Species #74 — Redear Sunfish

These guys have all sorts of hicknames down south, but their proper name is Redear Sunfish.

Species: Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
Location: E.E. Wilson Pond, Corvallis, OR
Date: June 18, 2016

Though the movie Ready Player One was entirely different from the book, both media outlets were phenomenal. Though I’m not much of a gamer anymore, I still love books about the art of the game.

For that reason, I’d like to share the most gamified experience of my fishing career.

Welcome to the Legend of Wilson: Redear in Time.

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Player One — Start

*Music plays softly before reaching a crescendo.*

Background: After a long day traveling to Corvallis to visit your brother, you find you have some extra time. Not wanting to waste the waning daylight hours, you decide to chase a species you’ve never caught before, the Redear Sunfish. You’ve learned they can be found at the E.E. Wilson Pond, a mere 30 miles from your brother’s house.

CONTINUE?

*You click YES*

Objective: You have about three hours of daylight left. Locate E.E. Wilson Pond and catch your Redear Sunfish.

*A sudden ticking noise begins in the background.*

Time Left Until Dark: 3:00:00.

Level One: Gearing Up

Checking my starting inventory, I realized I had rods and reels, hooks, and line. I wouldn’t need to climb into the belly of a great tree to find my basic weapons, but I needed ammo for these weapons nonetheless.

*You look down at your fishing pole and realize something is missing.*

A shrill voice sounded in my head, whispering “Bait. Bait. You need bait.”

I had no bait, and this late in the year, you need worms or crickets or grasshoppers to seriously target sunfish.

I could track down worms, but that would mean losing time. This first step involved information gathering.

I asked my brother Gabe where the closest sporting goods store was.

He told me it was Big 5.

I called and struck out before that storyline could even begin. They don’t sell worms.

I asked his roommate Trent if he knew of any other spots.

“I think Bi-Mart sells them, but that’s almost back in Philomath,” Trent said.

The closest location still open that sells worms would cost me about 40 minutes all told, but it was a necessity. I accepted the subquest.

The traffic was killer, and I had to defeat several cops in the game of intermittently speed whenever possible, but I made it with time to spare.

Entering the store, I was asked for a Bi-Mart card, which I didn’t have. I could jump the gate, fight my way in, or use a third option. My Charisma stat was high enough, so I chose that option and made it past the checkpoint.

I was in. Worms.

Racing through the aisles, I finally found my target. Carefully, I avoided the pitfalls noobs always succumb to and checked to make sure the worms were alive.

Good thing I checked. After five or six cans, I’d beaten the minigame and claimed my prize.

Time Left Until Dark: 2:33:00.

Level Two: Fog of War

I thought this would be easy. I loaded “E.E. Wilson Pond” into my phone, and I was promptly directed to a location about 30 minutes north of Corvallis.

*Ticking gets louder.*

Minutes into my drive, I noticed the ticking sound in the background soundtrack sped up slightly. I was 30 minutes into the game.

After arriving, I quickly realized the waterway wasn’t E.E. Wilson Pond. I could gamble and fish it, hoping to find a Redear, but this fish was incredibly rare in Oregon, and I didn’t like my odds.

As I sat in the parking lot, wasting valuable time, the background soundtrack sped up again, and I realized I was down to two hours.

Frantic, I regrouped and completed the level uneventfully, checking the first location off my World Map.

For some reason, service was poor, and I wasn’t showing up. Maybe I had to earn the Compass.

*Ticking gets louder.*

I checked the time.

Time Left Until Dark: 1:58:30.

Level Three: The False Positive

I opened my World Map again — how I hate this app sometimes — and located the next location that seemed likely.

I drove like mad, arriving at a pond near the Fish and Wildlife Office. I unloaded my gear, but my Strength wasn’t high enough to carry all that gear, so I had to unload some of it for the journey.

I tried fishing.

The bait wasn’t working. It wasn’t long before I noticed a small pink lure snagged on a log. If video games had taught me anything, it was that the sinking lure always catches bigger fish, but I wasn’t after bigger fish, and I had no time for sidequests — even if that meant leveling up.

