Species #37 — Calico Surfperch

Calico Surfperch can be discerned from Redtails by the faint vertical bars that look more like mottling than stripes and the fact that their spiny dorsal rays aren’t noticeably longer than the soft rays.

Species: Calico Surfperch (Ampistichus koelzi)
Location: Chetco River South Jetty, Brookings-Harbor, OR
Date: September 12, 2011

Misidentification is to fishing what the New England Patriots are to football: an unfortunate everyday reality that can’t be ignored.

Fortunately, just like tonight’s Patriots’ Super Bowl loss, good can get a foothold in the fight against evil and make that unfortunate everyday reality just a little quieter.

Every year, Oregonians flock to the South Coast to fish for “pinkfins” near the mouths of the Rogue, Umpqua, and Winchuk Rivers. Ask almost any angler, and they’re fishing for Redtail Surfperch. While the majority of “pinkfins” are actually Redtails, a substantial minority are Calico Surfperch — an entirely different species.

Calico Surfperch
Redtail Surfperch

 

 

 

 

 

This post won’t be long, but I hope it is helpful. Where their range overlaps (Southern Oregon and Northern California), these two species often get lumped into the same “pinkfin” category. Just use this comparison to be able to tell they’re not.

That is, don’t just avoid being a part of the problem; be a part of the solution.

***

I caught my first Calico off of the jetty in Brookings. After striking out for Striped Surfperch on the river side, we followed the Biblical example and threw to the other side. I landed a Redtail and a Calico in an hour, proving these two species not only overlap ranges but overlap the same feeding grounds at the same time.

Since I thought they were different-looking enough, I took a photo with my disposable camera. After processing and comparing them side-by-side and doing some online research, I was able to tell the two “pinkfins” apart.

Hopefully, now you can too.

If not, one other way to tell Calico Surfperch from Redtail Surfperch is that the Steve Wozniak has never caught a Calico, while I have.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #38 — Red Irish Lord.

 

Species #30 — Kelp Greenling

Hicks call them “Lingcod Candy Bars,” but the Kelp Greenling is a good failsafe against being skunked when fishing from shore.

Species: Kelp Greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus)
Location: Chetco River South Jetty, Brookings-Harbor Marina, OR
Date: September 10, 2009

Rashomon Effect 5-of-6: My Feet

Danner Vanish. I still remember them because they were both the most expensive non-wading boots I’ve ever purchased and some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn fishing.

They certainly weren’t stylish, but they felt great. After spending all day on my feet, landing fish after fish and adding nearly half a dozen new species to my Life List, puking my guts out, and then walking all over the marina chasing bait, I should’ve had aching feet. But I didn’t.

I felt great.

***

So when Ben and I loaded up a bag of bait, we decided to take to Round 3 of our glorious day of fishing.

We headed to the jetty.

***

The sand squished under my feet as I made my way from the car to the massive boulders that comprised the jetty.

I didn’t like it.

Once my boots found purchase on the rock, I nearly lost my footing as one of the many “Jetty Cats” that we loved to joke about darted into the shadows.

Hopping from boulder to boulder probably didn’t require the level of bravado I put into each leap, but I trusted them, and it gave me a bit of rush knowing that one slip could spell disaster. The thrill was titillating.

Making our way to the water wasn’t easy, what with the slick rocks, creeping tide, and fog creeping in slowly, obscuring our view. Still, we managed to get down to the the large flat rock at the end of the structure and catch a few fish.

Ben got the first few fish and then I hooked one. It was a Kelp Greenling. My fifth new species of the day brought to me by the great folks at Danner. The problems of that day aside, those Danner hiking boots are still my favorite boots ever.

Only one left.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #31 — Pacific Staghorn Sculpin.

Species #27 — Brown Rockfish

I wish I had a better photo, but I’ve only caught one Brown Rockfish since my first double on them almost a decade ago.

Species: Brown Rockfish (Sebastes auriculatus)
Location: Brookings-Harbor Coastline, OR
Date: September 10, 2009

Rashomon Effect 2-of-6: My Heart 

The dark majesty of the Oregon Coast rests in it’s rugged, untamed power. The shaded mystery of the forest and what lies within speaks to the adventurer in all of us.

The whistling nocturne played by whipping winds over the salt-peppered cliffs always hatches butterflies in my stomach and a longing in my heart.

When I’m at my most taxed and exhausted from the intensity of hiking the steep trails, climbing the jagged rock faces, and fishing the roiling waters, it’s only my passion for the sport that gets me out of bed the next time to start the process over.

That dark morning was no different, especially after a successful night fishing for surfperch that left us wet, cold, tired, and smiling nonetheless.

My body screamed “Go back to sleep!” but the longing for a day on the water got me out of the safety of my sleeping bag.

***

The instant oatmeal, bland coffee, and physical exhaustion weren’t enough to keep me off the boat, and the resultant seasickness wasn’t enough to keep me from fishing.

Despite the horrible knots my stomach was twisted into, I relished the time between each esophageal release because it meant I could catch a fish or two.

I landed Black and Blue Rockfish left and right, then Yellowtail Rockfish.

Just as we began to near limits, I fought my queasiness long enough for another drop. When I pulled up two small fish at the same time, I was ecstatic. When they didn’t quite look like any rockfish I’d caught before, I was even more so.

“Hey Kyle,” the deckhand said. “Are these Brownies?”

The captain, Kyle, came up and inspected the catch.

“Yeah, those are Brownies! We don’t see a lot of those,” Captain Kyle said to the deckhand, turning to me and adding: “Man, that’s a rare catch.”

The word “rare” evoked a sense of pride that *almost* overcame my nausea.

Little did I know that they were so rare, that in 20-plus charter trips, numerous shore fishing excursions, and miles of jetty walking over almost a decade, I wouldn’t see another “Brownie” captured. And here I’d been fortunate enough to get two on one drop? Damn.

That is something special.

***

The rest of the day was even better. We fished anchovies out of the marina for bait, filled a bag and used them to catch more fish and a few crabs on the jetty, and then ended the day with a delightful dinner that really felt like a reward after an already rewarding day.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #28 — Northern Anchovy.