Species #162 — Rainbow Darter

My first darter species was arguably the most common. Unfortunately, this Rainbow Darter didn’t photograph well and came with absolutely zero pots of gold.

Species: Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum)
Location: Smokes Creek, Buffalo, New York
Date: July 18, 2018

“Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high
Take a look, it’s in a book,
A Reading Rainbow!
I can go anywhere
Friends to know, and ways to grow
A Reading Rainbow!

I can be anything
Take a look, it’s in a book
A Reading Rainbow
Reading Rainbow!
Ooooooooooh”

“Reading Rainbow Theme Song”
Chaka Khan

As a kid, I used to love this show.

It probably helped me learn to like reading, and though I faltered during middle school, I’ve always been a reader.

In fact, I read about 40-50 books per year as I travel around chasing this fish or that. My *coughs* cornucopia *coughs* of vocabulary words overflows because of how much time I spend reading books or listening to audiobooks.

If you don’t listen to audiobooks, consider a free trial with Audible.

I love audible. I’m a long-time Platinum member, and that’s worth every penny when you drive 30,000 miles per year in pursuit of fish. Click here to try audible for free.

Driving, flying, and waiting are a lot less painful with Audible because my mind is occupied while my body carries out rote tasks like driving, bait fishing, or winning the hearts and minds of women everywhere.

I credit my love of reading to The Reading Rainbow.

I’m 90% sure this famous meme-inspiring image from Spongebob was inspired by Reading Rainbow. I know I was.

Upstate New York

 I was fortunate enough to have the evenings free after a teaching conference in Buffalo. I spent every waking moment fishing, save for the times I was eating.

The highlight of my trip from a culinary standpoint was the Blackthorn Restaurant and Pub. I got the traditional Beef on Weck, as well as Buffalo Wings. Though they collectively held enough salt to give me hypertension in a single sitting, they were one of the most uniquely wonderful sandwiches and the best wings I’ve ever had, respectively.

If you are headed there, please stop in. Sorry Skittles, but if I tasted the rainbow, it would’ve been that meal. At least, until I got slightly dehydrated from all of the salt.

Metaphors, like memes, lend to overuse. For that reason, I apologize for all of my rainbow-related jokes and metaphors in advance.

Fully satiated with salty Americana, I looked for the nearest creek. I hadn’t planned out every location as well as I do now, so I planned to sort of stumble into them.

When fishing, you’re always looking for a unicorn. Fortunately, everyone knows that rainbows are unicorns’ natural habitat.

I found a small rainbow created by a sprinkler system in the grassy rim of some sort of massage therapy parking lot. I ambled down the grass and figured there were micros to be had in the creek below.

Almost immediately, I began catching Creek Chubs left and right.

It wasn’t my first Creek Chub. I caught my lifer in a similarly blind fashion, when I fished a random creek behind a gas station in Tennessee. Read about that here.

I’d hoped they were Lake Chub, which would’ve been a new species, but they were just plain ‘ole Creek Chubs.

I quickly realized the swarm of cyprinids I was fishing to were all Creek Chub, so I shifted gears and started targeting what I hoped would be my first darters.

There was no pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, but there was a new species. Don’t worry; I’m getting to that.

Darters

They were everywhere on the sandy bottom, but they wouldn’t bite.

I played around with worms, artificials, and even killed a crayfish I found onsite and used a portion of it’s tail.

The latter did the trick, and I landed my first fish.

Unfortunately, the slippery little bugger slipped out of my hands. I’m about 90% sure it was a Tesselated Darter, but since I couldn’t confirm, I didn’t count it.

I did count the next darter species I caught. The weather was great, so I was admittedly a little surprised when I caught a Rainbow, a Rainbow Darter.

I didn’t get great photos because I was dumb, and I figured darters were easy to identify and plentiful. My phone was slightly overheated, so I was limited to two or three blurry pics.

Fortunately, they were enough to identify it.

The most frustrating part were the Tesselated Darters that just wouldn’t bite. They were there, somewhere, but I just couldn’t get over the Rainbows.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #162 — Sacramento Pikeminnow.

