Species: Klamath Largescale Sucker (Catostomus snyderi) Location: Sprague River, Sprague River, Oregon Date: November 6, 2016
While I occasionally reference and link to articles I’ve written for the Herald and News or other newspapers on my blog, I try to generate new content for this site. But every now and then, I’ve already told the story of a new species in a way I like and don’t want to change, and the story of my first IGFA All-Tackle World Record is one such story.
Check out this story, as originally written for the Herald and News by clicking this link and feel free to check out my record by clicking here.
Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #81 — Whitespotted Greenling.
In short, I became a Teacher-Consultant for National Geographic, and I had an all-expenses-paid trip to Portugal and Spain.
Though these wouldn’t have been my first travel destinations, I’d never been to Europe before. In fact, I’d never even been to a country that wasn’t a former part of the British Empire (I’d only been to the USA, Canada, and New Zealand at that point), so I figured it would be a culturally-immersive experience.
Long before landing in Lisbon, our first stop, I researched fishing opportunities in the city. There is very little freshwater fishing culture in Portugal, and what was available was all in Portuguese.
That said, I refused to admit defeat and packed my rods.
Tragically, the inland fishing in Portugal is terrible. There’s little water and even less fish in that water, invasive Common Carp having displaced most of the awesome native species like Andalusian Barbel.
So after several attempts to find fish in the 10-plus-miles of walking we did every day, I was a little disappointed. The only places that had fish were tourist traps with Goldfish and other ornamental offerings not really ideal for fishing — especially given that night fishing of any sort is illegal in Portugal.
To further complicate matters, fishing licenses are only available from a Multibanco machine. This effectively means getting a fishing license as a nonresident is all-but-impossible. In fact, they only have one kind of fishing license, and you must have an account with Multibanco to buy it.
After trying to pay several locals to buy one for me, I eventually gave up and decided to just risk fishing without one. From what I could find online, fishing was barely regulated, and you usually just had to pay a small fine if you were found fishing without a license.
I risked it.
License (or lack thereof) sorted out, I moved on to bait. Since most species still surviving in Central and Southern Portugal’s fresh waters aren’t predatory — save for the widely introduced Largemouth Bass — I had to find bait. Worms were nowhere, and since the culture only really cares about saltwater fishing, inland tackle shops don’t exist.
My obvious choices were corn and bread, but American-style bread is almost impossible to find, so it meant trying to stick bits of pastries (the only bread I could get to stay on a hook) on baitholder single and treble hooks.
It was rough, to say the least.
Fortunately, there was and abundance of beautiful architecture to keep me busy, including the Torre de Belem.
The Euro Cup was in full swing during my visit, and Portugal was making a strong showing. They’d go on to win before I left the country, so that made the experience really enjoyable.
I watched one match on a massive, 50-foot outdoor screen maybe 200 yards from the river’s edge, and I was offered drugs more times that night than in the rest of my life combined. 21. I now know what meth, black tar heroine, cocaine, and and everything else you can ingest to kill brain cells looks like.
I took a quick break from the game and noticed a small, seemingly enclosed area with fish in it.
I would be back tomorrow with fishing gear.
When I finally found fishable water, it was in a small concrete diversion pond maybe 100 yards from the edge of the Prime Minister’s Residence. Armed guards were everywhere, and I fully expected to be arrested or shot at. Fortunatley, I made it very clear I was fishing, made no sudden moves, and the one guard nearby kept an eye on me.
Not a great location.
To further complicate matters, the only fish I could see in the clearish water were mullet, a fish notoriously difficult to catch.
The final factor working against me was the 105-degree heat. Standing in direct sunlight, I was sapped of energy with every second in the sun.
After nearly an hour, I finally got one to nibble my bread and set the hook.
The guard kept looking at me and talking on his radio, but once he saw I had a fish on, he smiled and must’ve realized I wasn’t a sniper waiting to behead the government.
I lost that fish.
