Just when you think you’ve seen it all

Published 5:58 pm Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“I guess you have seen everything in your job?,” the nice lady asked, and it made me think. Just when I thought I had, then something else comes along. A few of my favorites follow.

While working lower Lay Lake one day, near the mouth of Sawmill Branch, I just happened to be looking down as the clear water was mixing with muddy and something caught my eye that was really out of place: Jellyfish were swimming around in a large school.

Now, before you get on my case, I have seen lots of jellyfish but none in fresh water. I called my friend Ed Blake with The Shelby County Reporter, who rode with me a lot. “You have got to be kidding!,” he said. “Get some samples, and we will take them to the Biology Department at Alabama College. If anybody knows anything about them, it will be my friend Dale Caldwell.” So, I took him a fruit jar full of the little critters.

Caldwell said fresh water jellyfish had been found in several sections of the United States, Europe and China. Dale said the fresh water jellyfish was not rare; however, the sighting of these small, almost transparent jellyfish is rare! Good eye, Bill.

Caldwell had never seen one before. That’s been almost 40 years, but if you happen to see some—size of a dime or larger, almost identical in shape as the larger saltwater species—just call out Craspedacusta sowerbyi if you want to be formal. (Bet you thought I would forget that name!)

Then, about 15 years ago, Hassel called me and wanted me to come by and see a fish that a fisherman brought by that he had caught below the dam. He took me to his large fish tank out on his patio.

It looked like a tropical fish about the size of a large bream and was colored a lot like a shellcracker, except for the dental work. He had lots of sharp teeth with a terrible overbite!

I kept my distance and said, “Looks like a piranha to me! Call Prentis, he can get the biologist to check it.” I asked Prentis about it a few days later, and he said, “The officers came by and couldn’t find H.B., so not wanting to put their hands in that tank, they dumped it out and transferred it to their tank. Here comes H.B. mad as a hornet that they have his fish, and they almost had to take him to jail for having it in his possession!”

Where did it come from? He was a long way from the Amazon!