Species #161 — Emerald Shiner

Not to flex too hard, but Ontario’s DFW calls the Emerald Shiner “the most important commercial baitfish,” so catching one is a pretty big deal.

Species: Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)
Location: Buffalo, New York
Date: July 18, 2018

Microfishing is still relatively new to me, and the newness of it all is partially why I love it so much. This method has yet to hit the mainstream, but microfishing is a gem.

In combination, the ability to sight fish, to actually see the fish you’re targeting and the inherent challenge in getting small fish to bite on tiny tackle is an incredibly underrated pursuit.

Further, there are micros everywhere — even in the heavily pressured waters nearby you don’t think twice about — and given its relative lack of awareness, you can probably microfish within walking distance of your house.

Micros are tough to “fish out” because they’re typically too small to have food value to humans, and though they can be delicate, they are usually plentiful.

Everywhere you go, there are sculpins, chubs, minnows, killifish, anchovies, shad, darters, or shiners.

Play hard

One of my favorite experiences microfishing started out with me chasing Northern Pike the size of my leg and ended with me catching fish the size of my toe.

While visiting Buffalo, New York for a teaching conference, I used every afternoon to get out and fish. After the conference, I bowed out to the Niagara River faster than the Bills have bowed out of the playoffs in recent years.

Sorry, Lt. Colonel Schultz. I couldn’t resist.

Arriving at my destination, the Tifft Nature Reserve, I grabbed a heavy rod for pike and a smaller rod just in case any micros were visible.

I quickly spotted a nice pike. Unfortunately, it was more lifeless than the Raptors’ Finals hopes before LeBron went to the Western Conference.

Sadly, upon my arrival at a public slough of the Niagara River, this dead three-foot Northern Pike was the first thing I saw.

The second thing I saw was a school of micros, patrolling the shoreline just far enough out that I couldn’t easily reach them with my micro rod. Still, fish you can see should take priority when microfishing, so I opted to try anyhow.

I set down my regular rod which happened to be tipped with a jig and worm. It fell into the water and caught a Rock Bass, which I quickly reeled in, released, and resumed microfishing.

Micros

Some micros are notoriously difficult to catch. Most micros — especially cyprinids — are notoriously tough to identify. I couldn’t tell what these fish were in the water, and as I battled the wind to place my tiny piece of worm in the path of the school, I had no idea what they were.

The Great Lakes are home to dozens of micros alone. Often, identifying micros is tougher than catching them and if the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources didn’t have The Baitfish Primer (Free PDF for Lake Ontario Micros), identification would be rough.

Catching them was no walk in the park, but eventually I did get one to bite my Owner New Half Moon Hook.

It was obviously a cyprinid, and I assumed a shiner, but I wasn’t sure on the species. I was sure that the iridescent green-blue contrasted with bright silver was absolutely gorgeous.

 

Often, I’ll spend hours fishing a school of micros in hopes of catching more than one species, but these were pretty obviously the same species. I hadn’t identified the species yet, but I was enough of a naturalist to see they were the same, and it was time to move to greener (or at least slightly less Emerald) pastures.

I carefully unhooked the fish and put it into the photo tank to take pictures.

Photo Tanks are glass or plastic boxes not actually designed for holding fish but re-purposed by enterprising microfishermen to take highly detailed photographs of fish with their fins fully extended.

Most species retract their fins when handled, and the number of anal fin rays, dorsal fin rays, fin shape, fin size, and a host of other factors can be lost if fish are held out of the water.

I’ve always tried holding fish in my wet palm just under the surface of the water to spread out their fins, but it doesn’t always work. You also risk losing the fish before a good picture is taken.

Thus, Photo Tank.

I took a few pictures, but the tank I had at the time was old and all scratched up. Further, it was windy and I didn’t have anything to wipe water droplets off the side of the tank, so I couldn’t get the best photo.

In this case, it was enough to identify the fish: Emerald Shiner.

Fitting, considering just 750 words ago I told you that microfishing is a hidden gem.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #162 — Rainbow Darter.

Species #157 — Round Goby

Such horrors have not been visited by such a small package since the Chuckie films were released.

Species: Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus)
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date: July 16, 2018

The north is a tough place. If the elements don’t kill you, there’s always the next power-hungry leader, plague, or toothy beast waiting in line to give it their best shot.

