Species #158 — Shorthead Redhorse

Species #158 — Shorthead Redhorse

The only sucker I’ve caught that was easy: the Shorthead Redhorse.

Species: Shorthead Redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum)
Location: Caledonia, Ontario, Canada
Date: July 16, 2018

I live in Oregon, a place where half of our native suckers are threatened or endangered, and the other half can be difficult to locate and catch. Apart from Largescale Sucker, none of the sucker species we have are caught very often.

Oh how strange this is when compared to the rest of North America and the 100 or so sucker species found there. Suckers are not only common, but they can be downright easy to catch in certain places outside of our wonderfully strange state.

Take, for instance, the Shorthead Redhorse.

On a tip from Ken Tse (read his blog here), I headed outside of Toronto proper to a semi-rural community on the Grand River. He put me just below a small dam in a scenic, grassy park. There were obviously fish around, and I quickly caught a small Smallmouth Bass.

I could see a few micros, but the fast current and skittish nature of those particular micros only held my attention for 20 minutes or so. When I finally caught a micro, it was another smallie, so I opted to pursue the redhorse I’d actually driven there to catch.

Several species were on the table, though Shorthead Redhorse were supposed to be the most common.

My intel proved correct, and after about an hour of sitting on half of a nightcrawler purchased at the bait shop up the hill, my first rod bounced.

Given the strange angle I was fishing below the dam, I had one rod out perpendicular to the shore and another sort quartering away downstream.

Without going into the science of it all, and the fact that there was so much water to cover, it would’ve been nearly impossible for me to hit my target with just one rod. There had to be a second rod.

I reeled the second rod (or was it the first?) as a small, unsuspecting crowd watched from picnic blankets on the grassy knoll.

The last thing they expected was for my shot to ring out over the din, my splitshot, that is.

Unfortunately, I was in the process of retying my micro rod and spilled splitshot all over as I fumbled towards my bouncing rod.

Regardless, I connected.

I was stoked. Not only had I caught a new species, but it was one of the most beautiful fish I’ve ever caught in freshwater.

Knowing at least enough to snap pictures of the fish in profile as well as pictures of its mouth, I released it. I knew it was a Shorthead thanks to a particularly helpful infographic I found online.

Know Your Redhorses! If only someone could make one of these for Pacific Northwest freshwater sculpins…

The bite died, and I decided to move, instead going to the less accessible side that required a minimal hike down.

While the first fish had taken an hour or two, the second took less than five minutes.

The river on the other side was more conducive to fishing for suckers, which tend to prefer transitional zones between current and slower water, specifically behind current breaks.

Lo and behold, a redhorse was waiting behind the first rock I cast to.

I was pretty stoked at this point, thinking I’d figured them out. Also, this is a pretty good picture of me. At least, 1-in-50 women in Tinder think so.

Again, I took the profile and mouth pictures even though I knew at first glance this was a Shorthead.

My other rod bounced while I was taking this picture, and I had Fish No. 3.

Don’t be jealous of how pretty my fish are.

At this point, I was having fun, but I realized I had a long drive back to Fort Erie, the Canadian town right across the border from Buffalo, where I was staying.

I hopped in the car and drove on.

***

After spending my evenings chasing the fish that surpassed Common Carp as my favorite “rough fish” for the next few evenings — Species #159 — I tied into something else.

I battled it to the bank against the current of the staunch Niagara River and landed it with some impressive acrobatics while flagging down a passerby to take a picture for me.

I originally identified this fish as a Golden Redhorse because it didn’t have the red tail I’d seen on the other Shortheads I’d captured, but I was later told it was another Shorthead.

Cross-referencing the infographic above confirmed it was a Shorthead — just a monster. The notched dorsal fin and 44 lateral line scales were enough to overshadow the lack of red tail.

Still, it was a beast of a Shorthead at 25″ and 4.6 pounds.

Just a pound shy of the world record. Too bad. It would’ve been my first international record.

I was targeting something else, but when this bad boy hooked, I wasn’t disappointed. Notice Buffalo in the background. Also notice the flexing right bicep. Don’t notice that this shirt was too small.

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the evening and an incredible trip.

I’d really enjoyed Canada, and I smiled when I got to get my redhorse on and ride into the sunset.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #159 — Freshwater Drum.


Species #119 — Shortnose Sucker

Shortnose Sucker are probably the most highly-endangered fish in Oregon. The two I’ve caught incidentally have been insane surprises, but given that I fish 150-200 days per year, it was only a matter of time before one took my worm for a spin.

Species: Shortnose Sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris)
Location: Undisclosed Location
Date: January 12, 2018

A few people told me I shouldn’t write about this one, and I both understand and respect their reasoning; however, I think I should write about this precisely because nobody else wants to talk about it.

We have a species at risk of extinction in the next five years, and it’s right in our backyard. The Shortnose Sucker, an endemic to the Upper Klamath Basin, has an estimated 5000 adults left in the wild.

That doesn’t sound so bad when, say, compared to some of the localized pupfish or Alabama Sturgeon, but when we’re talking about a fish that was once so abundant that anglers lined up to snag dozens of them in a day as they moved to spawn, it’s scary.

These fish are notorious for their phenomenal ability to smell the slightest hint of bait in the water at up to a mile away. This, in conjunction with their less-than-prominent proboscis led to their name: Shortnose Sucker.

Of course, only one of those things is true, but you believe it because it was written on the Internet from a seemingly reliable source. Now, I don’t ever lie to my readers, and I’m pretty damn informed about fishing, but even I don’t know every detail relating to the fish I write about.

But some people do. Some people knowingly spread misinformation about fish and the culture of fishing soaks it up without questioning the source. This, in combination with rapid habitat loss, is why Shortnose Sucker populations have declined.

People honestly believe they “eat trout eggs” and are actively competing with trout. This is just not accurate. Yes, they probably suction up some eggs, but so do trout. There are numerous videos of trout eating their own eggs. Further, suckers do not compete with mature trout. They have some overlap in their diets, but suckers are bottom feeders while trout are apex predators that cover the entire water column.

Suckers more often serve as food for trout than competition for them.

Without suckers, the niche they fill would be empty, and an already hypereutrophic lake with frequent algal blooms, fish die-offs, and poor water quality would be devastated.

As awesome and adaptable as our trout are, they can’t fill that niche.

***

I caught my first sucker on tiny gear while fishing for the invasive Yellow Perch in a river known to be overrun with them, a tiny Shortnose Sucker took my bait.

Baby Shortnose Suckers aren’t self-conscious about their short snouts yet because society hasn’t shamed them for it yet, and kids are innocent. When fishing for sensitive species, be sure to never put them on dry dirt, pavement, or rocks. I like to use the inside of a heavy-duty plastic bag with a layer of water thrown on top. This helps preserve a fish’s slime.

At first glance, I thought it was a Blue Chub, another endemic that has done remarkably well by comparison. I kill every perch, bullhead, and goldfish I catch in our system, but I always release natives (and Brown Trout, since they don’t really overpopulate and are limited to rivers).

I almost released the “chub” when I realized it looked a little different.

Quickly, I set it down and snapped a quick picture before watching it swim away, hopefully to start a trend in the right direction.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #120 — Pacific Herring.


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.


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