Species #71 — Slender Sculpin

This is a terrible picture of a Slender Sculpin, but it is one of the few specimens I’ve caught that lives up to its name. Nightfishing makes good pictures difficult, but I’ll work on getting a better one.

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. While 95% of my fish are caught this way, I personally count any species caught by legal means. 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 first species on my “Lifelist” that was first caught by means other than a hook in the mouth. Granted, I’ve 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.

***

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 last month.

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.

Heck yeah, Luke.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #72 — Spotted Bass.

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.

Species #63 — Fathead Minnow

My first Fathead Minnow loped along as I was trout fishing, practically begging me to catch it.

Species: Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas)
Location: Klamath Lake, Klamath Falls, OR
Date: January 15, 2015

I’m writing this post just hours after guiding The Species King, Steve Wozniak, to his first Fathead Minnow, so it’s particularly apropos that my own written species progression puts me here at this time.

I caught my first Fathead by hand when the weather-warn minnow, both dazed and confused, came just a little to close to my reach. Minutes later, I snagged another while throwing my Rapala X-Rap 10 through a small school of them in hopes of catching a trout.

Since the telltale black streak along the lateral line made me realize it wasn’t the usual suspects (chubs and dace), I knew I had a new species. Granted, this was still well before  I was tracking a species total, but I still added a row to my Lifetime Bag spreadsheet, and typed “2” in the box next to its newly-typed name.

It’s funny because though both methods I used to land my minnow were legal, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got one to willingly bite a micro-rig — just weeks before Steve’s arrival.

***

Steve came to fish, but Fatheads wouldn’t cooperate. We got other targets, focusing on chubs and sculpins and even trout, but no Fatheads.

After spot-hopping and catching enough chubs to , I took them to the place I’d caught my first and second Fathead Minnows. This, our final stop, had an expiration date because both Steve and his fishing buddy Mark Spellman had to be back home that afternoon.

Time rolled up behind us like a carpet after the big show. We had an hour left, and we could feel the cold stare of the audience waiting for us to finish.

Seconds after we stopped, I noticed a school of what were clearly Fatheads feeding by the shore, and Steve went to work.

He said Mark and I could move ahead and trout fish, but I opted to drink from the fountain of his wisdom (though I used no metaphors that over-the-top) and stayed for a few minutes, talking with Steve.

It didn’t take 10 minutes for his quarry to oblige.

Steve micro-fished for a Fathead Minnow with the focused intensity of any trout or bass fisherman.

He pulled up a mouth-hooked Fathead. It wasn’t in spawning colors, but it was a male. This was significant because males and their oversized skull give the species its name.

Fun fact, right? Shut up. Just keep reading.

Though the trout didn’t cooperate for our last few minutes, that species was an ego-booster.

It was the end of a solid weekend of fishing and fueled the fire for my own species hunting once again. I’m sure Steve will tell this story from his perspective, too, and you can find it here when it’s ready.

Despite fishing with Steve and getting my 15 minutes, the only fat heads that day were of the tiny little invasive minnows that rolled up our trip so nicely.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #64 — Bluehead Chub.