Though civilizations north of the equator have more or less dominated the rest of the world for all of human history, their rule has rarely been uncontested. Even the most beneficent societies have elements of darkness waiting to overtake the light, these elements that so crave power or those that often achieve it — for better or worse.

In fact, some leaders have led to power specific cultures so predominantly violent, vile, and vilified (turns out V is for more than just vendettas) that history remembers them as such.

From the Vikings to the Scythians to the Mongol Hordes, darkness has found its place in the north many times.

These societies could best be viewed as a scourge on all those they encountered.

*cut to scene of violence, rape, pillaging*

While one culture may choose to raise its children, another may vie to raze them.

In modern times, a balance of power seemed to exist in a place viewed by many as the pinnacle of modern achievement. A place piggybacked on the success and dominance of its neighbor to the south, the United States.

We speak, of course, of Canada.

From it’s legendary cleanliness to its legendary friendliness, Canada is paradise. At least, it was.

Its innocent utopia was interrupted by something terrible that has since become a scourge —

*cue epic instrumental music*

a Scourge of the North.

*cue opening credits*

***

Enter Ontario.

The beautiful province, by far Canada’s most populous (it accounts for one-third of the entire country) is a land of extremes. From sprawling lakefront to modern cityscape to quaint farming communities, Ontario has a little of everything.

Toronto is a beautiful place. Nestled on the shores of Lake Ontario, it is considered one of the world’s most diverse and innovative cities. It is also home to resplendent natural beauty.

Toronto, the nation’s largest city, is nothing short of spectacular. It is the second-most diverse place on earth, second only to Queens, New York, and it shows in the food, the architecture, and the people.

Of course, it’s the food that got and held my attention.

I landed in the Buffalo and immediately took my rental car across the border.

My first night in Toronto, one of just two I had there, didn’t pan out.

At this point, I was about three weeks into a stint away from home that had started in Florida, and I’d yet to go out and get skunked fishing, so of course it happened that night.

I fished a park and saw a few skittish micros dart away from my headlamp but walked away empty-handed.

That night, I drowned my misery in way too much delicious Nepali food.

***

The next morning got off to a good start.

It didn’t take me long to find the best donut place in town. Sorry, this is Canada.

It didn’t take me long to find the best doughnut place in town: Glory Hole Doughnuts.

In the foreground, I hold a bread-and-butter doughnut from Glory Hole Doughnuts. I pride myself on having good taste in donuts almost as much as I pride myself in fishing, so it means a lot when I say this was the single best donut I’ve ever had.

The lightly sweet cake donut was covered in a light, crème fraîche-like frosting topped with crumbled breadcrumbs.

It was so wonderful in its simplicity and light-yet-buttery taste that I had no problem buying all of the donuts they had left, which, thankfully for my overworked pancreas, was just three.

I paired it with Toronto’s most famous coffee chain, the one with the yellow lid, Jimmy’s Coffee.

Why can’t Jimmy’s be as successful as Starbucks? Jimmy’s is infinitely better.

Fat and happy, I set my sights on the sights.

I did a little touring around the city, which, mid-morning, meant sitting in traffic. The weather was intermittently bad or not great, so that wasn’t the worst thing.

Traffic. If only Canada were immune. Yes, that’s the CN Tower in the background.

Deciding that the CN Tower looked close enough to the one’s I’d visited in Seattle and Auckland, New Zealand, I opted to just visit a museum.

This brought me to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). I found this funny because I’d just finished reading a book, Calculating Godwhich took place there. It’s an  interesting read about aliens, God, and the foundations of the universe and holds a surprisingly not-hostile secular viewpoint towards Creationism which made it unique in and of itself.

As museums go, it was certainly above average.

Anywho, the ROM proved to be just another museum — albeit a good one — so I finally felt like I’d soaked in enough cutlure to justify fishing for the rest of the trip.

I had to be back in Buffalo for a conference the next day, so it was now or never.

I settled on a park where I proceeded to quickly catch a small fish, a Round Goby.

Then I caught another.

