So, I hit Carlyle to catch some bait back on August 30th. I caught a good mess of small-ish bluegills for flatheads, but they weren’t meant to be. My dad pulled in a nice Buffalo and a few small channels on stinkbait, and I didn’t have much luck on the live bait down in the hole below the fish cleaning station or up under the dam. However, I did manage to catch an interesting little carp. I had suspicions of it being a Black Carp, which is a new-ish invasive that is really starting to show up places along the Mississippi and Kaskaskia. The Kaskaskia River is like a micro-sized Mississippi, and lots of species share both.
Later on, an expert got back to me and thinks it’s a grass carp, even though the coloration and anal fin are a match for black carp.
September 4th -
Friday, I had lots of work to do in the morning, but eventually made my way to the Kaskaskia River below the spillway in Carlyle. I rigged up for Silver Carp first thing, and caught a load of them. There were quite a few interesting fish – with chunks taken out from predators, weird spinal development, etc. Didn’t catch any bigheads in the mix, might try further down stream next time.
I headed to the old river channel, where I eventually met up with Ben Cantrell. We tried for Gizzard Shad mostly, and ben jigged for gar with his “Car Key” method.
I grabbed a few quick micros down there, only one new one – Bullhead minnow.
I also grabbed a new orangespotted sunfish (or 10) for a better photo – the night shots don’t show the spots very well.
We eventually gave that all up, and headed back to my house to get ready for the next morning.
September 5th -
We headed down early in the morning to the other end of the Kaskaskia, right at the confluence of the Missouri. I got a few micro hits, but they were all small sunfish and catfish. One of them was this monster:
Also caught a small sunfish that appeared purple in the light. I’ve caught a gold, green, silver, purple and blue tinted baby sunfish before, just the way the light is shining on them I guess
I caught this Blue Catfish towards the end of our time there too, making it a new lifer:
We left to scout some of La Rue swamp / Pine hills. We observed a number of interesting species, including a fair number of Spring Cavefish. They mostly hide underground during the day, and not much is really known about them. They’ve only ever bitten in laboratory conditions, so probably a really difficult species to actually get on the hook.
We crossed a small riffle absolutely full of fish – lots I already had, but I did pick up Orangethroat Darter – My third darter species.
We drove around and I fished the swampy areas we’d pass, hoping for a flier, and ended up catching a Bantam Sunfish and Tadpole Madtom, along with a number of green sunfish, bluegill, and other fish I’ve already caught – I need to get better about taking more fish pictures. The Bantam is endangered in Illinois, and was released unharmed after the photo.
We hit a little spot off of Clear Creek. There were a number of interesting species in it, including Slender Madtom. It was full of Stonerollers, Logperch, Golden Redhorse, Striped Shiners, Bleeding Shiners, Rainbow Darters and Orangethroats, as well as Bigeye shiners. I ended up catching a Bleeding Shiner, and joined the very small club of people who have caught a fish that doesn’t officially exist in Illinois.
Eventually, by chance, two of Ben’s friends – Martini and Steve Wozniak. Steve is known in fishing circles for holding over 100 IGFA records (105) and for having the largest life list (1300+), and Martini holds the Second-most number of total current IGFA records (183 – his dad holds the most at 420+!). I’m the real slacker of the group (at that point I had 68 lifers, Ben has 305 lifers). I don’t really mess with IGFA records – but after talking over some with Ben, I believe I’ve thrown back some IGFA record Shortnose Gar, and maybe some state records.
We headed to Anna to catch some Sonic and talk about fish and terrible stories. We eventually headed back to La Rue swamp to show Steve and Martini the spring cavefish. They headed north, to try to break some new records and species to my home waters of Carlyle / Rend Lake. Ben and I went towards Cape Girardo, which was full of No-Vacancy motels, and eventually just went on to Sikeston where we caught a room.
That morning we got up to hit a small ditch just north of our motel, and I caught a Weed Shiner, which was new for me.
