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Spittin’ Image

I will never tell you that fish are smart.  The biggest trophy you have ever caught in Nebraska has a brain about the size as the end of your finger.  I am afraid those of you who arrive home and announce that the fish “out-smarted” you after a catch-less day are setting the bar very low for yourself.  Yes, guys, I am talking to you.

However, I will tell you that all wild critters have an incredible instinct to survive and in doing that they can do some amazing things.  Even if they are not “smart” they are capable of learning.  Earlier this month I was reminded of that when I saw this headline:  Fish Can Recognize Human Faces (and we know because they keep spitting at us).  Take a few minutes follow the link, read the story, it is fascinating.  Apparently, some pointy-headed biologists at the University of Queensland have been working with Archer Fish to try to understand how they recognize and remember patterns.  You know what Archer Fish are, there ain’t any around here, but they are those fish that can spit water at bugs above the surface, knock those bugs into the water and then eat them.  Like these:

The researchers trained their Archer Fish to recognize patterns or more specifically facial patterns.  The Archer Fish could actually recognize different mug shots!

Honestly, if you are an angler, especially a Trout angler, this should be of no surprise to you.  When prey is abundant, like during mid-summer, fish can become incredibly selective in what they eat.  I believe it is actually because of their small brains that they form a strict search image of what their prey looks like and then that is all they will eat.  When prey is less abundant, they tend to be more opportunistic and cannot afford to be selective, but during a “bug hatch”for example, Trout can be so selective that if your fly does not match the right size, color, behavior and particular identification features, it ain’t getting ate.

So, Archer Fish can recognize human faces?  Does not surprise me.

In fact this news has blown my cover on a project I have been working on for the past several years.  In tanks at my laBORatory in Area 52 deep in the Nebraska sandhills, for the past several years, I have been working on a breeding program to produce super-sized Archer Fish capable of surviving in Nebraska waters.  Additionally, those fish are being trained to spit at any human faces they do not recognize as me.  Eventually, those fish will be stocked in all of my best fishing spots, and when other anglers think they can show up and fish there, well, a blast of a couple of gallons of fish spit in the face should keep them moving.

If you have experienced something weird like that on the water recently, I can neither confirm nor deny it.  However, I would advise you to move along.

Have a great weekend everyone!

DSCN2685
A face only an Archer Fish could love!

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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