Then a salmon angler returned, filleted his catch, and threw the carcass near where I was fishing from shore. In less than two minutes, it was covered in swarming black monsters.

The Scourge of the North!

***

Round Gobies were introduced (most believe) from the ballast water of a ship from the Old World and have found their way into most of the Great Lakes.

They now dominate the biomass and can be found anywhere and everywhere in this region.

Oh. You thought I was kidding. This took three minutes.

Apart from a few sunfish and perch, I didn’t catch another species that trip to Toronto. No sculpins. No shiners. No nothing.

It was honestly kind of tragic.

Fortunately, I reached out to Ken Tse (http://muskiebaitadventures.blogspot.com/), albeit a little late on my part, and he gave me some spots that redeemed the trip.

I killed all of the invasive monsters, but like the unwashed hordes many had to endure in days of yore, I couldn’t outrun this scourge…

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #158 — Shorthead Redhorse.

Species #151 — Golden Topminnow

Topminnows and Killifish are all awesome, but I would kill for the confidence of these red-tailed miniature super-predators’ confidence. Sorry for the blurry pic.

Species: Golden Topminnow (Fundulus chrysotus)
Location: Orlando, Florida
Date: July 10, 2018

After checking off Golden Shiner, I tried to catch the tiny little pike-like fish that roamed just under the surface, darting this way and that to investigate everything on its turf.

The telltale red-tipped tail told me it was another Golden Topminnow, and I’d seem a dozen of them since I first started fishing in Florida that week, but I’d never been ready with a micro setup.

This time was different.

It took a little effort, but I finally got it to bite.

I released a wave of emotions and expletives (you know, the happy kind), as I put the tiny little beast into my photo tank.

The reclaimed water was dirty, and it didn’t result in the best photos. This was upsetting, but not as upsetting as not catching one would’ve been.

I was still working out the kinks of using my new Photo Tank. Namely, wiping it off before taking a picture. Sigh.

I never did get another one, but zero is lonelier than one, despite what the song says — especially for Species Hunters.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #152 — White Grunt.

Species #150 — Golden Shiner

America’s favorite baitfish proved a little harder to catch than I anticipated.

Species: Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)
Location: Orlando, Florida
Date: July 10, 2018

A school of Golden Shiners pestered me for almost an hour at the Lake Fran Urban Wetlands. I knew what they were, and I knew I’d never caught one, but for the life of me, I just couldn’t get one to bite.

They were holding far out from shore, and I didn’t want to soak my boots or go to the car for a longer rod, so I spent a fruitless hour trying to get one to bite. To make matters worse, they were holding just under the surface, wouldn’t touch anything more than two inches below the surface.

Add to that my lack of floats, and my confidence sunk faster than my micro rig.

***

After trying a pond I was told was full of them and fighting off Bluegill and turtles for the better part of an hour with no Golden Shiners to show for it, I returned to the spot from the day before.

Though it was slow-going, it proved the right idea. Eventually, my bread chumming paid off, and I got a Golden Shiner, then a few more.

Eventually, I got one. Then I got three more in quick succession. Then, I stopped because they’re Golden Shiners.

All the commotion even attracted the attention of the tiniest little predator around, a certain topminnow species that I desperately wanted to catch…

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #151 — Golden Topminnow.

Species #139 — Coastal Shiner

If someone punches you in the eye near the ocean, you get a Coastal Shiner. #DadJokes

Species: Coastal Shiner (Lepomis auritus)
Location: Little Wekiva River, Florida
Date: July 8, 2018

One of my favorite professors in college used to say “If you haven’t ____________, you haven’t lived.” He honestly had a lot of great catch phrases, but this was my favorite — especially as it relates to fishing.

If you haven’t waited chest-deep in the tannin-stained waters of a central Florida stream in pursuit of a tiny minnow species, gators be damned, you haven’t lived.

One caveat: if you have done this and continue to make this type of choices, you probably won’t live very long. But hey, at least you’ll be living both sides of the best line from Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

***

When I arrived at the river, the sunfish came faster than I expected, but that happens from time to time.

With one fish marked off so quickly, I had to figure out how to spend the rest of my time. Darters are shiners were both present, but the river was running really high.