After two hours or so, I opted to just snag the damn things. That’s easier said than done with light line while fishing 30 feet above the water’s surface for relatively small fish, but I finally got one.
I grabbed a quick photo, and the guard gave me a smile and a thumbs-up. I guess I wasn’t going to be shot or imprisoned after all.
Later, I’d identify it as a Thicklip Gray Mullet. A new species, sure, but unfortunatley one that is actually found in the New World, as well.
I spent another hour trying with bread again but to no avail.
The fish I caught seemed to be the only species present, and I didn’t want to push my luck, so I got out of there.
Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #79 — Striped Mullet.
Species: Striped Mullet (Chelon labrosus) Location: Guadalquivir River, Seville, Spain Date: July 13, 2016
My second European species was another mullet found in the United States. Not ideal, but I was happy. From what I’ve found online, this fish is actually raised for commercial harvest in Seville, Spain where I caught it.
Finding water that didn’t have just Goldfish in Europe was difficult. The construction of the Spanish Armada effectively deforested Spain, and their agriculture-first water policies have basically left a hot, dry desert with lots of dried-up riverbeds and lakes-turned-mud puddles.
It’s honestly a cautionary tale for how not to manage fisheries, but I digress.
The only place I found water to fish in Seville was the Guadalquivir River, a channelized river with a large, concrete-lined riverwalk.
Though it fails in so many other areas, Spain encourages street art, so the concrete is beautifully-decorated with graphic art at every turn. It makes for a unique, modern aesthetic.
When I finally had a chance to get to the river, I’d been able to find only corn and bread, so my bait options were limited. I tried casting out into the river in hopes of catching an Andalusian Barbel (the fish I’d booked a guide for in Portugal but struck out on that you can read about here). The river was channelized and had a tiled, concrete bottom as well, which basically made fishing with a traditional on-bottom setup hopeless.
After breaking off half a dozen times, I switched my attention to the mullet feeding on the surface.
Eventually, I coaxed one into biting my bread ball.
It was my first Striped Mullet.
I landed another shortly thereafter, but since Spain only sells fishing licenses at three or four regional offices in the entire country and fishing is not allowed at night, I decided not to press my luck.
Eventually, I found a pond with Crucian Carp x Goldfish Hybrids in a park in Madrid, but since it wasn’t pure, I didn’t count it as a new species. Maybe I should have? Read the unique story about handlining in a public park for those hybrid fish while fighting off turtles and ducks here.
Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #80 — Klamath Largescale Sucker.
Species: Blue Chub (Gila coerulea) Location: Lost River, Clear Lake, CA Date: June 29, 2016
I drove almost 100 miles and spent hours in a car on a windy, gravel road. I fished in Clear Lake Reservoir that serves as the headwaters of Lost River, and I eventually got my quarry in the river below the dam.
This all sounds great but for the fact that the Blue Chub is actually super-common in Upper Klamath Lake. In fact, I’ve since paid attention and found it to be more common than Tui Chub.
How great is that?
The fish pictured above was actually caught at Topsy in the spring before I went to Northern California, but since I hadn’t yet learned to tell them apart from Tui Chub, I hadn’t even counted it or given the Blue Chub its due.
The fish I captured in Lost River that day took a partial worm. I got no other hits, and it was an uneventful day in which my allergies almost killed me.
It definitely wasn’t the first unnecessary drive for a species in my backyard, but now that I’ve caught every native in Klamath County save for the endangered Miller Lake Lamprey — at least, at time of writing July 1, 2018.
Still, it was a nice change of pace. I’d never fished Lost River above the Harpold Road dam before.
Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #78 — Thicklip Gray Mullet.
Species: Goldfish (Carassius auratus) Location: Long Tom River, Monroe, OR Date: June 23, 2016
I spent countless hours trying to catch a bloody goldfish. It’s embarrassing in more ways than one, I know.
Topsy Reservoir was the obvious choice, as Goldfish represent more than 50 percent of the whole biomass there, but I just couldn’t get one of the small reverted specimens or the larger, more traditionally colored ones to bite. Some of these fish run five pounds or more, but I never could figure it out. Lame.