We made our way to the Rt. 60 bridge over the Black River in Missouri. It looked like a good redhorse spot, so I ended up taking too much gear and falling in. I am a semi-professional stumbler, so that was nothing new.
I did see a number of Darters – we were hoping for some new species, and some madtoms. The bite was hard. I wasn’t able to get the madtoms to do much biting, and the darters didn’t have much cover so they fled pretty rapidly. Shiners came through for me though!
We moved on to Wappapello, and met up with Tyler Goodale – who is like a Sage of Ozark Fish. We all got a bunch of excitement when we saw many visible Blue Suckers – one of the holy grail fish in species hunting in the United States. Blue Suckers prefer deep fast water, and are notoriously hard to track down. They were jumping in the riffles below the spillway like mad!
I tried really hard for them, and donated several pounds of lead to the river. Managed to catch lots of channel cat, drum, and bluegill – and Ben caught a good football of a Smallie. I didn’t get the Blue Sucker, but caught this Shorthead Redhorse!
It was getting really hot, and we weren’t catching Blue Suckers, and had lots more to target before Sundown – were really hoping for some Gilt Darters.
We went up to Sam A Baker, and managed to add three new micros!
Eventually I just put my bucket and pole on the shore and started floating downstream. It was pretty relaxing with all the heat. Ben managed to catch two Studfish, which I spent most of my time there trying for, but never could pull off. They are supposed to be easy!
We hit the road. Ben slept and I accidentally (for real) ran over the rumble strips on the side of the road more than once. We were dog tired. Checked into a room in Herculaneum MO after checking out a nearby Mississippi boat ramp. It was full of mosquitos, people and we were beat…so we didn’t fish long. Nets didn’t turn up any fish anyway.
September 7th -
We hit Chain of Rocks early, and found a good spot in the sand. It felt good to be on a smooth, sandy shore instead of rip-rap for a change. Caught lots of drum, no micros, but had Channel Cat, Blue Cat and Flatheads bite in a row!
Flatheads are a “new” species to me – I’ve caught them before, just never had a picture or any other kind of proof. Just like I’m 98% sure I have caught Black Bullhead, but just have never taken a picture.
The shovelnose bite picked up, and we caught 5 and missed one more – one of Ben’s was tagged. It will be interesting to see what the fish has been up to since it was last caught!
I caught one that Ben informed me was a particularly big specimen for shovelnose, but a guy was walking by with some for the table, so I handed it to him. I have a small twinge of regret for not getting a picture or at least a measurement. It will pass, probably, because the only reason I even really considered it was talking about records recently with other fishermen. My only “size” goal in life is to catch a channel cat that weighs over 20lbs. I’ve come close!
Finally we headed to Alton Lock and Dam, which is a somewhat legendary spot due to the record blue cats that came out of it. I was really hoping for goldeye, and Ben was after skipjack, but we didn’t get either of those. I ended up catching micro-sized drum, channel and blue catfish – the blue being the smallest “big” catfish I’ve caught, I don’t think it broke two inches. I didn’t dare take a picture, because I was on a very unstable rock in flip flops holding my phone, the pole, the fish and the cooler.
The only new species I took away from there was Silver Chub, which I was more than happy to take!
I asked Ben if he wanted to hit Carlyle on the way back. I don’t remember what he said, but I think it could be summed up as a pretty big “no.”
Headed home, ripped out some cabinets and plumbing and went to bed after a shower and hot bath.
This trip to the Mazon river was a little more cooperative!
Started out right off the bat with a Common Shiner! Following that, I caught a juvenile Northern Sunfish.
I was worried about this spot, because the railroad just to the north of it had dammed up the river. I didn’t want to have to wander around to find these guys – and I didn’t actually realize that I had caught this until going back through my pictures.
By mid-morning I got super excited and though I had caught a river redhorse – rare in Illinois. I ended up catching three redhorse, all golden – I’m still not real sharp on redhorse ID.