Orlando had seen a lot of rain, and there was no way I could sight-fish darters in the dark waters when I couldn’t even see the bottom.
After catching all of the sunfish (yes, all of them) in that stretch of river, I grabbed micro gear and decided to look for greener pastures or at least clearer waters.

The shoreline flora was impenetrable, and I’d already spent a lot of time and energy finding this access point to the water, so I was SOL (that’s Spanish for “sun”, kids).

I did a quick check for gators, and, seeing none, jumped in.

My first thought was “I really hope I’m far enough from the city to be out of hypodermic needle range.”

My second thought was “No, I’m good. This is Florida. Nothing bad ever happens here.”

Used hypodermic needles are endemic to Florida, but they tend to occur in isolated pockets around the state, closer to population centers. In recent years, the range of the used hypodermic needle has contracted due to prescription opioids. Pills have out-competed the less convenient and infinitely less sanitary method for destroying brain cells and soiling perfectly good spoons.

So S/O to pills.

Fortunately, apart from some broken glass, the creekbed was fairly forgiving, and the sandy bottom actually felt good between my toes, so long as I didn’t think about all of the reclaimed water that was flowing over them.

I waded across with a fluid grace you would’ve been impressed by and began moving in the shallower water along the bank, searching diligently for water moving slowly enough to hold micros.

Gators must not like white meat because I survived long enough to find what I was looking for: happiness.

Well, sort of. I found a small school of shiners which made me happy.

The current was so fast that I struggled to keep the bait in their face in the middle of the water column, but I finally did it and caught a Coastal Shiner.

Wading back across the river and busting brush to the paved trail wasn’t great, but neither was my last colonoscopy, and I survived that.

***

If you’re not a Species Hunter, you probably laughed nervously as I told this story, wondering why some dumbass would risk his life for a tiny fish. If you are a Species Hunter, you’re nodding quietly to yourself as you look around to fistbump me only to realize this is a story, and I’m not actually there.

That’s okay. If you haven’t forgotten one of my stories was just a narrative while reading it on your phone or computer at least once, you haven’t lived.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #140 — Black Acara.

Species #137 — Seminole Killifish

These fish are so cool. Getting a Seminole Killifish to sit still for a picture is a lot more difficult than getting one to bite.

Species: Seminole Killifish (Fundulus seminolis)
Location: Urban Park, Orlando, Florida
Date: July 8, 2018

My first killifish would prove to be one of the largest found in North America, but in order to catch it, I had to do some legwork.

I was told they could be found all over Orlando, and though I ended up catching 15 across two locations on the first day I targeted them, I almost gave up the hunt just minutes in.

My first day in Florida yielded five new species, and I wasn’t about to waste hours chasing a species when there was still so much low-hanging fruit all around me.

I tried two footbridges at the park where the tiny, pike-like fish were supposed to dwell and pulled in a lot of Bluegill before I saw my target.

I’d never fished for killifish before — let alone seen one — so I didn’t know what to look for. Suddenly, a small group of snake-like fish that resembled tiny pike more than anything cruised up.

I was use a small jig tipped with worm because I was told Seminole Killifish didn’t require micro gear. The ferocious little beast that smacked my jig proved that in a hurry.

I quickly landed the fish, grabbed a photo, and put it in my photo tank.

The second this lid opened, these fish were escaping faster than my students at the final bell on a Friday afternoon.

It promptly jumped out and started wriggling toward the water. I had the photo tank is flooded grass, and it almost made it. Though my dexterity isn’t on par with my brothers, both of whom were Division I athletes, I’m still pretty dexterous. Not to brag, but all other things held equal, I’m more comfortable on land than a fish.

Bold claim, I know, but I can back it up. I’ll sign autographs later.

How cool is this fish? I don’t have an aquarium, but these guys would certainly be in it if I did.

In short order, I landed six of the golden missiles, and I was hooked on killifish. They’re small but not micro, and any time I can avoid tiny, pre-snelled micro hooks that lodge in my skin and clothing seemingly at will, I’m okay with that.

***

Killfish are incredibly unique fish that can live in freshwater, saltwater, and brackish water with different tolerances depending on the species.

