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)


  1. Any larger species in the Embarras? I'm looking for bowfin/dogfish.

  2. Max, I don't think there are bowfin in the Embarras. They can be found in the Kaskaskia River and Big Muddy River though, and probably any swampy area in the southern part of the state should have them.