Friday, June 7, 2013

Johnny darter

Yesterday I made a quick visit to Otter Creek northwest of Prairie du Sac, WI. The creek has several species that I'd like to track down. Unfortunately, the downstream stretch of the creek was too muddy to fish. I continued upstream into the hills of the Baxter's Hollow State Natural Area. Here the creek was clear and cold, flowing over large rocks. The only fish I found here were creek chubs. I was hoping to encounter longnose dace, but if they were present the creek chubs didn't give them a chance to bite. I headed back to the bottom of the hills and found a bridge where the water was still clear but flowing over a sand bottom. I expected Johnny darters in this habitat, and sure enough I spotted a few small ones sitting out in the open sitting on the sand. These juveniles were too small for my micro hooks, so I continued looking around, finally finding a large adult hiding among submerged wood. He took the bait immediately, becoming my #107 lifer!

Johnny Darter (Etheostoma nigrum) - new hook & line species #107


I believe this individual was a male based on the dark pelvic fin, dark nose, and faint vertical bars. A few minutes later I caught an even darker individual, definitely a male.



On my drive home I noticed one of the reasons the downstream stretch of Otter Creek is muddy. The creek runs though several dairy farms after the bridge where I caught the darters. Dozens of cows were standing in the creek, one of which was doing her business in the water as I drove past. I'm sure the cows enjoy the creek, but it's unfortunate for the fish...

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