Species: Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus)
Location: Little Wekiva River, Florida
Date: July 8, 2018
Though I was born and raised in Oregon, I’m a flip-flop man. I would’ve said I’m a thong man, but some of my students read this blog, and this isn’t the 90s anymore; “thongs” don’t have anything to do with feet these days.
This is a family-friendly blog, and this post is already about Redbreasts, so I have to choose my words carefully.
I have a confession to make, and this is a good platform to do it on. Here goes: I’m afraid I haven’t caught a lot of really common species.
I know, it’s shameful. I try to not to talk about it, but in the Species Hunting community, there are a lot of species most everyone in the community has but me. Cool cool.
Redbreast Sunfish, common across the United States, were one such species.
For that reason, I decided to target them in the same place I hoped to catch a few darter and shiner species.
And I’d done my research.
Pierce Sanders, who I met by stalking Instagram (@finnafishfl) and Fishbrain for hours and hours prior to my trip, gave me the down-low on the spot.
I’d watched his YouTube channel, Finna Fish, as I compiled my list of target species. I watched the video in which he caught darters, shiners, and sunfish from an overhanging tree branch in the very river I intended to fish.
It was “finna” be lit.
As I parked and walked to what I thought was the river, I struck out a few times. But hey, it’s Florida. You have to bring your A-Game, or you’re gonna strike out.
Fortunately, I got lost just as an attractive jogger stopped nearby to stretch. I used my best lost tourist face as I approached.
We flirted just a lot, but I had work to do, so I stopped appreciating Florida’s greatest natural resource, took her directions with a smile and a nod, and headed to the river through the jungle that was almost as thick as the jogger.
Growing up in Oregon, I never really feared poison oak. I fished all of the time, and I’d been exposed to it dozens of times. It didn’t affect me at all. Until the day it did.
On my first attempt at steelhead fishing, I managed to get exposed and suffered for weeks afterwards. It left physical scars in the short term, but the emotional scars stuck with me.
Thong man, err … flip-flop man that I am, I found the thick vegetation separating me and the river was unnerving. My bare legs and feet brushed up against vegetation I couldn’t identify but knew wasn’t any of the the “Big Three” urushiol-producing plants, so I pressed on.
Miraculously, I made it to the water unscathed.
Bluegill came first because of course they did, but Spotted Sunfish followed suit. I had both, but at least Spotted Sunfish are cool fish and something I don’t catch every day. Bluegill, on the other hand, are pretty mainstream, so I opted to leave the main stream.
Right where a small spring fed it’s trickle into the larger water body, a log split the river and made a small but deep pool.
It promptly yielded a Redbreast.
I landed half a dozen shapely, sun-kissed trophies, and I caught some fish, too.
I’m kidding, of course.
According to Steve Wozniak, my friend and legendary Species Hunter Ben Cantrell is the only Species Hunter “rampaging his way through … swimsuit models,” so I guess I’ll just have to stick with pretty fish instead.
Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #139 — Coastal Shiner.