parking spaces might have been more accessible.”

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