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 other 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 piece 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.
Species: Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) Location: Hoover Ponds, OR Date: July 31, 2004
Baseball is like Trump’s Twitter: hard to watch. For that reason, I decided to take a break from my brother’s game in White City to walk around.
As I neared the back fence, I caught sight of a pond. It wasn’t large, but I saw lots of birds around, and I was intrigued.
The small dirt path rimming the pond got just close enough to show me a glimpse of the fish inside, and as I walked, numerous grasshoppers committed suicide by jumping into the pond where a line of piranha-like fish awaited them with open jaws.
Bug after bug was slurped from the surface, and I desperately wished I had a fishing pole.
When I returned for the next game, I was ready. I marched over the water and caught a handful of grasshoppers to use as bait.
The second the first quivering pile of misfortune hit the water, it was gobbled up by a waiting Bluegill. My first panfish was a bit anticlimactic, as the fight lasted just a few seconds.
Spines. I realized it had spines. The second my hand clasped around them, I realized the flagship species of the family Centrarchidae was very different from the trout I was used to catching.
Still, sight-fishing to these feisty little monsters was a blast, and I caught fish after fish on grasshoppers and even one on a bare red treble hook, the total coming to 15 before I opted to fish for some of the other species this pond held.
Big Butte Creek, Little Butte Creek, Medco Pond, Willow Lake, OR Trip Date: August 5, 2011
“A good plan implemented today, is better than the perfect plan implemented tomorrow.”
General George S. Patton’s words should be taken to heart in our daily lives, but are especially true when it comes to fishing. Research and reading are incredibly important, but no matter how knowledgeable you are, you can’t catch fish from behind a computer or magazine.
When I set out the morning of August 5, 2011, I had a good plan: try to break my personal record for fish caught in a single day (57).
Little Butte Creek If the first stop, Little Butte Creek, was any indicator, I had no chance.
Willow Lake Day-Use Fees are commonplace at lakes throughout Southern Oregon, including at my second stop that day: Willow Lake. Unfortunately, for a broke college student who often didn’t eat on days he went fishing to account for the gas spent driving to and from the lake, paying to park was not an option.
Since the fee is charged to park a vehicle on the grounds, and hikers and cyclists don’t have to pay, I always tried to find a free place to park and then walked in when possible.
At Willow, I always parked on the Forest Service land just outside the gate on the south side of the road, then walked in to fish the corner of the dam, where the Yellow Perch congregate.
You’ll cast in a crappie jig or worm and reel it in. Maybe one or two fish will follow and nip at it. The next cast, four or five. Then a dozen. That day, despite a small school of maybe 25-30 fish trailing my jig, I caught just three of the bait-stealing fish.
It was now late afternoon, and my chances were not looking good.
Running Total: 5.
Big Butte Creek A few miles down the Butte Falls Highway, I stopped at Big Butte Creek, hoping the trout there would be more compliant. While I did catch two-of-three sport species found there (Coastal Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout), I only caught one of each, putting my record still 50 fish away.
Running Total: 7.
Medco Pond Driving up to Medco Pond is kind of anticlimactic. After driving 12.5 miles on the winding, dangerous Butte Falls-Prospect Road, you arrive at a gravel parking lot with no amenities. The setting is pretty, but it doesn’t look like the destination fishing spot it really is.
Most people fish along that gravel parking area, sitting in or near their cars while soaking a worm or Rainbow Power Bait for the skinny hatchery ‘bows that rarely top 10″ in length. On a good day, these folks might catch three-to-five fish apiece.
Another group will fish with a worm or crappie jig suspended under a bobber. They will often do a little better, sometimes catching as many as 10-15 fish in a day.
With 50 fish to go, I knew it was a long shot, but I also knew I didn’t fish like either group. Using a tiny ice fishing jig tipped with the smallest piece of worm I could pinch off, I caught fish after fish.
Cast, let the lure sink, then reel up a few times and repeat. It was insanely effective.
I caught 43 quite quickly, paired with the seven I’d already caught, it made 50.
Then 57. I’d tied my record.
Then it slowed. I was already breaking my personal record with each fish, but I was greedy. This close to 100, I pushed until the bitter end, hitting the mark just before dark.
I don’t know if it was because I liked the movie 101 Dalmatians, or maybe just because I was compulsive, but I decided to end at 101.
It took me nearly 20 minutes to catch #101. Irritating, because there had been times that day when I’d catch five or six fish on as many casts but now that I wanted just one more … well, I really couldn’t complain.
At the time, I used a pitch counter to keep track of the fish I’d caught in a day, and few things in life were more satisfying than clicking it that final, 101st time on that balmy August night.