6/16 – 6/17/2015 – Mazonia and Flooded Rivers

Day 1 -

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. 20150616_095712 20150616_150006 20150616_053220I 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.20150616_145657

 

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.

Oops.

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Day 2

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.

Yellow Perch - Perca flavescens – Angling Species #41 / 2015 Species #40
Yellow Perch – Perca flavescens – Angling Species #41 / 2015 Species #40

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.

6/13 – Floatin’

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 Topminnow
Blackspotted Topminnow

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:

Bleeding Shiner - Notropis zonatus – Angling Species #38 / 2015 Species #37
Bleeding Shiner – Notropis zonatus – Angling Species #38 / 2015 Species #37
Striped Shiner - Luxilus chrysocephalus – Angling Species #37 / 2015 Species #36
Striped Shiner – Luxilus chrysocephalus – Angling Species #37 / 2015 Species #36

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.

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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.

Rock Bass - Ambloplites rupestris – Angling Species #39 / 2015 Species #38
Rock Bass – Ambloplites rupestris – Angling Species #39 / 2015 Species #38
Smallmouth Bass - Micropterus dolomieu – Angling Species #40 / 2015 Species #39
Smallmouth Bass – Micropterus dolomieu – Angling Species #40 / 2015 Species #39

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!

Microfishing Lunch Break

So, yesterday I decided to check out some of the local creeks where I could get access for a few micros. I ended up picking up a few new species, as well as some I already have knocked out for the year.

I tried a spot south of Salem on Crooked creek. There were creek chubs and stonerollers, but I just wasn’t having good luck. The water was very muddy, and the bite was light. I didn’t want to waste time, so I headed over to Dums Creek. There I picked up my two new species for this trip: a Blackstripe Topminnow and a Bluntnose Minnow.

Topminnow_Blackstrip_2015_04_29
Blackstripe Topminnow – Fundulus notatus – Angling Species #26 / 2015 Species #22
Minnow_Bluntnose_Male_2015_04_29
Bluntnose Minnow (Male) – Pimephales notatus – Angling Species #27 / 2015 Species #23
Minnow_Bluntnose_Female_2015_04_29
Bluntnose Minnow (Female) – Pimephales notatus – Angling Species #27 / 2015 Species #23
Bluntnose Female Closeup
Bluntnose Female Closeup

The sunfish were absolutely swarming. Picked up these Bluegill / Green Sunfish. It was hard to fish for anything else, because they would swarm the bait.
Sunfish_CrookedCreek (2) Sunfish_CrookedCreek Sunfish_DumsCreek

Finally, I dipped in on the way to pick up my daughter to catch her one of these creek chubs I saw before in Iuka. They are in a piece of creek that is cut off on both ends for now, so I knew they would be there. I took this one for her to see up close. She was sad when the fish went back home to it’s creek :)

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Catching up On Species

A lot has happened since my first spotted bass! I’ve been to several spots and picked up ten new species! I figured I’d better get on top of updating, since we are leaving in just a few days for a week of hardcore fishing in Ohio. Walleye here I come!

Forbes Lake, IL – Boston Pond

I had a day of working at the studio, where Rachel was away at a wedding. I figured I had time for two quick trips, and they paid off pretty well with four new species for 2015.

Right off the bat, I dropped in a carolina rig for Rainbow Trout, #18 hook – rainbow power bait. Classic rig for stocked trout. I had really got to figure out something before I leave for Ohio – there are wild brookies and browns up at the trout camps. There are a huge number of species I am after up there, so I am trying to figure out the best way to optimize time.

While waiting on my trout, I picked up two sunfish species. My problem with reckoning what fish I have captured before, is that I have never documented any. So I can’t be sure if I have caught green sunfish, although I am pretty sure I had. Caught several regardless!

Green Sunfish – Lepomis cyanellus – Angling Species #19 / 2015 Species #12 Edit: The original picture was misidentified. Here is a real, but tiny, green sunfish I caught later.

 

Redear Sunfish - Lepomis microlophus - 2015 Species #13
Redear Sunfish – Lepomis microlophus – 2015 Species #13

Apparently, I had a very lazy trout on the line while I was reeling in sunfish. I watched it like a hawk, and never saw so much as a twitch. The trout you could see were super sluggish. Don’t know how long he was on, but it took the disgorger to unhook him :(

Rainbow Trout - Onchorhyncus mykiss - Angling Species #20 / 2015 Species #14
Rainbow Trout – Onchorhyncus mykiss – Angling Species #20 / 2015 Species #14

After I picked up these three (I spent more time driving to them than fishing for them). I headed back to work.

Kaskaskia River, Carlyle Dam

After my work was completed, I had a little time before sunset, so I headed out to Carlyle to try some bottom fishing. There’s no telling what you will pick up on a carolina rigged worm there. That night the answer was drum. Lots of drum.

