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.

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Luke Ovgard

I live to fish. Follow my journey here at www.caughtovgard.com.

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