After deciding to stick with the main quest for now, another angler approached me.

I readied my weapon, but realized it was a friendly NPC (Non-Panfish Catcher).

I was informed by the only other angler there that this wasn’t the main pond. It had carp and bass and bluegill, but according to him, it wasn’t the main pond.

A quick survey of the area directed me to a hidden sign. The signage backed him up. I was not in the right place.

Eff.

Time Left Until Dark: 1:36:14.

I cursed, hurriedly gathered up my gear, and suddenly, a boss appeared.

Another guy showed up and kept talking to me. He kept talking, and I had no idea how to peel him away. I tried the subtle hint strategy, but this boss was clearly immune to that.

I tried dancing around his words, but his questions were specific and targeted at me, and he kept landing blows. I was about out of health when I realized I didn’t have to defeat him; just escape him.

The single trail to the pond was blocked by his hulking form, so I returned fire with a question about the water clarity. He let down his guard and moved to the water’s edge to look, as I said “Never mind. I figured it out. Thanks!” and sped down the now-open escape route to my car. He followed, but the earlier choice to travel light paid off. My Speed was clearly higher than his, and I got free.

Service improved in the parking lot, and I added the Compass to my inventory, showing me where I was on the World Map. This made things much easier.

I’d defeated the boss, and the victory sounds of my car radio told me Level Three was done just as the time once again sped up.

*Ticking gets louder.*

Time Left Until Dark: 1:30:00.

Level Three: Final Destination

This time I found it. At least, I thought. The signage clearly indicated I was at E.E. Wilson Pond, but the trees were thicker than an Instagram model, and the paths leading there didn’t seem to be well-signed.

The parking lot stated a warning, though:

“Warning:
Park Closes at Dusk.
No Overnight Parking.
Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be Towed.”

Well, this moved up my timeline. I couldn’t fish until dark. No, I now had to be back out of the dungeon with my fish caught before dark or risk being towed and earning the GAME OVER.

Yikes.

I loaded my gear, pulled up the World Map, and quickly worked my way through the maze, avoiding bees, snakes, cyclists, and other monsters lurking in the dungeon ahead. I could outrun them all, though it drained my stamina, but I was in an all-out race.

If I was caught, it was GAME OVER, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

Time passed, and eventually I found a long wooden bridge through the woods. It felt like a trap, but I stepped onto it.

The Bridge of Destiny was a sign I was going the right way.

Halfway across the bridge, a pair of cyclists spawned and tried to knock me off. I stood firm, and they passed on both sides of me, further dropping my health, as I twisted my ankle to avoid them on the blind corner.

Fearing they’d return, I hurried to the end of the bridge.

Just then, an old man appeared from around the next blind corner, the rhythmic treble from his too-loud headphones serving to tell me he was essential to my quest.

I asked him where the pond was, unsure if he was there as a sage to guide me or as another boss.

The former proved true, and he directed me, telling me I was close, but “You won’t have much time to fish. It’s almost dark.”

He wasn’t wrong. This quest was do or die.

I ran through the woods, avoiding the buzzing of bees in the distance.

Finally, I made it to what appeared to be an earthen dike. This had to be the pond. Unfortunately, a final obstacle kept me from the water: mud.

*Ticking gets louder.*

It was a relatively steep slope up, and it was thick, sucking mud. The Shoes of Nike would prove necessary when I ran back to the car after (hopefully) catching my Redear, as they provided +3 Speed, a boost I would need on the run back.

Barefoot, I looked over the rim of the dike to see a weed-choked pond.

I’d made it.

Apparently I hadn’t heard the time speed up again, and in my twisting and turning through the maze, the dead-ends, and the false ponds, I hadn’t realized the two-mile-long walk/run had cost me.

Time Left Until Dark: 0:58:19.

Level Four: Boss Battle

It was time. Everything I’d worked towards was about to come to fruition. It was do or die.

I consulted my Journal to read what little information I’d gathered on this quest about the Redear:

“The Redear is one of the largest species of sunfish,” it read, “but it can be one of the most difficult to catch.”

Great.

