Agency biologists returned to sample the acidic, dark-water swamps and beaver ponds in southeast Virginia. Their quarry – a two inch long member of the bass family and state endangered species known as the Blackbanded Sunfish (Enneachanthus chatedon).
The sunfish prefers shallow portions of ponds that are thick with submerged aquatic vegetation – bladderwort, watermilfoil, and coontail. While dragging a dipnet into this vegetation, biologists may uncover the sunfish or members of a unique fish community also adapted to these waters. Such fish have colorful and unusual names like Bluespotted Sunfish (E. gloriosus), Redfin Pickeral (Esox americanus), Mud Sunfish (Acantharchus pomotis), and Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus).
This year we sampled 11 sites and found a new population of Blackbanded Sunfish and also new site for Banded Sunfish (E. obesus), one of three members of the genus Enneachanthus. Sampling over the last four years has increased the number of known Blackbanded Sunfish sites from two to the current ten. As more populations are discovered, we are well on our way to recovering this unique member of Virginia’s rich natural history.