Species #79 — Striped Mullet

The only mullet species I’ve ever hooked in the mouth was this Striped Mullet I caught on bread just before dark on the Guadalquivir Riverwalk in Sevilla, Spain.

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.

Street Art is encouraged in Spain, and artists could be seen painting over inappropriate words and pictures with acceptable graphical displays like these during broad daylight.

***

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.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #80 — Klamath Largescale Sucker.

Species #77 — Blue Chub

The Blue Chub looks a lot like the more well-known Tui Chub to the untrained eye. Look for a blue-green tint, a mouth that is less rubbery and more like a trout’s, and smaller scales.

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.

This Blue Chub came from the headwaters of the Lost River and looked more distinctive and aligned better with the textbook descriptions of this species than most of the fish I’ve caught locally since then.

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.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #78 — Thicklip Gray Mullet.

Species #76 — Goldfish

After years of trying (yes, really) my first Goldfish came as a complete surprise.

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.

This unique fish just didn’t have the mouth of a carp. Further investigation revealed the number of scales on the lateral line was off, and the mouth, although subterminal like a carp’s, did not extend downward like a vacuum and was mysteriously missing barbels. Both of the hybrids I caught were between one and two pounds.

Long Tom is a cesspool for invasive species. I have caught a few puss-gut hatchery trout and a single Largemouth Bass, but otherwise, it’s Common Carp, Goldfish, and bullheads for days.

The carp and occasional Goldfish are fun to catch, so I stomach the less-than-desirable location.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #77 — Blue Chub.

Species #75 — Yellow Bullhead

The Yellow Bullhead looks a lot like Brown Bullhead in some waters, but in Long Tom River, the yellows live up to their name.

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.

Common Carp are invasive but at least fun to catch, so I let those go.

I know. I’m a monster.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #76 — Goldfish.

Species #71 — Slender Sculpin

How adorable is this Slender Sculpin? I mean, OMG.

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. 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 third species on my “Lifelist” that was first caught by means other than a hook (Thicklip Gray Mullet was snagged and Klamath River Lamprey have been caught by hand or have been attached to trout I’ve caught), I have 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.

So now, my two remaining fish I didn’t hook in the mouth are just the Thicklip Gray Mullet and Klamath River Lamprey.

***

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 in spring of 2018. You can read that story here.

Steve Wozniak’s first Slender Sculpin. It felt good to help him onto this fish even if I couldn’t get a great picture of it.

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, and this is first story I’ve found that writes about that method.

Heck yeah, Luke.

***

I’ve pulled a resource from a later post to help you identify Upper Klamath Basin endemic sculpins. Read below.

To make it clearer, I’ve made this handy chart:

Know Your Upper Klamath Basin Sculpins
Skin Dorsal Fins Dorsal Spot Body Type Mouth
Klamath Lake Sculpin Rough Joined No Normal Upward-Facing
Klamath Marbled Sculpin Smooth Joined Yes Thick Downward-Facing
Slender Sculpin Smooth Separated No Normal Downward-Facing

I don’t normally post pics of fish out of chronological order, but it may help here.

Klamath Lake Sculpin — Note the joined dorsal fin without a spot? The upward-turned mouth? I also wish you could’ve felt its rough skin. These are all signs of a Klamath Lake Sculpin.
Klamath Marbled Sculpin — I only have one picture of a Klamath Marbled Sculpin, but it’s all you need. Note the joined dorsal with a big black spot? The massive, downward-facing mouth? The body thick enough to be that of an Instagram model? It also had smooth skin.
Slender Sculpin — The photo tank was a gamechanger, folks. Note the separated dorsal fins? That with the smooth skin and no remarkable or unique features indicates Slender Sculpin.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #72 — Spotted Bass.

Species #70 — Common Carp

This species took me a long time to figure out, but once I did, it quickly became one of my favorite species to target.

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 made 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.

My first carp was a nice fish just over eight pounds. Little did I know it would be the first of 44 carp I’d land that day.

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.

***

I was firmly in my fish selfie phase, and since we were killing them, putting it on the ground didn’t bother me.

