Species #83 — Lost River Sucker

Targeting the Lost River Sucker can get you in trouble, as this is a Federally Endangered Species. I love these fish, and I do catch them incidentally on occasion, but I’m always careful to release them quickly and keep them in the water or on wet vegetation (as shown above) if they must be removed from the water, say to remove a hook or wrapped line. Note: It is illegal to target this fish.

Species: Lost River Sucker (Deltistes luxatus)
Location: Undisclosed Location, OR
Date: March 24, 2017

Every post up until now has included a location, but this one will remain secret to protect this incredible species, as it is endangered.

I should also be clear that I do not advocate fishing for endangered species, nor do I actively target them. That said, as an avid angler who has averaged 100-220 days on the water annually for a decade, I do catch endangered fish from time to time.

When that happens, I take care to handle the fish properly, release it as quickly as possible, and ensure these scarce and vulnerable fish are treated with the utmost respect.

That said, as a friend and dedicated biologist once told me, “It’s a shame we live in a world where we’re supposed to feel bad for accidentally catching these amazing fish.” So I don’t feel bad; I feel honored. I view every incidental hookup as a chance to set a positive example, a chance to, in my own way, offer condolences and make amends to a species for what my own did to it.

I also view it as a promise, a promise that I will do everything in my power to help and support the future of these fish so that one day we can target what have the potential to be truly world-class freshwater gamefish.

***

When I caught this Lost River Sucker, I wasn’t really expecting it. A friend had told me he’d landed several trout and a surprise sucker in that general area earlier that month, but it was so cold and snowy, I had pretty well tempered my expectations.

Then I got a bump.

When fishing jigs in Upper Klamath Lake, I usually throw out, wait a second or two, then twitch up. I repeat this sink-jerk motion on most retrieves.

Trout usually hit on the initial drop or during a subsequent jerk.

The fish pictured below was no different.

When fishing with marabou jigs for trout, expect to snag a lot.

I hooked and lost another good trout before a wind knot distracted me long enough to allow the jig to sink to the bottom. I expected to be snagged, so when I pulled up and felt weight, I wasn’t surprised. Until it moved.

A trout had grabbed my jig off the bottom, and I was thrilled.

It started sucking line off my reel so viciously that I imagined I’d hooked into something big. I wasn’t wrong.

When the fish jumped and did a front-flip out of the water, I noted how unusual it was for trout to jump like that in cold weather. Our Redbands jump, but if you fight them with skill, you can usually avoid this. Not always, but usually.

When it jumped a second time, I noticed how dark it was.

When it jumped a third, fourth, and fifth time, I realized it wasn’t a trout.

***

In 1984, the Lost River Sucker was listed under the Endangered Species Act.

I’m a sucker for pretty fish. Lost River Suckers can be photographed during the late spring and summer in the Williamson River where they spawn. Be careful not to touch them, but if you move slowly, you can often get close enough for a good picture.

My Species #83, endagered in ’84. Is that poetic? I don’t know, but it certainly adds value to a species I already treasure.

***

I landed that fish, and it was, in fact, a Lost River Sucker. It wasn’t huge, but I’ve since caught quite a few of them, and many have been over 10 pounds.

These fish live upwards of 30 years, and the average fish I’ve caught has been about 26-28 inches long and weighed in between six and nine pounds depending on whether it was male or female, pre-spawn or post-spawn.

Tragically, almost all spawning fish are 15 years old or more, with many of the spawners in their 20s and 30s.

If recruitment does not improve, these gorgeous fish will be extinct within my lifetime, likely before I go gray.

***

Not wanting to disturb the fish too much or risk snagging one, I threw a few more casts before calling it a day.

There are more than a dozen sites in the lake where they spawn, and you don’t have to look far to find dead fish in the spring. Some die of old age, some of disease, some of predation or the pressures of the spawn, but an unacceptable number are caught and killed intentionally by anglers. Either snagged with treble hooks or hooked legitimately with worms, many ignorant anglers throw them on the bank even now, some 30 years after it became clear the species was at risk of extinction.

I’ve snagged my share of suckers over the years while trout fishing, and for that reason, I now only use single hook lures in places frequented by Lost River Suckers.

Again, use jigs and single-hook swimbaits only when fishing around spawning sites. You might snag one even still, but it’s unlikely. If you do, it will cause less damage. The trout still readily take these jigs, too, so don’t fret.Though the trout fishing in that spot where I caught my first blued-up male is phenomenal (the trout come to eat sucker eggs), I hesitate to fish there for fear of snagging a sucker on traditional trout gear. When I do try for trout there now, I’m careful to only use jigs and swimbaits with single hooks. No spinners, spoons, or Rapalas.