I threw out one pole with a bait rig and fished a small jig with the other, aware that dividing my attention could cause the boss to defeat me.

As is always the case, I battled Bluegill and Brown Bullhead, smaller monsters sent by the Final Boss to distract me.

*Ticking gets louder.*

Time Left Until Dark: 0:30:00.

Then, my bait pole got a good tug, and the fight was on. It ran left, then right. We did battle, but I was so determined, so motivated, I let it dance before finally pulling it in.

I assumed it was another Bluegill until the telltale red strip on the gill plate told me otherwise. I’d done it. I’d caught Redear in Time! At least, I would be close.

I had just under 19 minutes left. It would be a battle.

Cleaning off my feet in the dirty water, I slipped back into the Shoes of Nike, buttoned up my gear and prepared for a race to the finish.

*Ticking gets louder.*

At this point, I had less than 15 minutes left, and I wasn’t quite sure where to go. I’d snaked in and out covered almost every possible trail because the individual pathways through the dungeon hadn’t shown up on my World Map.

I’d have to wing it and hope for the most direct route.

I heard the mocking, maniacal laughter of Andross and Gannon, Bowser and Tartarus, the Elusive Man and Sephiroth all coaleascing into one evil presence just on my heels as I ran for all I was worth.

*Ticking gets louder.*

At 10 minutes, I hit a dead end and had to regroup.

I tripped and landed on a rod, breaking off an eyelet, but the rod remained intact.

It was almost pitch black now, and I didn’t think I would make it. I couldn’t run with my Flashlight up because I’d opted not to buy the Headlamp at the Shop earlier in the game. How I regretted that.

*Ticking gets louder.*

Five minutes to go. I was out of breath, so I stopped to check the World Map one more time. I was close. Very close, but a thicket of trees separated me from my car. I cut through some trees, hoping I wouldn’t get poison oak, and I again found myself at the Bridge of Destiny.

This was it. I knew I was close because despite having found this after lots of aimless wandering, I was only one turn and a straight stretch from the parking lot.

I booked it.

*Ticking gets so loud, you can’t hear your own thoughts.*

I arrived at the car soaked in sweat, just to see an idling Fish and Wildlife vehicle waiting for my car to leave. I quickly loaded my gear, and the truck drove off, content that I was leaving.

As my tires hit the pavement, I looked at my phone.

Time Left Until Dark: 0:00:11.

The credits rolled upwards on my HUD as I tallied Species #74 — Redear Sunfish. This was a hard game, and replay value seemed to be minimal, so I decided to move onto another game, a shooter: Yellow Bullhead Flats.

THE END

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #75 — Yellow Bullhead.

Species #73 — Copper Rockfish

I caught this fish under the Coast Guard station. They eventually saw us and gave us a “random inspection” before encouraging us to leave.

Species: Copper Rockfish (Sebastus caurinus)
Location: Yaquina Bay, Newport, OR
Date: March 24, 2016

If you’ve never been on the open ocean on a small boat intended for use in the lake, then you haven’t lived.

My first trip was on a 17-foot Bayliner with high gunwales out of the Port of Brookings-Habor. It was a little rough, but I wasn’t worried.

My second trip was on a 14-foot flat-bottomed aluminum duck boat, and I was more than a little worried.

Fortunately, before we made it to the end of the bar, the Coast Guard stopped us and told us the bar was closed to small vessels. I was equal parts disappointed and relieved.

My friend, Eric Elenfeldt, was a phenomenal boater, and if I were to go on the ocean in a tiny vessel with anyone, I’d want him driving, but still. It was a rough bar that day.

We made the best of it, dropped our crab pot, and started fishing. He picked up a Red Irish Lord, his first, and we started catching a few rockfish here and there. Before long, the sheet rain started, and we took cover under the Coast Guard station’s large platform. It was the best decision we made all day.

Almost instantly, we caught fish.

Small Lingcod at first and then my first Copper Rockfish obliged me. Then several more.

Smedium Copper Rockfish and small Lingcod were the bulk of the catch here.

Eventually, the guys on the platform spotted us and performed a “random inspection” even though Eric’s inspection sticker was clearly visible on the side of the boat.

