Species #91 — Creek Chub

I didn’t get a good picture, but having a fish on the hot sidewalk for this picture hurt my soul as an angler, so getting it back into the water was my first concern.

Species: Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
Location: Globe Creek, Fountain Heights, TN
Date: August 1, 2017

This might be the most “Species Hunter” post of my entire blog. After staying with my friend, Marcus Moss, in northern Alabama for a week of subprime bass fishing that culminated in a few gar and a lot of small bass, I headed to Nashville.

I spent one night there, taking in the Music City before moving my way towards Pensacola, the next intended stop on my roundabout return trip to Oregon. As a sidenote, Nashville is awesome. One of the first cities to receive Google Fiber and (at time of writing) the cheapest airport to fly into, it has a lot to offer. The food, music, street art, and general vibe (I know, I hate that word, too) were generally impressive. I look forward to returning someday soon.

But in all of the excitement, I forgot to fish.

Realizing I never fished in Nashville as I made my way south, I wondered if there was any way I could stop and catch a fish in Tennessee before I made it back to Alabama. I’d never caught one in this state, and there were countless new species to be had even if I hadn’t really identified myself as a “Species Hunter” just yet.

***

It felt like a longshot, but when I stopped for gas a few hours south of Nashville, I took note of the small, semi-stagnant creek I crossed en route to the gas station. After filling up, I crossed the access road, turned off onto a road that led to several houses and was dismayed to see fences blocking the access to the creek below.

Eff.

I thought about giving up when I realized that I didn’t need to touch the water — just access it. I tried dipping my jig (not a euphemism) in the water some 20 feet below, but the little fish I could weren’t having it.

I had yet to discover microfishing and had not artificial baits. As my heart sank, and I went to put my rod away, a grasshopper flitted away from where it had sat, baking on the hot road moments before. I spent a minute trying to catch on one the road, and once I did, it paid off.

Tipping the jig with a writhing, mangled hopper proved the right incentive to get the cyprinids below to bite, and I landed my first Creek Chub. I didn’t love dropping it down almost 20 feet to the water because fish care is important to me even when dealing with “trash fish,” but it swam away fine.

Somewhat smugly, I tucked my ultralight back into the back of my car, closed the door, and hit the road again, one species richer.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #92 — Spotted Sunfish

Species #86 — White Bass

White Bass are closely related to Striped Bass, and much like Stripers, they’ll eat anything they can fit in their mouths.

Species: White Bass (Morone chrysops)
Location: American Fork Marina, Utah Lake, Provo, UT
Date: June 22, 2017

As I drove across the West on my way to Commissioned Officer Training (COT) in Montgomery, Alabama, I carefully planned my route to include stops at places I wanted to see. From Klamath Falls, my first long day of driving ended at Salt Lake City, and I stopped in at Utah Lake in nearby Provo for an evening of fishing.

Utah Lake is home to several species of Utah natives, including the endangered June Sucker, and though I hoped I might luck into one of these embattled fish, I realistically hoped to catch both a White Bass and a Channel Catfish — two invasive species that I’d never hooked into before given that the former doesn’t exist at all in Oregon, and the latter is very rare.

I found myself at the mouth of the American Fork where I hoped the flowing water would congregate fish looking for respite from the summer heat.

All I had for bait were worms, and I set up my first rod with a crappie rig that included two small baited hooks on dropper loops.

Before I could even tie a lure onto my second rod, the first dipped, and I was holding my first White Bass.

The spunky little dude was what I had hoped for, and it came so easily that I expected something bad to happen that night.

I landed several more White Bass that night, but the two other species I landed were what made the stop so worthwhile.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #87 — Channel Catfish.

Species #85 — Shiner Perch

These notorious bait-stealers can be tough to catch on conventional gear, but I caught several that day. Since that day, I’ve only caught them on micro gear in tidepools.

Species: Shiner Perch (Cymatogaster aggregata)
Location: Newport Public Docks, Newport, OR
Date: June 10, 2017

Surfperch, seaperch, or perch. Whatever you call them, these marine delights are one of my favorite groups of fish to chase in and around the piers, jetties, and surf breaks of the Oregon Coast.

Though some species are relatively common and well-known, others are less pervasive. One such species is the Shiner Perch, a small, silver-and-yellow species that rarely tops six inches in length and has a mouth too small for hooks larger than No. 14 or so.

I’d long seen these fish flitting in and out of the shadows below the piers and docks in Yaquina Bay, but I’d never caught one before.

Then one day, the bite was just amazing. I caught tons of fish on sabikis and small jigs, including a few salmon smolts and my first Shiner Perch. The silver dollar-sized fish with the bright, yellow stripes made my day, as I landed a handful and added a new species.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #86 — White Bass.

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 #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 #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 #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 #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 #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.