I’ve seen people intentionally snagging them in the back, and anyone throwing a treble hook out there knows what they’re doing. Not only is it disgusting and irreverent, it’s highly illegal.

Male Lost River Suckers develop white tubercules on their skin which help them maintain contact with the female during mating. They are absolutely gorgeous. They are also susceptible to snagging from unethical and uneducated anglers while spawning.

***

The suckers, often erroneously called “sucker fish”, are a treasure that should be appreciated. These fish grow to 40 inches and 20 pounds, and I’ve never caught one that didn’t jump. The potential for a sport fishery if and when this species recovers should be enough incentive to treat them with respect, but if it’s not, know this. If the suckers die out, the greatest wild native Rainbow Trout fishery in the United States — the Klamath Basin — will suffer.

The single greatest draw for tourists will suffer.

The community will suffer.

The largest fish I’ve ever landed from Klamath Lake was this 32-inch, 12-pound Lost River Sucker that took a jig. Anglers should pull for this species’ recovery, so we can pursue this fish as a top-notch sport species someday.

A few things to note if  you do catch a sucker: 

1) Handle it as little as possible. Some intepretations of the law suggest even posing for a photo is illegal. The maximum of 10 seconds I’ve taken to pose for a picture with my larger suckers was a risk I was willing to take. I released them quickly, but know you could potentially get in trouble for doing so.

2) Keep it wet. Measurements can be done in the water (if at all) and should not result in unnecessary air exposure.

3) Keep the location secret. If you do find the suckers, especially during the spawn, don’t share that information. For one, there are people out there still who would massacre them. Don’t take that risk.

Sometimes, I set my rod down and just take pictures of the fish while they spawn. If I move slowly, I can get surprisingly close and get some great pictures.

This fish was chilling in water barely deep enough to hold it. The current was light, and I was able to get an awesome picture from above.

Avoid standing on gravel, but if you happen to float by or see one from the, it’s completely okay to take a picture. I like taking pictures of them to show others the beauty I see and inspire action to protect these amazing fish.

Not all suckers will pose for a photo. Some get out of there as soon as they see you.

The Williamson River holds most of the suckers I’ve seen, but they can be anywhere. For that reason, I’m careful to use only single-hook lures when they’re around — just in case.

When the trout bite picks up, you can occasionally catch suckers, but you can’t target them. Then again, with less than 10,000 fish remaining in the wild, you really couldn’t target them if you wanted to.

Last summer, I snagged a massive sucker while trolling at Rocky Point that was every bit of 15 pounds. I fought it almost 10 minutes, and it tailwalked half a dozen times. It pulled my kayak almost half a mile before the hook came out. Since that day, I’ve stopped trolling spoons.

As great as these fish are, and as fun as it is to catch one incidentally, the stress of being snagged could kill a fish, and that means one less spawner. Don’t risk it.

I initially wrote about these amazing fish here and gave the impression I was urging people to fish for them. That wasn’t the case. In my follow-up article, I emphasized that it is illegal to target them, but I’d love to see this species recover so that is no longer the case. Wouldn’t you?

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #84 — American Shad.

Species #82 — Monkeyface Prickleback

The only fish with a face and disposition uglier than its name: the Monkeyface Prickleback.

Species: Monkeyface Prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus)
Location: Newport Public Docks, Newport, OR
Date: November 21, 2016

Time can be so fluid when fishing. Seconds, minutes, and hours can all meld together when you feel weight or a tick on the end of your line, melting into a soup of suspended timeflow that is so personal and subjective you cannot look back after the fact and know the real duration of an event.

When I felt weight, it had to be just a second or two, but I felt the dark shadow of eternity creep into that moment as I began to mentally debate whether my hook had found purchase in a fish or a the salt-aged wood of the pilings below.

After all, it was heavy, and though I’d caught rockfish and Cabezon up to two pounds or so, this felt heavier. And unlike the popular bottomfish, it wasn’t pulling.

Until it was.

***

The fight was not unlike the eels I caught in New Zealand: a roiling mass, death-rolling with all the tenacity and venom of a Presidential hopeful trailing in the primaries.

When the squirming creature finally broke the surface some 20 feet below, the disconnect was palpable. I knew it wasn’t a snake, but it looked like a snake.

