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 #80 — Klamath Largescale Sucker

My first IGFA All-Tackle World Record was this Klamath Largescale Sucker. I’ve yet to catch another one.

Species: Klamath Largescale Sucker (Catostomus snyderi)
Location: Sprague River, Sprague River, Oregon
Date: November 6, 2016

While I occasionally reference and link to articles I’ve written for the Herald and News or other newspapers on my blog, I try to generate new content for this site. But every now and then, I’ve already told the story of a new species in a way I like and don’t want to change, and the story of my first IGFA All-Tackle World Record is one such story.

Check out this story, as originally written for the Herald and News  by clicking this link and feel free to check out my record by clicking here.

My first world record came in late 2016. I was fishing during November in a place that hadn’t been open to fishing during that month in my lifetime and was closed the very next year. Further, the species is incredibly rare (I’m the only known angler-caught one in decades), so this might hold awhile.

Tight lines!

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #81 — Whitespotted Greenling.


Species #35 — Buffalo Sculpin

Buffalo Sculpin are tenacious, tough, and tremendous fighters for their size.

Species: Buffalo Sculpin (Enophrys bison)
Location: Chetco River South Jetty, Brookings-Harbor, OR
Date: September 13, 2010

This is a story about misidentifying sculpins and feral cats and world records. Yes, you read that right.

I’ll start with the record. Here’s the picture of my record-setting fish.

This guy fought like a creature possessed. Even at World Record-size, I didn’t feel it was worth filleting.

My first saltwater All-Tackle World Record was for Buffalo Sculpin (2017), but little did I know, I actually had caught my first Buffalo Sculpin seven years prior to my record-setting performance.

My first saltwater fish to earn me an All-Tackle World Record was a Buffalo Sculpin. Source: http://wrec.igfa.org/WRecordsList.aspx?lc=AllTackle&cn=Sculpin,%20buffalo.

***

For many years, the South Jetty in Brookings was home to an absurdity. When my friend Ben Blanchard and I walked out to the jetty with high hopes, we caught a furry blur dart between the rocks. It wasn’t the first time we’d seen elusive beasts living among the jetty’s numerous boulders. At first, we thought they might otters or fishers or raccoons, but then we saw a black cat.

Clear as day, it was a black cat. We’d been joking about the “Jetty Cats” that entire trip, using the tune from the commercials for Jitterbug, the white flip phone with giant buttons marketed to the elderly, to say “Jetty Cats”. It probably wasn’t as funny as we thought it was. Yet we laughed.

Still, when we arrived and saw the cats, we were surprised to see a woman with a bag of cat food leaving.

Our eyes were opened to the strangeness of people that day.

I’m neither a cat person nor a dog person. I hate the idea of pet ownership and would never allow one of those filthy beasts in my house.

But Ben’s a cat person, and even he thought it was a little crazy.

The lady had noticed there were feral cats living in the jetty and began setting cage traps for them. She’d take them to get spayed or neutered (I thought this part was admirable, at least), then bring them back.

More than 20 feral cats lived among the rocks after a few years of this behavior, and the natural food supplies of crab and fish scraps wore thin (one of the many reasons why feral cats should be shot on sight: they destroy wildlife populations), she began bringing bowls and feeding them catfood.

She thought it was completely normal. Crazy Cat Lady.

She left, and we had no shortage of jokes for the rest of the afternoon.

Sidenote: In 2017, I came back found that the cats were either all gone or mostly gone, having been replaced by a number of surprisingly-fearless raccoons. 

***

Cats aside, this is a fishing blog.

Using Berkely Gulp! Sandworms, we’d done quite well before. But alas, it wasn’t to be that day. I caught a single fish that we misidentified as a Cabezon and wouldn’t correctly identify for a long time after as the Buffalo Sculpin it was.

The fish was all head. Though it was just over eight inches long, its head was probably four inches wide. These fish have a weird body shape, but fight really well — even when small.

Buffalo Sculpins have a strange body shape. This was my All-Tackle World Record and at 14 inches long, it was almost eight inches across the head.

It wasn’t glamorous, but it was a new species and a great story to go with it. Years later, when I set my world record, I still remembered the first one I’d caught some many years and so many Jetty Cats ago.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #36 — Canary Rockfish.


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