I made a little trip over to Kankakee, which ultimately got me a new lifer (sand shiner) but wasn’t very productive. I went back to the mazon and ended up catching quite a few random fish!
Headed over to Carlyle again with Rich for some night fishing, ended up catching a handful crappie and shortnose gar (no spotted or longnose yet!). I also picked up an Orangespotted Sunfish in the old river channel! Been waiting for one of those!
Ben Cantrell had been having good luck at Shelbyville catching a number of species I need, so I gave it a shot. I chummed hard with corn and an alfalfa pellet blend intended for raising mice / rats. It was pretty slow in the afternoon, but towards dark the bite picked up. I ended up catching a number of Smallmouth Buffalo, Yellow Bass and (possibly*) a Black Buffalo.
The yellow bass were biting hard, as were gar (didn’t catch any myself, some guys were fishing nearby with minnows off the bottom). Right after I caught the first Yellow, the buffalo bite kicked in hard. Caught a handful of smallmouths.
One looked a little different to me, and I am currently counting it as a Black Buffalo. The problem is, they are extremely hard to differentiate when they are under about two feet long. There are a set of guidelines on roughfish.com that establishes a way to “count them” based on various measurement ratios. This fish was the only one that came close, and had a larger mouth proportionally to the others. Ultimately, only a genetic test can prove the species until I catch one that is so large that there can’t be any mistake. So, I’m counting this one as species #46* with a huge asterisk.
July 14th – Carlyle
We got to hang out with Mallory, Rich and Weston at the Aquatic Zoo in Mt. Vernon on the 14th, and eventually Rich and I headed to Carlyle to work on some night fishing. The shad were working up hard against the rocks, and ultimately the gar, crappie and white bass too.
I was rigging for gar with minnows, but I’ve since learned some tricks to catch the big ones on cut shad. And there were big ones in there, very large longnose and spotted gar. Hopefully, we make it back there soon.
I did my classic “one more cast” and caught a Black Crappie, one of those species I know I’ve probably caught many times before, but have no photo proof.
It was hard to wait till the weekend to do any more fishing, because I was only two fish away from 50.
July 17th – Wappapello, MO
I met with an Online friend at the Wappapello Dam, after catching a bunch of Drum on the bottom and losing a bunch of tackle. The current was pretty rough.
We made our way to a small stream in Poplar Bluff, and Rapidly caught three Sunfish Species I needed, along with Green Sunfish and some beautiful Long-Ears
The Dollar Sunfish ended up meeting my goal for the year! I really love catching sunfish because of their wide variety and aggression for their size.
We spent an hour or so trying for chubsuckers, which were actively feeding but not taking the hook. The next day, another guy from the Roughfish.com website went out and caught one right away. I’ll just have to go back and try again!
We went and tried out Tyler’s secret Chain Pickerel spot, but there was a family that had just swam in it and stirred it all up. The fish were pretty spooked, so we moved on.
We headed over to Van Buren to try for Shadow Bass. The Current River was high and flowing. We tried around a spot that many other guys caught their lifer Shadow from, but had no hookups. Micros were productive though, caught lots of bleeding shiners plus three new lifers:
Next, we moved on to try Big Spring, and it seemed pretty unproductive. We fished around cover with small jigs for a while, and my bottom rig sat there motionless. When I went to reel it in, I got an immediate hook up with a fish. It ended up being a Black Redhorse, my first large sucker species.
Finally we headed back to the Pickerel spot, and after a few casts hooked up with my first Esox –
We tried to hit the swampy area where you can pick up Banded Pygmy Sunfish, but there was a massive fish kill. Lots of dead fish, and the water was oily with fish slime. I snagged a gar with a micro hook on 1/2# test, and decided to move on when it broke my line.
I dropped Tyler back off at Wappapello afterwards. We tried for gar, but it was getting late. We cast-netted some shad, and threw out a few times. Saw some silversides that I am kicking myself for not catching now on micro hooks. My rushing home didn’t pay off in the end, due to some GPS issues, bad signal and lots of construction. Ended up getting home around 2:30a.m. after starting my day at 4:30a.m.