Apart from sculpins, they’re probably my favorite family of micros, and I look forward to catching all of them.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #138 — Redbreast Sunfish.

Species #136 — Dollar Sunfish

I couldn’t tell you their exchange rate, but I certainly like the feel of a Dollar Sunfish in my palm.

Species: Dollar Sunfish (Lepomis marginatus)
Location: Lake Fran Urban Wetlands, Orlando, FL
Date: July 7, 2018

You don’t need to go to McDonald’s to find the Dollar Menu because Dollar Sunfish are on the menu for damn near every fish in the Southeastern United States.

In Florida, this means bass and gar and Bowfin, as well as the myriad exotics that prowl the reclaimed waters and swamps of the Sunshine State are looking for ways to make a Dollar disappear faster than Disneyworld.

Fortunately for me, a friend told me where to find Dollar Sunfish, and his directions were right on the money.

If you’d like to catch a Dollar Sunfish of your own, look no further. The buck stops here.

These pretty little fish were somewhat rare in open water, but I found Dollars to be especially common in one type of habitat: close to the bank. Go figure.

The heavily vegetated shoreline in a host of waters seemed to fill a unique niche for Dollar Sunfish. Scientists have yet to write a whole lot about this behavior, but that’s likely because more has been written about the Dollar by economists than by icthyologists.

Mysterious behavior aside, most of us are just happy getting our money’s worth, so the Dollar retains its aura.

Considering they top out around six inches, they’re not seriously targeted by anglers, but they are popular with other fishes. It’s no wonder these little fish hide in the shadows; they’re so perfectly snackable that most predators eat off the Dollar Menu in Florida.

***

I didn’t see any in the water, but I knew they were there.

At first, I tried micro gear and managed to catch a few. It felt like a scene out of Little Rascals or a GEICO commercial, me sitting there with a Dollar on the end of a hook, flopping around in the wind.

Nobody came to try and steal the Dollar, though, so the comedic potential of the situation was wasted.

Unlike other species of fish, sunfish don’t typically have gendered nicknames like salmon or trout. That said, a male salmonid is called a “Buck”, and I think this is a fitting nickname for the male Dollar Sunfish, as well.

There were a lot of other species nearby that I had yet to catch, so I stopped chasing the almighty Dollar after palming half a dozen.

It was insanely hot and muggy but I had no plans to take off anything more than my shirt in pursuit of a single Dollar, so I turned on a dime and decided to chase something else.

After all, time is money.

***

The trip wore on.

Though one Dollar by itself didn’t seem very valuable, I invested a few Dollars in other liquid assets in pursuit of larger fish. I learned the true value of a Dollar when I managed to catch my first Bowfin using a single Dollar. Haha, single.

Wallet may be okay to spend a few Dollars here and there, as I did in pursuit of Bowfin, I found it beneficial to save every Dollar I could. Un-American though it was, I saved almost every Dollar that came into possession rather than turning it into blood money.

Everyone knows it’s a bad idea to bet your bottom Dollar and letting most fish go keeps the population healthy.

Nonetheless, after a long day of saving one Dollar after another, it was I who was spent. So I cashed out and headed to a restaurant to grab some much needed food.

***

The moral of this story is that a Dollar can go a long way. I hope this tale of Dollars made sense, but don’t call me a writer. When I hand out knowledge about the Dollar, I like to be called a teller.

I’m not a rude person, so let me leave with a five-Dollar tip, or rather, five tips about Dollars. If you follow these, I promise you won’t wind up a day late and a Dollar short:

1) Dollar Sunfish are small, and one Dollar doesn’t go very far, but a bunch of Dollars, working together, help to feed a lot of hungry fish. They’re an incredibly important part of the ecosystem, and each Dollar plays its part.

2) For just one Dollar per day, you can probably feed yourself in Florida. Bowfin, bass, and gar will all happily eat one, and then you can play the next part in the food chain.

3) This is about the only Dollar you won’t see at church. They simply don’t get large enough to make a good a fish fry.

4) If you didn’t like this column, I apologize, but I have to churn out stories and sometimes I get complacent and just look at work like it’s another day, another Dollar.

