Monday, September 30, 2013

Sandy Creek, IL

With the warm weather ending soon, I spent one of my free days this weekend revisiting a few spots that have been on my mind lately. The first was Sandy Creek, which has an incredible number of fish species.  On this visit I caught 27 species and took the opportunity to photograph a few that I have not been able to catch hook & line for my lifelist.

I was especially happy to find and identify mud darters, which inhabited the transition from riffles to pools, usually in among leaf litter and submerged sticks.  It was also nice to find banded darters, which I had previously only found in Wisconsin and Ohio.  Darters become difficult to catch hook & line in the fall, so I'll wait until next spring to pursue them hook & line.  They should have better colors then as well, so that will be an added bonus.

Red Shiner (Cyprinella lutrensis) - caught hook & line

Suckermouth Minnow (Phenacobius mirabilis)

Mud Darter (Etheostoma asprigene) - male

Mud Darter (Etheostoma asprigene) - female

Banded Darter (Etheostoma zonale)

Logperch (Percina caprodes)

Northern Clearwater Crayfish (Orconectes propinquus)

Not bad for a creek in the middle of farm country!  Here's the full list of species caught and seen:
  1. Quillback (Carpiodes cyprinus)
  2. Highfin Carpsucker (Carpiodes cyprinus)
  3. Northern Hogsucker (Hypentelium nigricans)
  4. Golden Redhorse (Moxostoma erythrurum)
  5. Shorthead Redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum)
  6. Central Stoneroller (Campostoma anomalum)
  7. Red Shiner (Cyprinella lutrensis)
  8. Spotfin Shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera)
  9. Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)
  10. Sand Shiner (Notropis stramineus)
  11. Suckermouth Minnow (Phenacobius mirabilis)
  12. Bluntnose Minnow (Pimephales notatus)
  13. Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
  14. Blackstripe Topminnow (Fundulus notatus)
  15. Western Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis)
  16. Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
  17. Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
  18. Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
  19. Mud Darter (Etheostoma asprigene)
  20. Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum)
  21. Fantail Darter (Etheostoma flabellare)
  22. Johnny Darter (Etheostoma nigrum)
  23. Orangethroat Darter (Etheostoma spectabile)
  24. Banded Darter (Etheostoma zonale)
  25. Logperch (Percina caprodes)
  26. Blackside Darter (Percina maculata)
  27. Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
On other occasions I've also seen largemouth bass, white bass, smallmouth buffalo, common carp, and grass carp.  They were probably still there, but the lack of rain has caused the water to get more murky in the deep pools.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Embarras River and Salt Fork Creek, IL

Yesterday I explored several spots along the Embarras River and one on the Salt Fork Creek in eastern Illinois. The Embarras has been on my mind lately because it has several species that would be new hook & line catches for me, in particular brindled madtom, slenderhead darter, and dusky darter.

At the first Embarras River spot (downstream of the Charleston dam), I left my net in the car so that I could focus on microfishing. I've found that my patience with hook & line fishing decreases substantially when I have a net available nearby. The Embarras along this stretch was mostly sandy flats and pools with submerged wood, but after a hike I was able to find one nice rocky riffle. Within minutes of finding the spot I found a madtom willing to bite. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a mountain madtom!

Mountain Madtom (Noturus eleutherus) - new hook & line species #114

So far I've avoided using photo tank pictures for my hook & line lifelist. I'm not exactly sure why I prefer a "fish in hand" or "fish on the ground" picture, but I do. Photo tank pictures are great for IDing fish, but for whatever reason I don't want them in my lifelist album. I chose the last photo above for my lifelist.

The riffle was also full of slenderhead darters, but they were unwilling to play. They spooked easily, and unlike other darter species that will move only a couple feet away, the slenderheads would continue bolting until they were out of sight. Maybe in the spring they'll be braver and stick around. On the hike back I found some eastern sand darters on a shallow flat. They were really cool, but again were completely unwilling to play. I'll be back in the spring looking for them as well.

The Embarras was full of monster mussels. There were a couple different species. Someday I'll have to learn what they are. This one was nearly 7 inches across.

The Embarras River dam in Charleston wasn't flowing, so I continued upstream to a spot where the river is substantially smaller. I did not stay long because I was concerned about possibly being on private property. I did see quite a few grass pickerel, as well as bluegill, blackstripe topminnow, western mosquitofish, spotfin shiner, redfin shiner, emerald shiner, greenside darter, slenderhead darter, logperch, and several others that I couldn't recognize without catching them.

Next time I'll find a spot that I'm confident is public property so I can look for creek chubsuckers and spotted suckers.

At the Salt Fork I didn't feel like messing with the rod & reel, so I netted a few fish to see if I could find anything new. I found quite a few brindled madtoms, which will be a future microfishing target. It would be fun to come back to this spot at night with a headlamp and see if they are cruising around.

Brindled Madtom (Noturus miurus)

I also netted this dusky darter, which is the first I've encountered. Another springtime target for microfishing!

Dusky Darter (Percina sciera)