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.”

“Amazing phenomenon,” I said. “Never heard of such a thing.”

“This big fella,” Ray said as he netted a 20-incher from the hole “is known as a speculates monicus. We call it the ‘Money blowfish’ because this species of the Ackwards Bass swims upstream to places where money is being spent in the wrong way.

“Why would it be here?” I asked.

“I don’t really know your community that well, but from what I gather, it’s probably because of the plans to build luxury condominiums behind your Walmart,” Ray said. “Mind you, I’m just a fish guy, but Mother Nature is intuitive about this sort of thing in ways we aren’t. I’m just saying.”

“What’s backwards about this?” I asked.

“It would seem if the city had annexed land along a four-lane highway with a college campus nearby that that area might be ripe for some kind of housing, or your downtown where I understand you’re losing your Eagles Club. Then there’s that new park we saw here off Chase Road … I believe it’s Huston Park. It would seem to have some nice vistas along the trail by the hospital and the Eel with a park and trail nearby.”

Then Arnie pulled another gilled bass from the water and seemed excited to see it was what he called a “contradictus taxius policus.”

“This one turns up where local officials say they welcome tax relief after they’ve approved tax increases,” Arnie said in a voice level that made me think he didn’t want anyone else to know he’d landed this one.

“Let me take a stab at this,” I said. “Is this species maybe here because the city annexed land south of the city which will raise taxes on everyone, yet the city is supporting eliminating the business personal property tax to help business?”

“Now you’re catching on,” Ray said.

With that, Ray and Arnie began walking to an unmarked black truck with government-issued blackwall tires.

“We’ll be back this summer when it’s warmer,” Ray said. “We’ll be tracking the spawning patterns of the crappie. We think it has something to do with municipal utilities.”

“I can understand,” I said. “I’ll be watching for you.”

Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at