Species: Yellow Bullhead (Ameiurus natalis) Location: Long Tom River, Monroe, OR Date: June 20, 2016
This was a phenomenal day. I caught a total of 50 fish, including Common Carp, Brown Bullhead, and Yellow Bullhead, the latter being a new species. Strangely enough, all fish took corn. The bullheads were ravenous but annoying as bullheads tend to be.
As for identification, Yellow Bullheads can actually be yellowish like this one, but the easiest way to tell them apart from other species is to look at their chin barbels. A Yellow Bullhead’s are white or yellowish while a Brown Bullhead‘s are darker.
This was a busy day, and I learned to “ghost set” for carp this skittish. Basically, you’ll know the carp are feeding nearby, so many of the hooksets should come even if you don’t feel a bite. Just wait a few seconds and lift up, and you’ll often catch carp. The bullheads nibbled pretty overtly, so they weren’t quite as unique a catch.
As bullheads are invasive and worthless, I killed every one I caught.
Common Carp are invasive but at least fun to catch, so I let those go.
Species: White Catfish (Ameiurus catus) Location: Cosca Lake, Washington, D.C. Date: July 16, 2015
For most people, a visit to D.C. means history and tours and American nationalism. It meant all of those things to me, too, but it also meant fishing.
After spending a good chunk of time researching where to fish within a reasonable distance of my Maryland hotel room, I settled on my first stop: Cosca Lake.
The urban lake is not easily accessible. It required a long walk from the parking area, and in late July heat, anything more than five feet might as well be the the Bataan Death March.
I arrived on the lawn surrounding the lake and began to setup shop. I only had one rod, so my first bet was a handline baited with a worm while I tied up my one and only rod for the occasion.
Before I even managed to get the tiny jig on my line, the stick I’d tied the handline to started bouncing, and I pulled in what appeared to be a bullhead.
Technically, it was. Just not a Brown or Yellow Bullhead like I’d seen in my native Oregon. This was a White Bullhead, more commonly called the White Catfish.
Heck yeah! I hadn’t even cast yet, and I had a new species on the board. Sticky, sweaty weather aside, I could tell this day was shaping up nicely.
That is, until some strange dude in absurdly baggy pants came up and kept talking to me while I tried to fish. It was obnoxious, and he was just wrong on every account. After I landed a few Brown Bullhead, I decided to pick up and move to the tiny feeder creek leading into the lake.
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.
Species: Brown Bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) Location: Topsy Reservoir, OR Date: May 29, 2009
If pigeons are rats with wings, bullheads are rats with fins. For whatever reason, Brown Bullhead catfish have established themselves as the invasive every real angler loves to hate in almost every major basin across the country.
Oregon is no different.
Why someone would ever decide to put these slimy filthwads in their favorite water is beyond me. They don’t grow very big. They don’t fight hard at all. They do taste okay, but they’re hard to clean, and given their all-inclusive diet and propensity for scum-dwelling, eating one is downright risky.
Still, when the sun goes down, they can pass warm summer nights and elevate a bonfire above simply drinking around a carcinogenic pit.
This particular May night was extra special because it managed to turn fishing for the lowest quarry into an even less pleasant endeavor.
The crappie bite was slow, and the “catfish” bite was slower. For some reason, the two Brown Bullhead I landed that night were the first I’d recorded up to that point, though I’m pretty sure I caught them before the ripe old age of 18.
On the drive home, I was pulled over right by the now-defunct Eternal Hills Cemetery. Coincidentally, this would be the first of three times I was pulled over in this exact location after a fishing trip, but that’s beside the point.
With my friend, Ben Blanchard, in the passenger seat, the cop walked up to his side of the car and motioned for me to roll down the window. Unfortunately, my window was broken at the time, and I couldn’t roll it down.
I was worried he’d be upset by having to talk through my rear passenger window. He moved past it and told me my license plate light was out. In retrospect, that car had more ailments than a hypochondriac, but I drove it five years and got a lot of traffic stops out of it.
After I told him I’d fix it, he asked simply “How much have you been drinking?”
My honest reply: “None. I don’t drink,” came automatically.
He wished us a good evening, and allowed us to go. The same guy would pull Ben and I over a month later after another trip to Topsy with the same question and the same answer.
Sometimes I miss the days where I was profiled for my car, but mostly I just appreciate being able to drive something that doesn’t look like it funnels drugs from one drop to the other.