So the day I went carp fishing at Long Tom River and caught this pretty little guy above, I was shocked and excited. It was far from glamorous, but anyone fishing Long Tom knows it’s not a glamorous place.
Apparently, all you need to do to catch a target species is not try for them at all.
Long Tom has since produced several more Goldfish for me. Nothing large and all were reverted, though.
What it did produce was a Common Carp x Goldfish Hybrid. And then another.
Long Tom is a cess pool for invasive species. I have caught a few puss-gut hatchery trout and a single Largemouth Bass, but otherwise, it’s carp, goldfish, and bullheads for days.
The carp and occasional Goldfish are fun to catch, so I stomach the less-than-desirable location.
Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #77 — Blue Chub.06
Species: Yellow Bullhead (Ameiurus natalis) Location: Long Tom River, Monroe, OR Date: June 20, 2016
This was a phenomenal day. I caught a total of 50 fish, including Common Carp, Brown Bullhead, and Yellow Bullhead, the latter being a new species. Strangely enough, all fish took corn. The bullheads were ravenous but annoying as bullheads tend to be.
As for identification, Yellow Bullheads can actually be yellowish like this one, but the easiest way to tell them apart from other species is to look at their chin barbels. A Yellow Bullhead’s are white or yellowish while a Brown Bullhead’s are darker.
This was a busy day, and I learned to “ghost set” for carp this skittish. Basically, you’ll know the carp are feeding nearby, so many of the hooksets should come even if you don’t feel a bite. Just wait a few seconds and lift up, and you’ll often catch carp. The bullheads nibbled pretty overtly, so they weren’t quite as unique a catch.
As bullheads are invasive and worthless, I killed every one I caught.
Carp are invasive but at least fun to catch, so I let those go.
I know. I’m a monster.
Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #76 — Goldfish.
Species: Slender Sculpin (Cottus tenuis) Location: Link River, Klamath Falls, OR Date: December 15, 2015
Some #SpeciesHunters only worry about fish caught in the mouth on hook and line.
Disclaimer: I’m not one of them. While 95% of my fish are caught this way, I personally count any species caught by legal means. There are numerous ways to fish, and snagging a fish, catching one by hand, shooting it with a bow, or spearfishing are all equally viable ways to fish — if legal.
This is the first species on my “Lifelist” that was first caught by means other than a hook in the mouth. Granted, I’ve since caught dozens of them the old-fashioned way since I discovered microfishing (S/O to Ben Cantrell for putting me onto that entirely new way of fishing), but I would count it even if that weren’t the case.
This was a pretty uneventful fish. While trout fishing in the dead of winter in just about the only place worth fishing for trout in the dead of winter, Link River, I realized the water was really low. When this happens, I usually wade out to a few of my favorite rocks to look for lures snagged by hapless anglers out of their element.
I usually find a few.
That day, I found a few of the usually rusted-beyond-hope Rooster Tails and some terminal tackle, I found nothing noteworthy. That is, until I saw a small fish trapped in a small pool of water that had apparently been isolated there when the water level dropped.
It took a minute to grab the speedy little guy, but when I did, I’d just “landed” a Slender Sculpin. My first.
Since then, I’ve caught a few microfishing, and I even helped guide Species Hunting Legend Steve Wozniak to one when he came and visited last month.
Now I catch them by sightfishing with micro gear at night, something I call night-micro-sight-fishing and something I think I’m a pioneer of, especially considering Steve said he didn’t really fish for sculpins at night.
Heck yeah, Luke.
Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #72 — Spotted Bass.
Species: Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) Location: Malheur River, Princeton, OR Date: August 22, 2015
Imagine seeing a fish fish with some frequency for years when traveling but never having the appropriate gear to target it successfully. That’s the story of me fishing for Common Carp.
There are no carp populations in Klamath County where I live, which, in a county larger than Delaware, says something.