They gently asked us not to fish there because it was a matter of national security, and though I’m pretty sure they can’t do that on a navigable waterway, we moved.

It wasn’t long before we saw them fishing from the platform. Huh.

The rest of the day was slow as we struggled to find fish, but we’d learned something: the Coast Guard defends its fishing spots as well as they defend the lives of those out on the ocean.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #74 — Redear Sunfish.

Species #72 — Spotted Bass

My one and only Spotted Bass came on a deep-diving crankbait.

Species: Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
Location: Shasta Lake, Lake Shasta City, CA
Date: January 1, 2016

The fact that I lived three hours from Shasta Lake and didn’t catch a Spot for nearly 26 years is pitiful. Granted, I only fished Shasta like twice and then only for trout, but still. It’s a disgrace.

You know what’s even worse? Since I caught this fish, I haven’t fished Spot water, and I haven’t caught another.

***

Marcus Moss, Zach Weiting, and I decided to head to Shasta on New Year’s Day to chase bass. I mean, they’re supposed to feed actively all winter in warmer climates, and Redding is certainly a warmer winter destination than Klamath, so it seemed like a good bet.

It didn’t start off very well, though.

The water was so low, each of the three ramps Marcus usually fished were well out of the water, and we had to tool around until we found one at Bridge Bay that was usable. It was still a good 10 feet out of the water, but boat ahead of us seemed to have no trouble, so we went for it.

Already, more than an hour of fishing time had burned up when we got the boat in the water. None of us had waders, and the dock was too far from the boat, so the complications continued.

I volunteered to get wet (smart in mid-winter, right?) because I didn’t want to give up.

Once we got the boat in the water, it wouldn’t start.

Another hour passed as we re-trailered it, fiddled with it, and finally got it purring.

By now, it was well past noon, and it was supposed to be dark in four hours.

We spent two of those hours getting one fish apiece, all on deep-diving 10XD Crankbaits and then called it a day when the wind picked up past 25 MH.

That is the story of my first (and, as of June 23, 2018) last Spotted Bass.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #73 — Copper Rockfish.

Species #71 — Slender Sculpin

This is a terrible picture of a Slender Sculpin, but it is one of the few specimens I’ve caught that lives up to its name. Nightfishing makes good pictures difficult, but I’ll work on getting a better one.

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.

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.

Heck yeah, Luke.

#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 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.

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 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.

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 #69 — Brown Irish Lord

In all my years fishing the Oregon Coast, I’d never once seen nor heard of a Brown Irish Lord caught. Then my brother Gabe and I each caught one the same day.

Species: Brown Irish Lord (Hemilepidotus spinosus)
Location: Yaquina Bay, Newport, OR
Date: July 22, 2015

This fish frustrates me for a number of reasons.

After returning home from my trip to Washington D.C., I landed in Portland, and my brother Gabe picked me up. I stayed with him in Corvallis and convinced him to come fishing with me in Newport one day.

We fished from the jetty, something that is miserable on all but the nicest days, and we quickly caught fish. I hooked up on the first fish and reeled in what I thought was a Cabezon.

It was dark and didn’t quite look like the Cabezon I was used to catching, but marine sculpin misidentification was one of my specialties at the time, so I kept that tradition going.

Here was (arguably) the shortest-lived All-Tackle World Record of all time: my Brown Irish Lord. It’s barely visible here, but note the notch behind the third dorsal spine and the deep notch between the first and second dorsal fin? Yeah, that, along with the nostril flaps later helped me identify it.

This fish had disturbing, forgein organs in its throat that could only be described as alien, insectoid crushing arms that must have worked like a gizzard. They kept writhing and pulverizing against each other, and it really creeped me out.

I didn’t remember Cabezon having those.

Were the fish a Cabezon, as I assumed, it was too small to keep anyway. Cabezon have to be a minimum of 16 inches long.

So after a few measurements (13 1/4″ long and 1.25 pounds), I let it go.

This fish was really cool, so we took a few pictures.

Little did I know, I’d just released what would’ve been an IGFA All-Tackle World Record Brown Irish Lord. Phenomenal.

