August 30th -
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.