A part of my mind knew it was a fish I’d long dreamed of catching, but another more aggressive part of my mind was focused on the impending peril of the nearby sea lion that had clearly noticed my prize.

I take care to use light enough gear to enjoy the fight of the surfperch I target, but I also use line heavy enough to lift a two- or three-pound fish up the 20 feet to the pier at low tide.

This fish wasn’t going easily, though. Clearly not tired out, it twisted and writhed in a mesmerizing, serpentine dance of Satanic origin.

The ever-present gawkers shrieked and gasped and held their children close as I brought it onto the damp wooden landing of the pier.

While most fish flop on their sides when removed from the water, this fish turned onto its belly, coiled and ready to strike.

Reaching for the hook with my bare hand, it lunged at me. Well, lunged is a bit dramatic, but it made an effort to bite me.

Its teeth were certainly sharp, but small, so I unhooked it as it wrapped its body around my hand, intent on suffocating the hapless appendage and dragging it down to Hades.

This was a much better fish than most of what I’d caught that day, and since I’d dreamed of catching a Monkeyface Prickleback since I first heard of the fish nearly 15 years earlier, it was a special moment.

Naturally, the fish wouldn’t pose for a good picture, but I got its profile and tossed it back into the water, where its slinky dark form returned to hide in the structure of the pier to lurk in the unthinkable blackness of a nightmare.

It was only then that a gentleman on the pier spoke up and said, “You should’ve kept that. They’re the best-eating fish I’ve ever had.”

***

I caught another, much larger Monkeyface Prickleback later that year, and I confirmed what the gentleman had said. Along with Cabezon and Lingcod, Monkeyface Prickleback is as good as any fish I’ve ever eaten — a validation of the saying “Never judge a book by its cover,” I suppose.

What a looker, right? This Hellbeast wasn’t my first Monkeyface Prickleback, but at just 3 ounces shy of the IGFA All-Tackle World Record, it was certainly my largest.

***

These fish are relatively uncommon for those fishing with standard angling gear, but anglers on the Northern California Coast target them with a method called “Poke Poling”. Poke Poling is essentially using a long pole with a baited hook attached to the end that they stick into rock crevices. Inhabited holes yield fish that bite in age-old fashion.

Since this species is difficult if not virtually impossible to target outside of poke poling, it isn’t sold commercially. That means if you catch one, you need to try it.

Just be careful — it will definitely try to bite you.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #83 — Lost River Sucker.

Species #81 — Whitespotted Greenling

Though not as common as Kelp Greenling, Whitespotted Greenling do appear with some frequency along Oregon’s Central Coast.

Species: Whitespotted Greenling (Hexagrammos stelleri)
Location: Yaquina Bay, Newport, OR
Date: November 21, 2016

I’ve had better days fishing the hundreds of docks in Newport, but this day wasn’t half bad.

Since I normally go there to target Striped Seaperch for the table, anything else is just a bonus.

Rarely do I fish this area without catching at least one or two bonus species and that day was no different.

When I first pulled up a greenling, I assumed it was the significantly more common Kelp Greenling I’d caught dozens of times, but having just reviewed fish field guides for the Pacific Coast, I realized upon closer inspection it was a Whitespotted Greenling.

This species doesn’t grow as large, isn’t as common, and up until that moment, I’d never even heard of one being caught in Oregon. That’s not to say they aren’t caught with some frequency, but since the Oregon Fishing Regulations don’t picture them, I assume the Whitespotted Greenling is commonly dismissed as a small Kelp Greenling when anglers pull one up.

Whitespotted Greenling have much more white on their bodies and tend to have light-colored markings on their anal fin and face whereas Kelp Greenling have an overall darker complexion.
Kelp Greenling can have wide variability, especially between genders. This variability can include white spots, but they always have a darker overall complexion than Whitespotted Greenling with a dark anal fin and face.

***

The bite continued to be above average until something big made my line shake.

“That’s no greenling,” I said to the small contingent of onlookers, and the fight was on. This was going to be something good.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #82 — Monkeyface Prickleback.

Species #80 — Klamath Largescale Sucker

My first IGFA All-Tackle World Record was this Klamath Largescale Sucker. I’ve yet to catch another one.

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.

Tight lines!

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #81 — Whitespotted Greenling.

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 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.

#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.

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 #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.

INSERT COIN

INSERT COIN

INSERT COIN

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.