Nearby counties have carp populations, but having neither fished for carp nor known anyone who did for years, it meant carp was basically just a pipe dream.
That is, until my friend Ben Fry told me of this amazing fishery in the middle of the desert where he and his brother, Chuck, slayed carp the weekend before.
I’d just been offered a teaching job at Henley Middle School, and I accepted the position while sitting in my office at Klamath Community College, not having even applied. I was excited, but I was nowhere near ready.
When I told my boss at KCC, I agreed to stay and work the swing shift until they found a replacement. This mdae my schedule crazy, and I knew if I didn’t go fishing this weekend, I might not have another shot.
So I loaded up my car and headed into the desert.
When we arrived at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the short carp season (August 1 – September 15) was half over. I assumed this meant skittish, heavily pressured fish, but that wasn’t the case.
Within 10 minutes of throwing my corn in the water, I had my first carp on. Ben and his kids, Gabe and Rose, caught theirs shortly thereafter.
Once we figured out how to fish for them and accepted that in 90-to-100-degree heat and thick smoke, it was going to remain unpleasant, we hit our rhythm and started smashing fish left and right.
This season opens as a damage control measure to help curb the invasive carp population which has expanded exponentially since the 1950s introduction until it took over and wiped out native species. It’s now so bad that most aquatic vegetation is gone, and ducks don’t stop here anymore, despite its historic presence as a major Pacific Flyway stopover.
So we killed every carp we caught. For someone who does almost exclusively catch-and-release fishing, this was tough.
At first, the Refuge staff came and picked up them in trucks and carted them away for fertilizer, but then they gave up, leaving us sitting and fishing by a pile of dead carp in 90-plus-degree heat. It wasn’t great.
Fishing two rods at once, we were constantly fighting fish. The kids got tired, so we had to keep them entertained.
We continued to catch fish, and quickly realized they were stunted in the 7-10 pound range. Only one fish was under 6 pounds, and none topped 13. Still, an 8-pound carp is a better stunted fish than an 8-inch bass.
We continued fishing.
It didn’t let up, and neither did we. We scarfed down sandwiches and drinks, but eventually the kids had to call it quits. Ben and I remained in hopes of either a monster carp or a Mirror Carp — neither of which came.
Once the sun started going down, the bite slowed. It didn’t stop, but it slowed. We’d been at it for more than 12 straight hours, and we’d each probably lost two or three pounds of fluid in sweat. It was a long, hot day, and I finished with 44 carp. Ben had something like that many, too.
Read about this from a different, more punny angle here and then read more about what happened to all of the carp we killed here.
Species: White Catfish (Ameiurus catus) Location: Cosca Lake, Washington, D.C. Date: July 16, 2015
For most people, a visit to D.C. means history and tours and American nationalism. It meant all of those things to me, too, but it also meant fishing.
After spending a good chunk of time researching where to fish within a reasonable distance of my Maryland hotel room, I settled on my first stop: Cosca Lake.
The urban lake is not easily accessible. It required a long walk from the parking area, and in late July heat, anything more than five feet might as well be the the Bataan Death March.
I arrived on the lawn surrounding the lake and began to setup shop. I only had one rod, so my first bet was a handline baited with a worm while I tied up my one and only rod for the occasion.
Before I even managed to get the tiny jig on my line, the stick I’d tied the handline to started bouncing, and I pulled in what appeared to be a bullhead.
Technically, it was. Just not a Brown or Yellow Bullhead like I’d seen in my native Oregon. This was a White Bullhead, more commonly called the White Catfish.
Heck yeah! I hadn’t even cast yet, and I had a new species on the board. Sticky, sweaty weather aside, I could tell this day was shaping up nicely.
That is, until some strange dude in absurdly baggy pants came up and kept talking to me while I tried to fish. It was obnoxious, and he was just wrong on every account. After I landed a few Brown Bullhead, I decided to pick up and move to the tiny feeder creek leading into the lake.