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.

Ben’s son, Gabe Fry, had a good time playing with the fish.

We continued to catch fish, and quickly realized they were stunted in the seven- to ten-pound range. Only one fish was under six pounds, and none topped 13. Still, an eight-pound carp is a better stunted fish than an eight-inch bass.

We continued fishing.

I’d never hold carp like this if I were releasing them, but again, this was an invasive species control fishery.

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.

What a weird picture.

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.

The carpnage was real. That weekend, between Ben, his family, and me, we caught and killed more than 150 carp — more than half a ton (1200 pounds) of carp — a drop in the bucket for the estimated 10 million pounds of biomass they represented in that waterway.

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.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #71 — Slender Sculpin.

Species #66 — White Catfish

The slightly-forked tail is what distinguishes White Catfish from the various bullhead species. Even though White Catfish are in the same family as bullheads, they have that one, distinctive feature.

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.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #67 — Warmouth.

Species #65 — Fallfish

I’m kind of surprised this little thing took my spinner, but without a dominant trout population, other species rise to fill certain niches, like this Fallfish.

Species: Fallfish (Semotilus corporalis)
Location: Thornton River, Shenandoah National Park, VA
Date: July 15, 2015

Since the last post stole all of the thunder from this trip (except the actual thunder and lightning that caused me a little concern when I was fishing), I’ll be brief.

I never did get my Brook Trout in its native range. I’ll have to try that again someday. I did realize how terrible the trout fisheries in most of the East have become.

Trout fishing in the East likely sucks because of generous regulations like this that allow anglers to overharvest fish.

***

Then again, having opportunities to catch things other fish is the beauty of #SpeciesQuest, and I can’t complain.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #66 — White Catfish.

Species #64 — Bluehead Chub

It wasn’t the Brook Trout I was hoping for, but this Bluehead Chub was a new species.

Species: Bluehead Chub (Nocomis leptocephalus)
Location: Thornton River, Shenandoah National Park, VA
Date: July 15, 2015

Oh Shenandoah.

The National Park so beautiful it inspired a song was on my to-do list the moment I knew I’d be spending time in Washington D.C.

I spent my first-ever evening on the East Coast hanging out with my cousin, Adrian Mateos, after I arrived.

We did a quick tour, and he told me to do my sightseeing the next day while he was at work but to save some stops for us to visit together the next evening.

Game on.

I visited all sorts of monuments and museums but saved “the big ones” for that evening.

If you missed the date, it was late July. Humidity was thicker than tourists, and I was soaking in a swamp every time I sat down. So I just kept moving. I walked and rode and covered two days worth of sights in about eight hours.

***

After two days and nights of “doing D.C.” like a tourist, I rented a car and decided to head east to Shenandoah National Park.

I stopped along the way for a softshell crab sandwich — damn, those are good — and continued on my way.

The roads became less and less significant, and before I knew it, I was wandering the wilds of rural Virginia.

Shenandoah National Park is huge. Covering more than 311 square miles and stretching north to south from the northern border of Virginia to the fat middle of the state, it’s not a quick tour like some other national parks.

I entered at the North Entrance near the town of Front Royal and was immediately awestruck by the beauty of it all.

Little did I know, I was about to be all up in my feels from the beauty of this place. The first thing I noticed was the lush greenery and the butterflies and hummingbird moths flitting around it, sipping nectar and adding to an already awesome sight.

I’d never seen a Hummingbird Moth before, and I was taken by the sight.

 

Swallowtail Butterflies are among the most common.

Now, I’d told myself this trip was more about sightseeing than fishing, but I still wanted to fish. So my first stop was the ranger station.

***

The ranger told me about the decent fishing to be had there, including lots of native Brook Trout (my target species) and the occasional “massive Brown Trout that you wouldn’t believe.”

Further exploration revealed the latter to be fish as “massive” as 16 inches long. I suppressed a laugh.

The streams on the mountainside proved shallow and nearly impossible to fish. I noticed no poison oak, ivy, or sumac, but I failed to realize the thick vegetation brushing against my bare legs contained some lesser toxin that made me itch like crazy until I washed myself thoroughly in another stream.