I don’t too bad, though, because Gabe caught a bigger one less than 15 minutes later.

His was larger than mine, so my world record was shattered in under 20 minutes. His would’ve been a world record still standing today had I identified it correctly.

Eff.

My brother, Gabe Ovgard, posing with the Brown Irish Lord he caught that would be the current IGFA All-Tackle World Record had I identified it correctly at the time.

Again, we assumed it was a Cabezon, and his was over the 16-inch threshhold, but just barely. Since I love Cabezon meat, we kept it and cooked it later that night.

It took me years to identify this fish, but with the help of Coastal Fish Identification: Alaska to California, a book recommended to me on Twitter by Kelsey Adkisson of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Division, I finally got my ID.

I know for a fact my fish was a Brown Irish Lord. Gabe’s could’ve been a Red Irish Lord, and the biologists I’ve asked have been split on that one. So maybe, just maybe, I do still have that (unofficial) world record.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #70 — Common Carp.

Species #68 — White Perch

If ever there was a fish so frustrating for me to catch as the White Perch, I sure can’t remember it.

Species: White Perch (Morone americana)
Location: Potomac River, Maryland
Date: July 16, 2015

Why are they called White Perch? Well, White Bass is already taken. Though they’re in the Moronidae family with White, Yellow, and Striped Bass, they’re far from stupid. They should be called “Ass Pains” because they’re nothing more.

***

Fishing the Potomac River had long been a dream of mine, but finding access in and around Washington D.C. proved almost impossible.

When I did find access, it was on National Parks land with Lewis and Clark in the name, but I honestly don’t remember the specifics and a five minute Google Maps search came up empty, so here we are.

Anywho, I fished from a public pier that was rife with the type of people who usually find solace at Denny’s or Walmart or the DMV. People who kept Pumpkinseed three to four inches long like it was nothing.

Probably 20 people share the pier with me, but since the Potomac is so shallow and muddy in this area, I didn’t really have a choice. I saw a few Pumpkinseed caught, then a Blue Catfish (an invasive that has been destroying this fishery) and finally a White Perch. It wasn’t mine, but I held out hope.

I had tons of bites and even got a fat Pumpkinseed, but the White Perch just kept nibbling and not getting hooked.

Eventually, persistence won out, and I got my own little six-inch White Perch. I tossed it back and proceeded back to my car, hoping to try some of the nearby streams for anything else.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #69 — Brown Irish Lord.

Species #50 — Chinook Salmon

Though this is a jack (juvenile) and not the fish I caught that day, Chinook Salmon live up to the title of “King”.

Species: Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
Location: Humboldt Bay, Eureka, CA
Date: August 11, 2013

This trip was something special. With my brother and a few of his friends, we opted to go to the Central California Coast. Of course fishing was on the docket, but my main reason for the trip was Glass Beach, California, a location not far from Fort Bragg.

We stayed in Woodland on the way down, with my Uncle Sam and Aunt Mary, and after parting ways, we headed west to the coast.

From left to right: my brother Gabe, his friends Nate Nickel and Will Brain, a much more physically-prime me (I worked out then). Photo credit: Aunt Mary.

Everything went south from there. Since this story will be an upcoming column this summer, I won’t go into too much detail, but basically these things happened:

1) My headlights went out as I made my way north along Highway 1 (a notoriously windy and dangerous road), and we basically drove blind.

2) We couldn’t afford a hotel, and there were no showers, so we paid for a carwash after visiting Glass Beach to wash each other off. We used the car to block traffic, as we stripped down to our underwear and pressure washed one another.

3) Glass Beach itself was a disappointment. Years of unregulated commercial gathering had destroyed this once-beautiful destination.

Sea glass has always fascinated me. Though it pales in comparison to fishing, collecting it is one of my only other hobbies.

4) I took a salmon charter out of Eureka. I caught mostly Coho Salmon (which had to be released), but I did manage to catch a few Chinooks.

