Species #112 — Yellow Bass

For a fish with “moron” in its scientific name, this fish was hard to catch.

Species: Yellow Bass (Morone mississippiensis)
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Date: November 19, 2017

When I first started planning my trip to Phoenix, I knew my fishing time would be limited because I was there for work. So as I made a list of species I wanted to catch, and I reached out to Chris Moore (@arizona_anglers) on Instagram.

He proved to be a wealth of information and was my first true experience with the generosity of Species Hunters in sharing their spots. He helped me find and add Rio Grande Cichlid, three species of tilapia, and my Grass Carp. That’s not to mention all of the carp (including koi), channel cats, bass, and sunfish I caught.

Though I struck out for Sonora and Desert Sucker in the middle of nowhere, I was pretty thrilled with my success. The only problem was that Yellow Bass were supposed to exist in a small pond I’d fished several times that was just a short drive from my hotel.

It was theoretically an easy fish to entice with half of a nightcrawler; you just had to find one of the relative few fish present.

I spent all of my spare time on the last few days of my trip trading penny stocks (I made about $3000 that trip) and reading about fishing for Yellow Bass.

I learned they tend to like deeper channels and feed in rotating circuits along the bottom, though they can be found up in the water column, as well.

With less than an hour to fish on my final day, I forsook the the side of the pond that had been so productive and moved to a narrow channel that seemed to be deeper. It was a longshot, but I threw out my worm and waited.

Less than 15 minutes passed before I began counting down the clock. I had a flight to catch, after all, and I still had to return my rental car.

Just as I began to think it was time to admit defeat, my rod bounced, and I pulled in a single, eight-inch Yellow Bass.

Six species in three short stints of fishing in an inland urban area smack-dab in the desert during the winter, and I’d managed three species.

I didn’t even mess with micros. I’d wanted to, but I left my newly-purchased Owner New Half Moon micro hooks at home, so I had to sit and watch Western Mosquitofish and what I think were some species of silverside swarm the waters all around me as I stood there, powerless to do anything about it.

Packing up my rod, I felt pretty good about myself and the new species I’d caught, having know way to know my next new species would be a monster that I’d catch with incredible luck/skill on my very first cast.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #113 — Lake Trout.

Species #110 — Nile Tilapia

My third tilapia species shot into my life. Quite literally.

Species: Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Date: November 16, 2017

This story is part of a larger story involving me, a bold cockroach, disappointment, and elusive Grass Carp.

Since I’m going to retell much of this story in the subsequent post about Species #111 — Grass Carp, I’ll just focus on the tilapia here.

***

After meeting Chris Moore (@arizona_anglers on Instagram), and getting a ton of great fishing spots from him, I’d vowed to be sure to chase Grass Carp, called White Amur locally, since they’re in virtually every waterway in the Phoenix area.

My quest led me to a pond in the heart of the city known to contain Grass Carp upwards of 30 pounds. Knowing this, I brought only gear for large Grassies. I had the usual Owner No. 6 Mosquito hooks I like for carp when fishing corn. I also had some smaller doughbait trebles on-hand for floating bread balls on the surface.

What I didn’t have was any hook smaller than a No. 6. So as I sat in the low light cast by a nearby lamppost and watched tiny fish I knew to be tilapia stripping my floating bread off of the surface, and then, to my horror, off my hook, I was frustrated.

It wasn’t long before I lost hope in the Grass Carp and decided to try catching one of these bastages. So I waited, and fished the little bread ball like a dry fly, waiting until I watched it dip and then lifting up on my rod. I lifted up too slowly and missed.

This series of events repeated half a dozen times before I finally lifted up hard and fast. A fish had been hooked, however briefly, and I watched as it lifted out of the water. My line tightened, and the barely-hooked fish came free of my line, the hook pulled out by inertia.

That little fish rocketed five or ten feet into the air, arcing right down into the space between my legs.

You can call it a fish story, but you’re just in de-Nile if you do.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #111 — Grass Carp.

Species #108 — Redbelly Tilapia

Though they’re invasive pests in much of Arizona, the Redbelly Tilapia I caught were plentiful and fun to catch.

Species: Redbelly Tilapia (Tilapia zillii)
Location: Gila River, Phoenix, Arizona
Date: November 16, 2017

While the first Rio Grande Cichlid was easy to catch, the next dozen or so fish I caught were Redbelly Tilapia. These feisty and beautiful little fish came out of the weeds with every drop, looking to pounce of any- and everything I dropped into the water.

It wasn’t challenging fishing, but it was a blast, as I worked my way to first 50-plus-fish day outside the state of Oregon.

I wanted to explore and look for new species, for big bass I assumed had to be there, and to hunt for the elusive plecostomus catfish I’d heard lived nearby, but I couldn’t pry myself away from the fast-paced action the tilapia afforded.

Using a tiny jig tipped with worm was the ticket, and though success dropped off after a few hours when my worms were disgusting mush tubes instead of recognizable bait, it was still worth the walk in to that part of the river along the long, dusty road.

The only downside? Short any acceptable fishing footwear I’d worn a pair of White Air Force Ones.

RIP.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #109 — Blue Tilapia.

Species #107 — Rio Grande Cichlid

These fish are both gorgeous and annoyingly common, but they fight well and (probably) taste good.

Species: Rio Grande Cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus)
Location: Gila River, Phoenix, Arizona
Date: November 16, 2017

Traveling is always tough. When you have limited time, say, on a business trip, but you still want to fish, you must research beforehand.

Fortunately, in the world of the Internet, social media, forums, and other digital resources, this is much easier than it was 30 years ago.

With an active Species Hunting community, you have further resources.

I reached out to Chris Moore (@arizona_anglers on Instagram), and he gave me some spots to try with my limited time.

***

One of the places I tried was the Gila River. It was a short drive and a short walk from where I was staying in downtown Phoenix.

Almost immediately, I started catching fish.

A number of sunfish species, tilapia, and a bunch of these Rio Grande Cichlids came out to play, and I caught A LOT of fish that afternoon.

Rio Grande Cichlid were hard-fighting fish with a uniquely beautiful color palette, and they cemented themselves as one of my favorite panfish that warm fall day.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #108 — Redbelly Tilapia.