***

The drive wound on, and I began to worry I might not be able to find fishable water. Then, I noticed the middle exit road just halfway through the park. The topography of the map seemed to indicate a drop in elevation, and I noted the single stream that looked large enough to fish: Thornton River.

I made my careful way, enjoying the scenery.

So awesome. Even though Shenandoah isn’t that high in elevation, the surrounding area was so low that a unique microclimate existed up on top of the ridge.

I even stopped when I found my favorite flower (yes, I have a favorite flower) the Tiger Lily. They were scattered around on the roadside, and I had to take a moment to appreciate them.

Tiger Lilies? *sighs wistfully*

***

Eventually, I realized time was running short. I still had to make it back to D.C., through D.C. traffic during rush hour, and back to the hotel in Maryland to meet up with Adrian.

It was Thornton River or bust.

My first few casts with a tiny spinner proved useless, but once I stumbled upon a gorgeous pool with a massive rock hiding me from view, I began catching small fish I couldn’t identify. No Brookies, but I knew it was a new species.

I like chubs. They’re unique fish, and they fill in for overfished trout populations and keep you from getting skunked.

***

Though it took me ages, eventually I learned I’d caught a Bluehead Chub from Steve Reeser, the District Fisheries Biologist of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

He also helped me identify the next fish I caught, but you’ll have to read the next post for that information.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #65 — Fallfish.

Species #63 — Fathead Minnow

Male, spawning Fathead Minnows develop big fat, black heads.

Species: Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas)
Location: Klamath Lake, Klamath Falls, OR
Date: January 15, 2015

I’m writing this post just hours after guiding The Species King, Steve Wozniak, to his first Fathead Minnow, so it’s particularly apropos that my own written species progression puts me here at this time. Read about that trip here.

I caught my first Fathead by hand when the weather-warn minnow, both dazed and confused, came just a little to close to my reach. Minutes later, I snagged another while throwing my Rapala X-Rap 10 through a small school of them in hopes of catching a trout.

I found a place where you can catch Fatheads all day long. If I had a bass pond, you can bet they’d be the prey base…

Since the telltale black streak along the lateral line made me realize it wasn’t the usual suspects (chubs and dace), I knew I had a new species. Granted, this was still well before  I was tracking a species total, but I still added a row to my Lifetime Bag spreadsheet, and typed “2” in the box next to its newly-typed name.

It’s funny because though both methods I used to land my minnow were legal, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got one to willingly bite a micro-rig — just weeks before Steve’s arrival.

***

Steve came to fish, but Fatheads wouldn’t cooperate. We got other targets, focusing on chubs and sculpins and even trout, but no Fatheads.

After spot-hopping and catching enough chubs to , I took them to the place I’d caught my first and second Fathead Minnows. This, our final stop, had an expiration date because both Steve and his fishing buddy Mark Spellman had to be back home that afternoon.

Time rolled up behind us like a carpet after the big show. We had an hour left, and we could feel the cold stare of the audience waiting for us to finish.

Seconds after we stopped, I noticed a school of what were clearly Fatheads feeding by the shore, and Steve went to work.

He said Mark and I could move ahead and trout fish, but I opted to drink from the fountain of his wisdom (though I used no metaphors that over-the-top) and stayed for a few minutes, talking with Steve.

It didn’t take 10 minutes for his quarry to oblige.

Steve micro-fished for a Fathead Minnow with the focused intensity of any trout or bass fisherman.

He pulled up a mouth-hooked Fathead. It wasn’t in spawning colors, but it was a male. This was significant because males and their oversized skull give the species its name.

Fun fact, right? Shut up. Just keep reading.

Though the trout didn’t cooperate for our last few minutes, that species was an ego-booster.

It was the end of a solid weekend of fishing and fueled the fire for my own species hunting once again. I’m sure Steve will tell this story from his perspective, too, and you can find it here.

Despite fishing with Steve and getting my 15 minutes, the only fat heads that day were of the tiny little invasive minnows that rolled up our trip so nicely.