The Art of Seining

Everyone loves an aquarium. The sound of gurgling water and the rhythmic movement of fish have a calming-even mesmerizing-effect.

The aquaria I remember from my youth housed only tropical fish. The exotic fish they contained required a lot of care and a strictly controlled environment, and I wondered why people didn't keep native species instead. It made such perfect sense to do so that I began keeping native fish many years ago.

More than 215 species of native fish live in Missouri. Many are as beautiful as any of the exotics sold in the aquarium trade. Native fish also have the advantage of having adapted to harsh or disturbed environments. They usually are easier to keep in aquaria than exotic species that can survive only in specific and stable environments.

Another reason you might choose native fish for a home aquarium is that you can collect them from local streams.

You only need a valid Missouri fishing permit to possess 100 non-game fish. You cannot collect or possess Missouri endangered and threatened species, and you can only take game species by hook and line, or as regulations permit.

The best tool for collecting native species suitable for home aquaria is a seine. A seine is a rectangular-shaped, small-meshed net tied to large poles on each end. These poles are called brails.

Seines come in many sizes. For the typical amateur fish enthusiast, a seine measuring 10 feet long and 5 feet high with 3/16-inch mesh will adequately capture most small fish in shallow pools. The brails should be made of strong wood cut into rods that are as tall as the seine is high. They should be about 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter for easy gripping. Round wooden hand rails for stairways can be used and are available at most hardware stores.

Longer and taller nets with smaller mesh have more specialized applications and may be used as you gain more experience. Some seines have a bag attached at the center to trap fish more efficiently. The bag can prove cumbersome for beginners, and it may snag as you drag the net across the stream bottom.

Seines are often used by biologists to capture fish for scientific purposes. However, the effective use of a seine is probably more art than science. Seining usually involves two people working together to corral fish into an area where they can be trapped and