Species #164 — Hardhead

Species #164 — Hardhead

I worked so hard for this first Hardhead. The irony was once I switched to lures, it was nonstop action…

Species: Hardhead (Mylopharodon conocephalus)
Location: Pit River, CA
Date: July 23, 2018

I wrote about this trip. It’s kind of an interesting read. Check it out here if you missed the last post about my Sacramento Pikeminnow.

If you read it, you’ll remember I talked about going to fish the Pit River in hopes of massive, world record pikeminnows.

I caught what I thought was a nice pikeminnow. At just over a pound, it was a far cry from a world record, but it was a big fish. I took measurements for the world record, got a mediocre-at-best picture, and let it go.

My world record Hardhead. It weighed 1 pound, 1 ounce, and I thought it was a Sacramento Pikeminnow until I posted it on Facebook, and a friend enlightened me.

At the time, I was using an old rod because I was already packed for my trip across the country to Texas. I left that rod in the holder and forgot about it.

Forgetting about it for weeks, I traveled to Texas for Health Services Administrator (HSA) School, the Air Force Tech School attached to my AFSC (Air Force Job).

On that trip, I added dozens of lifers, caught over 1000 fish, and had a great time. This further buried that fish in my mind.

***

In September, I returned and slowly started uploading the summer’s photos. I put everything I wanted to share in my Facebook albums, and a few days after posting, a friendly guy from the North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA) who’d friended me sent me a message.

His name was Brandon Li.

“Hey man,” he wrote, “couldn’t help but stalk your photos a little. Western natives are incredibly fascinating.”

“This is in fact an adult Hardhead. When they get this size, they look more like pikeminnows.”

I was stoked.

He included a picture of a large Hardhead a flyfisherman had caught, roughly the same size as mine.

Hardheads are opportunistic feeders, apparently. Photo isn’t mine.

When he messaged me, I realized I’d probably missed out on a world record because I didn’t have a line sample. Then I remembered: I’d never touched that rod. I check the rod rack, and sure enough, it was sitting there untouched.

I was freaking stoked! The lure was still attached, so I cut off the sample. I already had measurements and pictures because I had thought it was a pikeminnow, and I submitted that world record.

***

Fast forward to spring 2019. Steve Wozniak and his wife, Marta, came to visit and fish. We were targeting a few California natives when he hooked into a massive fish.

It was a Hardhead twice the size of mine, and he shattered my record. It was his 100th or 200th (can’t remember which), so at least that was a small consolation for me losing my 3rd.

The rich get richer, I suppose.

His was a lot bigger. Thank God it was a Hardhead and not a chub of some sort, or this caption would be even more shameful.

He told me that his laundry list of records included current All-Tackle and Line Class records as well as “Retired” records, the term used to describe records once held but now broken.

So I guess I still have three world records, but only two of them are current.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #165 — Western Mosquitofish.


Species #96 — Hardhead Catfish

Another menace of the Gulf of Mexico: the Hardhead Catfish.

Species: Hardhead Catfish (Ariopsis felis)
Location: Graffiti Bridge, Pensacola, FL
Date: August 1, 2017

Channel Catfish are the bane of the Freshwater Species Hunter’s existence across much of the United States and Canada, but Hardhead Catfish fill this role in the saltwater and brackish environments of the Gulf of Mexico.

By day, Pinfish will ravage your bait. By night, expect Hardhead Catfish to fill in. The first one was exciting, but as I caught almost nothing but these bastages after dark in Pensacola and Houston alike, the excitement faded faster a college football fan drinking too much in an unseasonably warm game.

Apart from the obvious visual similarities between Hardhead and Channel Catfish, Hardheads will also eat virtually anything, can be caught day or night, and have sharp barbs on the pectoral and dorsal fins that while not venomous will still hurt enough to extract all sorts of profanity if you manage to get sliced.

Be smart and avoid them if at all possible. If you can’t, use long-handled pliers.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #97 — Atlantic Croaker.


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