It wasn’t monstrous, but the 13-pound Chinook I landed remains one of my larger fish to-date. I’ve only caught White Sturgeon, Bat Rays, Striped Bass, and Common Carp larger at the time of writing in June 2018. It was also my first Salmonid over 30 inches. Note my matching shoes and sweater, too. I’ve always been fly.

5) The largest salmon boated was nearly taken by a sea lion. Fortunately for the angler who caught it, the gaff can be a persuasive tool.

This is one of the best fishing pics I’ve ever taken on a boat.

That was more or less it. I’ll keep it simple because I don’t want to cannibalize my own writing.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #51 — Australasian Snapper.

Species #48 — California Halibut

California Halibut are one of a handful of flatfish that can be left-eyed or right-eyed which makes identification a pain in the butt. Photo courtesy mexican-fish.com.

Species: California Halibut (Paralichthys californicus)
Location: Chetco River South Jetty, Brookings-Harbor, OR
Date: July 13, 2013

While fishing with my friend David Clarke, I tried to relive an amazing trip to Brookings I’d had years earlier. Sadly, it wasn’t happening.

The charter boat had provided good fishing, but David was so seasick, he didn’t get to wet a line much. He did manage some respectable rockfish and a nice Lingcod.

I, meanwhile, avoided the seasickness and boated 15 rockfish (Black, Canary, Yellowtail) and two Lingcod.

The meat in the cooler, we opted to try shore fishing the next day, and it was slow. Apart from a few Pacific Staghorn Sculpin, we were more or less getting nothing.

So we improvised, and I goofed off which my relatively new smartphone and its built-in camera.

*ominous music plays in background*

All we caught were tiny flatfish after that, and at the time, I couldn’t identify them. That’s partly because California Halibut, a species I’d hooked before but never landed, can be left- or right-eyed.

To the non-flatfish aficianados out there, flatfish are completely flat and have all coloration and external organs on one side while the other side is plain, semi-translucent white. The white side rests on the bottom while the side with eyes, camouflage, and the mouth goes up. They rest in the sand or mud for some hapless prey species to come by, and it’s all over.

Most species are either right- or left-eyed, but California Halibut can be both. It’s more problematic that they’re usually left-eyed, and we caught five that were right-eyed that day.

Eventually, I got my ID, and Species #48 was in the bag.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #49 — Coho Salmon.

 

Species #67 — Warmouth

It was tiny, but I could tell it wasn’t a Bluegill because I’d caught half a dozen of them before this little Warmouth bit. I grabbed a nearby shopping bag and used it to create the contrast necessary for a later ID.

Species: Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus)
Location: Cosca Lake, Washington, D.C.
Date: July 16, 2015

White Catfish checked off, I decided to fish the tiny feeder stream. It was small and crystal-clear which made sneaking up on the spooky sunfish within a challenge.

But I managed.

My go-to Bergie Worm Jr. (now discontinued) tipped with a tiny piece of worm was the ticket, and I landed a number of respectable Bluegill before something smaller darted out from the undercut bank and hit my bait.

I missed the first time, and spent the next few minutes trying to get the little guy to play. This was years before I’d taken up true microfishing, and I desperately wish I’d been up to speed on New Half Moon and Tanago hooks back them.

Using my fingers, I pinched half of the jig’s rubber body off, leaving maybe a quarter-inch of rubber and the tiny pice of worm on the 1/64th-ounce jighead.

It worked, and I pulled up a tiny, flopping sunfish unlike any I’d ever caught.

Though there are dozens of species in the Centrarchidae family, I quickly narrowed it down to a few: Warmouth, Rock Bass, and Redear Sunfish. I’d never caught any of these three fish, but all three were supposed to exist in the area. The pale complexion made the ID tough at first, but eventually I figured it out.

I’d just caught my first Warmouth.

Strangely enough, it would be the only one I captured that day, despite hauling in more than two dozen sunfish. All the rest were Bluegill with one being an obvious hybrid, but one I couldn’t identify as it was different from the “Hybrid Sunfish” (Bluegill x Green Sunfish) I’d caught so often back home.

Still, it was another new species.

***

I figured the trend would continue, but apart from some Largemouth Bass, this lake had given up everything it had to offer, and I left.

#CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #68 — White Perch.