Species #110 — Nile Tilapia

Species #110 — Nile Tilapia

My third tilapia species shot into my life. Quite literally.

Species: Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Date: November 16, 2017

This story is part of a larger story involving me, a bold cockroach, disappointment, and elusive Grass Carp.

Since I’m going to retell much of this story in the subsequent post about Species #111 — Grass Carp, I’ll just focus on the tilapia here.

***

After meeting Chris Moore (@arizona_anglers on Instagram), and getting a ton of great fishing spots from him, I’d vowed to be sure to chase Grass Carp, called White Amur locally, since they’re in virtually every waterway in the Phoenix area.

My quest led me to a pond in the heart of the city known to contain Grass Carp upwards of 30 pounds. Knowing this, I brought only gear for large Grassies. I had the usual Owner No. 6 Mosquito hooks I like for carp when fishing corn. I also had some smaller doughbait trebles on-hand for floating bread balls on the surface.

What I didn’t have was any hook smaller than a No. 6. So as I sat in the low light cast by a nearby lamppost and watched tiny fish I knew to be tilapia stripping my floating bread off of the surface, and then, to my horror, off my hook, I was frustrated.

It wasn’t long before I lost hope in the Grass Carp and decided to try catching one of these bastages. So I waited, and fished the little bread ball like a dry fly, waiting until I watched it dip and then lifting up on my rod. I lifted up too slowly and missed.

This series of events repeated half a dozen times before I finally lifted up hard and fast. A fish had been hooked, however briefly, and I watched as it lifted out of the water. My line tightened, and the barely-hooked fish came free of my line, the hook pulled out by inertia.

That little fish rocketed five or ten feet into the air, arcing right down into the space between my legs.

You can call it a fish story, but you’re just in de-Nile if you do.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #111 — Grass Carp.


Species #109 — Blue Tilapia

Singing the blues was fun.

Species: Blue Tilapia (Oreochromis aureus)
Location: Gila River, Phoenix, Arizona
Date: November 16, 2017

I knew Redbelly Tilapia weren’t the only exotic cichlids present in the Gila River, so I continued fishing, being careful to check every one of the 23 Redbellies I caught for signs of being either Blue or Nile Tilapia, both of which can be found in the Phoenix area.

Eventually, I found one that looked just a little different. It was less rounded and and had a more pointed snout, plus its tail was heavily patterned.

Immediate differences are hard to spot. Both Redbelly Tilapia (above) and Blue Tilapia (below) have prominent dorsal fins and faint vertical stripes, but the face of the Blue Tilapia is more steeply sloped or pointed as opposed to rounded and the tail is always patterned, whereas a Redbelly has a rounded face and solid-colored caudal fin.

Challenge completed, I began looking for other species. The river contains Sailfin Molly and a few other micros, but I had yet to start microfishing at this point. I’d purchased a pack of New Half Moon hooks to get the painfully easy Western Mosquitofish, but I left them at home.

It would be another month before I got to try microfishing for real.

So instead of micros, I looked for the “Plecos” that were supposed to be in the Gila because at least I had a shot, if a long one. No dice.

At 50 fish, I stopped for the day and headed back because I had some work responsibilities to attend to.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #110 — Nile Tilapia.


Species #108 — Redbelly Tilapia

Though they’re invasive pests in much of Arizona, the Redbelly Tilapia I caught were plentiful and fun to catch.

Species: Redbelly Tilapia (Tilapia zillii)
Location: Gila River, Phoenix, Arizona
Date: November 16, 2017

While the first Rio Grande Cichlid was easy to catch, the next dozen or so fish I caught were Redbelly Tilapia. These feisty and beautiful little fish came out of the weeds with every drop, looking to pounce of any- and everything I dropped into the water.

It wasn’t challenging fishing, but it was a blast, as I worked my way to first 50-plus-fish day outside the state of Oregon.

I wanted to explore and look for new species, for big bass I assumed had to be there, and to hunt for the elusive plecostomus catfish I’d heard lived nearby, but I couldn’t pry myself away from the fast-paced action the tilapia afforded.

Using a tiny jig tipped with worm was the ticket, and though success dropped off after a few hours when my worms were disgusting mush tubes instead of recognizable bait, it was still worth the walk in to that part of the river along the long, dusty road.

The only downside? Short any acceptable fishing footwear I’d worn a pair of White Air Force Ones.

RIP.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #109 — Blue Tilapia.


Shopping Cart

Follow

Click here to be informed every time a new post is written.

Join 3,027 other subscribers