Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Longnose sucker spawning run

Yesterday was a day I had been anticipating for some time. Earlier this spring, I was surprised to learn that longnose suckers make spawning runs in the Root River in Racine, WI. Longnose suckers are fish I haven't given much thought to in the past because of their northern range. With the prospect of a spawning run so close to home, I was quite excited!

Heavy rain and flood conditions have made fishing the Root a challenge this spring. The steelhead fishermen have been worried they will miss the best part of the run. I kept a close eye on the fishing reports knowing that the sucker run would begin as the steelhead run tapered off. However, information was hard to come by, because with the water so high and turbid people could not fish regardless of whether or not the steelhead were there. I saw one mention of suckers being caught, and so after waiting a few days for the most recent flood water to subside, I made my trip.

My plan was to fish below the small dam where the DNR steelhead facility is located. A fishing refuge sign forced me to change plans, but it was cool to see the steelhead in the weir.



"Steelhead" Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)




I drove down the road that follows the river, trying a few spots along the way. I figured if the suckers were in the river, they'd be as close to the dam as possible. No luck after a few hours though, so I settled into Horlick Park to set up bank poles and relax while fishing.

It took a while for my first bite, but when it did come and I saw the fish surface, I was pretty excited. Longnose sucker! I navigated the fish, a large female, in to shore and reached out with my small trout landing net, but right then the fish came off, disappearing in the swift muddy water. My next bite did not come for over an hour, but this time I decided to skip the landing net and hoist the fish up by the line in one quick motion.  Bait was 3 or 4 waxworms on a #8 octopus circle hook, held in the main current by a 3 oz weight.

Longnose Sucker (Catostomus catostomus) - new hook & line species #96






I returned the fish to the water quickly after taking a few photos.  I skipped taking a measurement because she was bleeding from the mouth, which is common in hooked suckers, and I wanted to give her the best possible chance to recover.  If all goes well she'll successfully spawn soon.

A few small bites after that, but no more fish.  Sometimes that's how it goes.  I was very glad that my one fish of the day could be a new lifer though!


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