My seventh and final new species of the day made for a grand finale. This was my third-best day for new species, taking the Bronze to Croatia’s Gold and California’s Silver.
The final species was one of my top targets, the Bowfin. Along with tarpon and gar, few things were up so high on my list.
Though Bowfin aren’t considered trophies by most, they are aggressive toothy predators often compared to bass and snakehead, though I find them cooler than either of the other species.
I’d struck out several times, mainly because catfish and gar and bass kept getting in the way. When I finally did hook one, it was short-lived. Almost immediately, the beast broke me off in a submerged snag.
I tied again and hoped for the best.
I didn’t have to wait long. My rod doubled, and I reeled in my first Bowfin. It wasn’t huge and 20 inches long and just over three pounds, but I was stoked.
As I was taking the above picture, my other two rods doubled over.
Unfortunately, one of the fish broke off and the other just came free. I have a feeling one was more than twice the size of my little three-pounder, but I was just happy to add a new species.
Apart from some phenomenal tourist attractions such as the Civil Rights Museum and Coca Cola Headquarters, the mediocre attractions such as the Chik-Fil-A College Football Hall of Fame, and the blissfully above average Southern Food, Atlanta isn’t the best city.
It lives up the “Hotlanta” moniker, but that’s largely because, for a Southern city, it has almost no vegetation. It has no major rivers flowing through the city center, and the streams are limited.
Not only does this mean temperatures will be absurdly high, it means a visiting angler has severely limited options.
Even with a rental car, I struggled to find anything to fish for my one night off to do so on a work trip. I was limited to a 15- or 20-minute radius from the hotel, and that really cramped my style.
To make matters worse, I was there in the late spring, during the peak of the monsoon season, and the few rivers and streams I’d been turned onto by fellow Species Hunters like Ryan Crutchfield of FishMap.org were all blown out.
Torrential rainfall meant fishing even for micros — which is usually a slam-dunk when fishing new water — was out of the question.
I hiked and drove around for hours to the spots I’d been given, but as night fell, I began to take stock of my situation and realized I needed to grab dinner and get home, so I hopped into my rental car, sodden and saddened.
As I drove to my restaurant of choice (a Cajun restaurant because dammit, I wasn’t about to let the night be a total loss), I passed over a small stream. It made me stop and think, and after finding a parking lot at a nearby church, I hoofed it through the pouring rain a few hundred yards back down the highway.
Vaulting the guardrail, I climbed down under the bridge.
I had a headlamp on and hoped to find a sculpin or darter willing to play, but the stream, small though it was, was still high and not terribly clear.
Then, as luck would have it, I noticed a larger fish right up against the shore. It was some sort of Cyprinid, though I couldn’t identify it.
I grabbed the rod with an ultra-tiny spinner and threw it onto the bank, then dragged it into the water. The fish was territorial, and struck the gold blade with a lethargic and haphazard move.
The fight was pitiful and I quickly landed the chub. It had some horrible fungus or infection on its head, and as I snapped a picture for later identification, I cringed.
Miraculously, it swam away.
I would later reach out to local biologist who identified it initially as a “River Chub or Dixie Chub” depending on the drainage. Further research and a white paper helped me narrow it down: only Dixie Chub were found in that drainage.
And I had a new species that compared to the beautiful little dace in my last post, certainly would’ve never been asked on a hot date to prom. Even in Hotlanta.
Species: Northern Pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus oregonensis) Location: Umatilla River, Pendleton, OR Date: July 21, 2008
We’ve established I hate baseball.
I respect it and those who play it, but it bores me to tears. So, when my brother Gabe’s team made it to the Little League state championship tournament for a chance at the Little League World Series, I was excited for him. Until I wasn’t.
Then I moved on to other things.
I’d just been given a cell phone as a graduation present. It flipped open and closed which seemed kind of cool, but it looked ridiculous, and it was one more thing I had to carry in my pocket.
I knew these were popular already, but they seemed a little unnecessary for everyday use. Still, I took a few really grainy photos of the fish I caught shortly after ditching the game to fish the river behind the stadium.
At the time, I had no clue what the fish were, but those photos later helped me identify them as Northern Pikeminnow.
These underrated “trash fish” aren’t the most popular sport fish, but they fight well, hit the same things trout do, and can actually grow quite large. The specimens I caught that day were all between seven and nine inches long, though.
Oh well. A new species is always better than baseball.