Species #116 — Torrent Sculpin

Still not the best photo, but clear enough to be used to identify your fish. Note the gray coloration and dark saddles.

Species: Torrent Sculpin (Cottus rhotheus)
Location: Corvallis, Oregon
Date: December 18, 2017

This is post 3-of-4 that will just link to an article after providing some basic identification tips.

Torrent Sculpin is the easiest sculpin species to identify in the Willamette River Basin. At least, in my opinion.

Not only do they behave differently (they’re very skittish and will shy away from light), but they look different from the other two common Willamette sculpins.

Identification tips:
1. The overall color of every Torrent Sculpin I’ve caught has been gray, whereas all Prickly and Reticulate Sculpin I’ve caught have had a brown base color. Torrents are also more consistently one base color whereas the other two area heavily mottled.

2. Torrents tend to be bigger. Every one I’ve caught has been at least four inches, with the largest almost seven. Now the other species get that big, but I’ve only caught one Reticulate over four inches long.

3. Torrents have three dark saddles beginning at the second dorsal fin. These saddles don’t extend all the way around the fish like they do in some saltwater sculpin species, but Torrents look more like saltwater sculpins than any other freshwater sculpins in Oregon.

Note the fairly solid gray coloration and visible saddles? Obvious Torrent Sculpin.

Read the story of how my first Torrent bit (not bit torrent, to be clear) by clicking here.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #117 — Chiselmouth.

Species #115 — Prickly Sculpin

Prickly Sculpin look decidedly frog-like from the front. Only the Riffle Sculpin has a mouth anything like them among Oregon sculpins.

Species: Prickly Sculpin (Cottus asper)
Location: Corvallis, Oregon
Date: December 18, 2017

Here’s another post that will just link to a story I’ve already written. Ideally, I’ll catch another Prickly Sculpin soon, so I can put it side-by-side with my Reticulate Sculpin to help with identification.

Sadly, my only photo of a Prickly Sculpin (above), is terrible.

I will add sculpin identification tips here, though, especially because Prickly Sculpin and Reticulate Sculpin. Though side-by-side, the fish do look slightly different because Prickly Sculpin have an anal fin with longer soft rays, when caught individually, they can be tough to separate.

The main characteristic is in the name: Prickly Sculpin are prickly. Their skin feels like sandpaper, while Reticulate Sculpin have smooth skin.

They share water, so that’s the most reliable way to identify them.

Read the story of all four by clicking here.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #116 — Torrent Sculpin.

Species #114 — Reticulate Sculpin

Oregon’s most common sculpin just so happened to be the first new species I caught microfishing.

Species: Reticulate Sculpin (Cottus perplexus)
Location: Corvallis, Oregon
Date: December 18, 2017

I try to provide content on my blog independent of what I publish in newspapers and magazines, but if I’ve already told a story well, there’s no point retelling it.

This is post 1-of-4 that will just link to an article after providing some basic identification tips.

The tale of my first Reticulate Sculpin was already published. It was my first attempt at microfishing and one of my most successful nights microfishing; I added four new species!

I will add sculpin identification tips here, though, especially because Prickly Sculpin and Reticulate Sculpin are so similar. Though side-by-side, the fish do look slightly different because Prickly Sculpin have an anal fin with longer soft rays, when caught individually, they can be tough to separate.

The main characteristic is in the name: Prickly Sculpin are prickly. Their skin feels like sandpaper, while Reticulate Sculpin have smooth skin.

They share water, so that’s the most reliable way to identify them.

Read the story of all four by clicking here.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #115 — Prickly Sculpin.

Species #31 — Pacific Staghorn Sculpin

The commonly used term “bullhead” is not accurate when used for any of a host of species, but the Pacific Staghorn Sculpin is the fish most victimized by this label.

Species: Pacific Staghorn Sculpin (Leptocottus armatus)
Location: Chetco River South Jetty, Brookings-Harbor, OR
Date: September 10, 2009

Rashomon Effect 6-of-6: My Hands

The phone started beeping, and I fumbled for it in the blackness. My hand found it in the dark, but as I flipped it open with my thumb, the split at the base of the thumbnail cried out with the motion.

I knew I should’ve put on hand lotion the night before.

The salt and sand and fish blood weren’t going to do me any favors, but the shower soothed my aches and pains momentarily.

***

Buckling my belt wasn’t pleasant, nor was tying my shoes. Getting my gear ready wasn’t a picnic, either. Why do so many things require using your hands?

***

Finally, I was fishing.

Braided line carves through wet skin. My left hand learned this lesson almost immediately. The weight of the line worked against me, as numerous cuts and slices joined the splits and nicks from the night before.

There was no freshwater on board, so in order to get the blood off, my only recourse was saltwater. Nothing feels better in a wound than saltwater.

Since my hands were so ravaged, I didn’t even want to use them to wipe the vomit from the corners of my mouth, so I used my sleeve. Man, I was disgusting. But I didn’t even care.

***

The boat returned to the marina, and despite the prospect of catching our own bait fish on ultralight tackle, I made a beeline for the bathroom.

Relief washed over my ailing hands with soap and water that might as well have been ecstasy in the moment.

Hands clean, I returned to the marina to chase bait.

***

The tiny fish and tiny hooks from the sabiki didn’t cooperate with my sausage fingers, stiffened lightly from the infection slowly setting in.

Still, we filled a bag with bait in short order and headed to the jetty.

***

After catching several species on the jetty, including my first Pacific Staghorn Sculpin, the laterally-compressed big-headed things that look more alien than fish, I was pretty excited even if they were all relatively small fish. Then my rod bent sharply, and I knew I had something bigger on the line. After a short fight, I pulled the mystery creature up to the edge of jetty and lifted it from the water.

I was dismayed to see it was a Dungeness Crab, but then hope sparked in me as I realized it might be a keeper. Not knowing how to hold crabs, I just grabbed it. It rewarded my stupidity by slicing my already-mangled finger open.

Crawfish pinch, and it can hurt a little, but it doesn’t break the skin. Crabs can carve you up like a hapless Thanksgiving turkey.

The high-pitched screech reeked of masculinity, and I watched in horror as the crustacean from Hell maintained its death grip on my finger. Finally, Ben pried it off, and we released it, realizing it was a female.

I was out of tissues, so I ripped a small strip off fabric off of my tee shirt and tried to cobble together a makeshift bandage, but it was impractical, hindering every crank of the reel and basically making my right hand useless.

We ended on a low note and headed back down the jetty to start the long journey home, where I coated my hands in the only lotion I’ve ever found that actually fixes my hands after long fishing trips: Goldbond Diabetic Hydrating Foot Lotion. It seems strange, but it works.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #32 — Cabezon.