Next time I’ll take the 5 minutes to catch the dang silversides.
While we were in Iuka swimming, I took the 4-wheeler back down to John’s Branch to see what the flow was like. The deeper pools were FULL of huge bullfrog tadpoles and a large carp. I found a couple little riffles with small darters in them, but they were too small to catch on the hooks I had. I tried to find larger ones, but I mostly caught these bad boys in possible hiding spots:
I started poking around for other fish, and my first one was a new lifer:
I ended up catching lots of fish, probably juvenile creek chub and redfins, as well as a handful of small sunfish.
It was getting close to time to head back, but I hooked one last fish, and another new lifer.
I had to come home from Dwight early to take care of some things at work and to go to band practice at church. I had my fishing gear, the weather was clear and I wasn’t quite tired, so I headed over to the Salem Reservoir.
Sunfish were feeding hard on the surface. I had some poppers and flies and thought about it for a second, but I decided to see if I could add some bullheads to my 50 species collection. I caught a Brown Bullhead in Ohio, but I still needed yellow and black. Didn’t end up seeing a black bullhead, but caught some small yellows.
The yellow and black bullheads can look pretty similar, except for their chin whiskers. I guess I should call them barbels. Chin whiskers sounds better though.
We are about half-way through the year, and I only have nine species left for my goal. I started with no specific species goals in mind, but now I’m really thinking about individuals.
I know that I could wait till the Mazon river is low, and probably catch with decent certainty Orangespotted Sunfish, A couple of redhorse species and Northern Sunfish (maybe pumpkinseed too).
Between there, the Kankakee, Heideke Lake and Mazonia / Braidwood. I could target Mooneye, Goldeye, Pickerel, Northern Pike, Musky, Wipers, Hogsuckers, White Suckers, Gar, etc. Sangchris isn’t too far for striped bass. Carlyle has all three buffalo, Goldeye, Flatheads, etc.
That’s not even counting microfishing.
All in all, I have started to narrow things down to big “target groups”
Horseshoe Lake (Alexander County) Area – Lots of good species there. Gar, Orangspotted Sunfish, etc.
S.E. Missouri – Warmouth, Chain Pickerel, tons of unique micros – make my way over to pick up some shadow bass!?
Dwight Area – Tons of species I need
Embarras River – Suckers, Redhorse, etc.
Carlyle – Buffalo, Flatheads
Lake Michigan – Charter for Trout / Salmon
Ice Fishing – I REALLY want to catch a Burbot.
Those all offer best bang:buck.
Of course, I would love to hit the American Shad run on the east coast, pickup Jumprocks in Georgia, Run around Saltwater Fishing (If I lived by the coast, my original goal would have been 150!), And catch two of the “holy grail” – Blue Suckers and American Eel. Both are hard to predict where to find, and a little luck is involved.
We went up to Visit Rachel’s Dad at his new house, and I was given the thumbs up for fishing. Unfortunately, between the time I planned to get up there and we actually went, excessive amounts of rain blew out all of the rivers.
The other bad (good) part of the trip was that I didn’t take many pictures because I was trying to conserve my cell phone power, being as I was fishing from dawn till dusk every day.
First spot was one of the bridge crossings on the Mazon river. I sat and stared at it longingly, because I just knew there were all the Suckers and Red Horse I wanted to catch in there somewhere, but there was no place to even stand where you could get a line out. I looked at it for a little while, and then moved on to Mazonia. I drove around hitting the little lakes on the North Unit, and started catching little sunfish. I made my way down to Carp and Gar Lake for gar. It took me a good 45 minutes to walk in to a fishable spot at the channel that connects them, which made me feel like a fishing Kayak is a worthy investment. I tried some inline spinners, and got nothing. I switched to rope lures, and had several follows by longnose gar back to my feet where I was standing in the water. I figure-8’ed them just like musky, but they were not hitting. This water is SUPER clear, and while they were interested in the lures, they wouldn’t take them.
