Feature Image: Bill Stark, professor of Biological Sciences at Fort Hays State University, looks at a Slender Madtom caught by participant Kinley.
BY ALICIA FEYERHERM
Fish Wizards hosted its fourth annual tour last weekend. This event provides participants with hands-on experience with native fishes and serves as a fundraiser for the Volland Foundation and the Native Stone Scenic Byway.
“A lot of folks can see the wildlife species that are out on the prairie: the birds, the animals, the buffalo, but they can’t see the fish,” Fish Wizards Founder Brian Bohnsack said. “The purpose is to get them out on the water and see what we’ve got here.”
Bohnsack is joined by three other “Fish Wizards,” Bill Stark, Joe Tomelleri and Mike Kaminski help participants identify fish species.
During the tour, fish are caught and placed in transparent aquariums. Participants have a chance to look at the fish and have the Wizards explain the species before the fish are released back into the creek.
Bohnsack said people are often surprised by the diversity of fish present in the creek. Over 20 native species of fish along this particular stretch of Spring Creek were found, including the federally-endangered Topeka Shiner.
The event is timed with the fish’s spawning season so the fish are at their prettiest.
“My mom told me when she first came to Fish Wizards she thought all the Kansas fish should just be browns and greens, but they’re beautiful colors,” one of the younger participants, Kahlan said. This year was Kahlan’s second Fish Wizards tour.
“I just like being outside in the fresh air and with all my friends,” Kahlan said. “The environment is really nice. I enjoy it a lot.”
Bohnsack emphasized that this event is family-friendly and that individuals of all ages can learn something.
“We try to tell folks there’s no silly questions, there’s no dumb questions,” Bohnsack said.
Fish Wizards will be held again next year and individuals can purchase tickets through the Volland Foundation website closer to the event date. More information on other events hosted by the foundation can be found on the organization’s website: Welcome to The Volland Foundation in the Flint Hills! (thevollandstore.com).