I was recently hired to photograph an engagement session and was brainstorming with the couple for a nice outdoors setting. It dawned on me about a river nearby to all of us that had shallow flowing water over a solid yet craggy rock bed. It had been a while since I had been there, but the setting would be great for engagement photos.
Upon mentioning the place, they too agreed that the setting would be perfect and we set a time to meet.
I showed up a little over an hour early to walk around and check everything out beforehand. At the head of the park where the river comes in is a small dam. The water blocked at the dam was several feet below the top. The river was stagnant with little flow downstream from the dam. Several places in the rocky bottom lay small pools of water, many with less surface area than a small above ground pool would have.
With the rocks as the bottom, the water was fairly clear and I could see an abundance of fish still swimming in them. There were bass, shad, various species of bream, and even a bowfin surfaced to take a gulp of air. Yes, bowfin can breathe air if necessary in low oxygenated water.
That also meant the water had little oxygen left in it.
I met with the newly engaged couple and we had a great session together. But I was still concerned about what I saw. With no rain in the forecast for a few days I questioned whether the fish would make it. Many were of good size. There was no telling how many smaller fish there were that I didn’t notice.
I drove back a little later, as the location is less than 30 minutes from home. I was not sure what I could do, but quick simple thinking had me grab a net to see if I could harvest a few and help them to the river a few yards away.
When I arrived, I noticed several other people there looking at the fish. One had a cast net. Since I was coming in behind them, I checked out the scene. No bucket or stringer was nearby. Evidently they were not trying to get easy catches. It was very near the saying ‘trying to catch fish in a barrel.’
So here we had a half dozen people all with the same concerns. Unless we had a strong enough rainstorm to either fill the river over the dam or create enough runoff to cause the small pools to flow to the river the fish were not going to make it. And we did not want to see that happen.
Each of us had fishing licenses we came to find out. We all hunted. The same callous, uncaring, animal murderers that outdoorsmen get portrayed as many times were the only ones out there trying to find a way to save several species of fish that became landlocked in too little water.
The truth is outdoorsmen do care. Yes, another time we may have been there solely to catch our next meal. But this day we were trying to make sure these creatures survived to be caught another day, to reproduce, to be part of life’s circle.