After I left there, I headed to the South Unit lakes and caught a bunch of sunfish. I should have kept them, but it was still early in the day, and I wasn’t really prepared for it. I should have got a picture of the red ear, but my phone was at 5% and won’t take pictures at that point. It was probably the biggest sunfish I’ve ever caught. They were all hitting hard on Carolina Rigs on the bottom.
I also caught this little top minnow, which I was convinced was a new species, but Ben Cantrell crushed my hopes and dreams, and informed me it was just the male pattern of Blackstriped Topminnow, which I already had caught.
I also headed over to Kankakee where it meets Rock Creek, in the hopes that the creek might be flooded, but not have so much flow.
Started at Monster Lake, at the Granary Creek cutoff. I caught a few nice bluegill there, and a couple little ones, which promptly became flathead bait. The bite was pretty slow, and I didn’t get any flatheads – but I live near a super flathead spot, so I’ll just have to hit it when the waters are right.
Late Afternoon, I went down to Ponderosa, which has a 10 sunfish limit, and caught a nice mix of bluegill, redear, and green sunfish. Right before I ran out of worms (that doesn’t happen too often). Yellow Perch started biting, hitting #40 of the 50 species I want to catch this year.
Went back to Duane’s and cleaned the sunfish, which took forever since I am terrible at it. However, after watching a quick youtube video on how to clean and de-bone perch, I made quick work of them. I’m a much better perch cleaner than bluegill cleaner.
All in all, I had a great time. It was rainy, muddy, and flooded and I got enough hiking in to last me a while but I’ve got a huge number of spots that are already scouted fully for when I go back up there. I have to get a redhorse, something about them appeals to my catfishing nature.
It was Rachel’s birthday this last weekend, and we decided to go on a float trip to the Bass River Resort with some friends! Of course you float on water, and guess what else lives in water???
Blackspotted Topminnows were super aggressive and very prevalent here. It was hard to get the hook down to the shiners I was seeing. Ended up catching two shiners that were new lifers:
In this same area, we absolutely hammered longear and green sunfish. I also caught a fairly large bluegill, but I was in neck deep water, and didn’t have my camera or a way to hold onto it without putting it inside of my swim trunks.
Once we actually got to floating, I ran some inline spinners and really small crankbaits (Rebel Crickhopper and 1/10th oz Rebel Crawfish). It was really amusing to see the fish running after them in the ultra-clear water. Even tiny shiners would chase after these lures that were twice their size. Overall, I caught two new lifers.
Overall, I was really thankful to get to go on this trip. It was Rachel’s birthday trip, and she was gracious enough to let me chase an admittedly silly obsession.
Plus, she’s letting me go up to the Mazon and Kankakee Rivers this week to chase some more fish! There are some good chances at Redhorse, bullheads, pickerel, pike, and sunfish that I don’t have as well as some hopefully clearer creeks. Lots of rain in the forecast, but I never really cared about that!
Went down to a few different spots around noon – Skillet fork, John’s Branch and Fulton Creek. Still bottom fishing, hoping for a few for my list – Black Bullhead, Yellow Bullhead, White Suckers, etc.
Right off the bat, caught a creek chub
Now, this is the first “large” creek chub I caught – I’ve only ever caught them via Microfishing.
The rest of the afternoon was very fast action on green sunfish and longears.
Ran into three snakes, first two I didn’t get a good look at – but I am pretty sure they were young Northern Water Snakes – I think this is a rat snake of some sort, but I am not even close to a snake expert.
Unfortunately, my cellphone was dead. I had left “location” on, and ever since the last update my phone drains rapidly when location services are on – and gets hot to the touch.
Anyway, Rich Crouse and I went to a private pond with his brother and his brother’s girlfriend. We caught a silly amount of bluegill – some where pretty good sized. Rich tried out the microfishing, and had a good time. There are some very large stocked catfish there, we may go back and try for them later!