Friday, June 22, 2012

Bigmouth buffalo and bowfin in Wisconsin

In June I was able to meet two great species fishing guys, Josh Knuth and Gary Dietenberger.  They were hunting species for the Roughfish June contest, and they invited me to join them at their bowfin and bigmouth buffalo spots.  Needless to say I was thrilled!

We met at a dam on a small river in south Wisconsin.  The goal was bowfin, but we started off catching sunfish and bullhead.  Apparently the bullhead make great cut bait for bowfin.  After an hour or two, Gary landed a nice looking bowfin, but I wasn't able to get one.  I took a photo of this rather dark pumpkinseed as well as my lifer orangespotted sunfish though.  The latter was quite exciting.  This location must be about as far north as you can find this species.

Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)

Orangespotted Sunfish (Lepomis humilis) - new hook & line species #53

Before we moved on to the next spot, I tried out my new Tanago hooks to see what micros were in the river.  On my first drop I caught this very gravid emerald shiner.

Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)

We moved on to another spot further up the river where bigmouth buffalo can usually be found.  Sure enough we saw the school of buffalo, but like the bowfin at our first spot I couldn't get one to bite!  I switched to a small piece of nightcrawler on the bottom, and after a few black bullheads I caught my first brown bullhead.

Brown Bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) - new hook & line species #54

Our third and final spot for the day was below an old mill dam.  It was a very fishy spot.  The catch of the day for me was this nice channel catfish.

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Two weeks later I came back to the same spots to spend more time trying for the fish I missed when I was with Josh and Gary.  It was a hot day, and I remember sweating like a dog for several hours before I finally got a buffalo to bite.  I was so incredibly nervous bringing it to shore, but all my worries disappeared when I laid it down in the grass for a picture.

Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) - new hook & line species #61

Glad to take a break from the sun, I drove to the bowfin spot to work on my next target.  I started off with nightcrawlers and caught the usual bullheads and sunfish.  I also caught this colorful drum.

Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)

I was losing hope up by the dam, so I decided to head downstream to see what else there was to see.  The river split in two for a stretch, and where it came back together looked like a great location to fish.  I threw a whole nightcrawler towards the opposite shore, and instantly there was a huge swirl in the water.  It must have nearly hit a bowfin on the top of the head!  I must say this is one of my favorite fish.  Evolution stumbled upon this design more than 150 million years ago, and it still persists today.  That deserves respect.

Bowfin (Amia calva) - new hook & line species #62

Later in the fall I came back to the bowfin spot to catch a few more.  Sure enough, they were in that same spot where the two branches of the river came back together.  What an incredible fish!

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