5) If you like fish puns, check out my blog, www.caughtovgard.com. It has a ton of other, typically shorter stories about fish that are pretty interesting even if they don’t fetch top Dollar.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #137 — Seminole Killifish.

Species #133 — Eastern Mosquitofish

I was so stoked for this first Eastern Mosquitofish. Minutes later, I hated them with a fiery passion that burns deep within the fires of my soul. I caught dozens of them and took just one picture.

Species: Vermiculated Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus)
Location: Lake Fran Urban Wetlands, Orlando, FL
Date: July 7, 2018

Perhaps the least impressive fish on my Lifelist is the Eastern Mosquitofish. Within 30 seconds of putting on a micro rig and targeting them in Central Florida, I caught one.

I caught half a dozen of them in no time before they lost their appeal. The rest of the trip, the simply interfered with me catching the half dozen other near-surface micros found in and around Orlando.

***

The most interesting thing was when I tried using a live mosquitofish as bait. I caught a few little bass and briefly hooked a Florida Gar. I lost it, but I made up for it a few hours later.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #134 — Florida Bass.

Species #131 — Umpqua Pikeminnow

The Umpqua system has been overtaken by Smallmouth Bass, so Umpqua Pikeminnow are few and far between.

Species: Umpqua Pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus umpquae)
Location: Umpqua River, Oregon
Date: June 25, 2018

Odds are, you’ve heard of the Umpqua River.

After all, it’s home to Oregon’s only real Striper fishery (though it’s still not great). Fish likely don’t even spawn but every few years, so the fish there are there in limited numbers. But the fish there are massive. Oregon’s 68-pound state record was caught there.

The Umpqua once had one of the largest average-size Steelhead runs in the country (not in total numbers, but size of fish). Then much fish from other runs like the Alsea were stocked to supplement declining runs, and the average size fish plummeted.

But the Umpqua today is home to one of the best numbers Smallmouth fisheries on the West Coast. Anglers can expect 30-plus-fish days routinely, with 100-fish days fairly commonplace. Though the river is so saturated with fish, they tend to stunt, and true beasts are hard to find.

One side effect of the Smallmouth Bass is the massive decline in native fishes. The native Rainbows and Cutthroats suffer, and people lament them. But nobody mourns for the Umpqua Chub, Umpqua Dace, and Umpqua Pikeminnow that have fueled the explosion of smallies.

***

In fact, when I took a summer afternoon and evening to chase what I thought would be the easiest of the three endemic minnows, the Umpqua Pikeminnow, I was horrified to find myself striking out at my first stop on the South Umpqua. I caught a seemingly endless supply of smallies as I tried the spinners and Rapalas and bait I’d caught Northern Pikeminnow on dozens of times before. All I caught were smallies.

I switched to micro gear in hopes of catching one of the minnow species flitting in and out of the weeds. The good news is that smallies weren’t the only fish I caught. The bad news is that they were only joined by Green Sunfish.

After a few hours of only seeing a few flitting minnows here and there, and a few small suckers that wouldn’t touch anything, I decided to switch spots.

***

The mainstem Umpqua seemed like a better option. More water means deeper holes and faster flow, right? Wrong.

The smallies were even more prevalent here, mobbing my worm at every turn.

***

I finally ended up at the North Umpqua River, having covered a lot of miles in my “easy little trip” for UPM. I was frustrated, but I was equally disillusioned by the reality of a real-life invasive takeover of a fishery.

Smallies were everywhere. Pikeminnow were nowhere to be found.

My final spot for the night was the confluence of the North Umpqua and the mainstem. There were rapids, and a slow-swirling pool just upstream of the mouth.

Though I caught a few little trout in the rapids and a few more bass in the swirling pool, it wasn’t until I switched to micro gear that I finally got my Umpqua Pikeminnow.

I hooked and lost one on micro gear, broke off, then caught this just as the park host came and yelled at me to get out because the park was closing.

***

A few days later, I would discover that there is a much healthier population of Umpqua Pikeminnow in a nearby river system. I landed 15 of them in a few hours there, and all of them were decent-sized fish like the 10-incher at the beginning of this post.

Nature has a way of balancing itself, I guess.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #132 — Vermiculated Sailfin Catfish.