Freshwater Drum - Aplodinotus grunniens - 2015 Species #15
Freshwater Drum – Aplodinotus grunniens – 2015 Species #15

They were all approximately this size. Every cast brought one in. I know when we get up to Port Clinton, we will catch much bigger drum, but these were fairly fun to catch a mess of.

Interlude

Shortly after, Rachel and I left for Georgia to attend a week long marriage retreat for couples who are small business partners (mostly photographers / creatives). I may have been a little sceptical at first, but I blame that on my proximity to the Coosa river, and a number of species that are found in that area and not back home (Coosa bass, Snail Bullhead, Greater and Brassy Jumprocks, etc.). We ended up having a blast, met many couples who share the same struggles, and got to hash through things that we never have the time to deal with. It was really nice meeting other couples, some that are objectively famous in the photography world, who seemed like clones of us. We all apparently drive each other nuts in similar ways. It was very Christianity-centric, so it was nice to have some focus on that too. Honestly, it felt the most like “Church” should feel like in my mind than I have felt in forever.

Barkley Dam

Last Saturday (April 25th), Ben Cantrell and I headed down to Barkley Dam in Kentucky to, hopefully, pick up a new lifer each – skipjack herring. Ben is solely responsible for starting a new obsession with Microfishing – fishing for the tiniest fish, instead of hunting trophies. He documented this trip too, along with Sunday at Carlyle. I spent Sunday planting flowers with my daughter. :)

Barkley was pretty high, the accessible ramp was flooded up pretty high, so I started casting directly into the ramp! The ramp was full of white bass. Ben ended up catching the biggest white I’ve ever seen.

White Bass - Morone chrysops - 2015 Species #16
White Bass – Morone chrysops – 2015 Species #16

A family started running sabiki-style rigs, and I ended up tying 3 jigs (1-1/8th, 2-1/16th) with randomly colored jigs on them. Started catching fair amounts of skipjack. I had two on at once, but broke the line (don’t use 4# mono for multiple fish with a habit of jumping and thrashing). Still managed to get the top one in.

Skipjack Herring - Alosa chrysochloris - Angling Species #21 / 2015 Species #17
Skipjack Herring – Alosa chrysochloris – Angling Species #21 / 2015 Species #17

The one I broke off looked bigger, but that may just be the mind of a fisherman. Since I’ve started this goal of catching 50, I can’t focus too long on one species. So afterwards, I started trying to float waxworms for goldeye. Never got a hit. Eventually, we decided to start microfishing several creeks. Around sunset, we hit Barkley one last time, and Ben caught a massive Silver Carp.

Cumberland and Tennessee Feeder Creeks

So, the thing about microfishing is that it opens up bodies of water that you would never even notice. I found out several things about it.

  1. It’s really hard to bait a hook so small I can barely see it.
  2. It takes a lot of focus to pick your target and get it to bite.
  3. I don’t know what any of the fish are that aren’t huge. The Peterson Field Guide is a requirement.
  4. You quickly learn latin names, at least the genus.
  5. I love microfishing :)
Creek Chub - Semotilus atromaculatus - Angling Species #22 / 2015 Species #18 (First Micro Species)
Creek Chub – Semotilus atromaculatus – Angling Species #22 / 2015 Species #18 (First Micro Species)

The above Creek Chub was the first to pick up, and I learned you have to “pop” the fish out of the water instead of “lifting” them. It’s not as easy to set a hook on a fish measured in grams as you would think. The tiny green sunfish from above made an appearance next.

Next up, we had a blast catching Fringed Darters. There were slabrock darters in the stream too, but we didn’t catch any. They may have been the smaller ones we were seeing, but we were catching the massive two-inchers.

Fringed Darter - Etheostoma crossopterum - Angling Species #23 / 2015 Species #19
Fringed Darter – Etheostoma crossopterum – Angling Species #23 / 2015 Species #19

We moved spots after this to try for a neighboring darter species. I started at this creek by trying to catch stonerollers, but they were uninterested. A Blackspotted Topminnow was though!

Blackspotted Topminnow - Fundulus olivaceous - Angling Species #24 / 2015 Species #20
Blackspotted Topminnow – Fundulus olivaceous – Angling Species #24 / 2015 Species #20

Guardian darters are “egg-mimics,” the males have protrusions that look like eggs. Presumably, while they are under a rock, it appears that they already have a next, which appeals to the females.

Guardian Darter – Etheostoma oophylax – Angling Species #25 / 2015 Species #21

 

Afterword

Sunday Ben hit Carlyle and nailed several species I still need for this year, but I spent the day outside with my Daughter. We went to Bucheit’s and picked out flowers for her raised bed and pots. Planted them, along with some vegetables – Jalapeño peppers, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Summer Squash, and Bush Beans. Already have Lettuce, Spinach, Radishes, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, and Cauliflower in the ground. Just need to plant potatoes before my trip!