After nowhere near enough sleep, day four began at Lake Waccamaw in southern North Carolina. Lake Waccamaw is a large shallow, sandy lake surrounded by swampy backwaters. It's really a unique place, well worth the visit. We started off fishing some backwater spots before heading to the main lake. To my surprise, there were alligators! Fortunately, none of them were large, and they kept their distance while we fished. I dropped my microhook with a small piece of redworm close to some vegetation, and right away I got a strong bite. Within a few minutes, I had pulled in several flier, which in my opinion were the most beautiful fish of the trip. They were also probably the largest fish I've landed using Tanago hooks.
Flier (Centrarchus macropterus) - new hook & line species #138
We then drove around the main lake, stopping when we found a public pier. Most of the lakefront is private property, so we were happy to find access open to the public. The water in the lake is slightly tea stained, and the bottom is pure sand with a few plants scattered about. We saw a school of our target fish, the Waccamaw killifish, out of reach of our crappie poles. I rigged up a small ice fishing bobber about an inch and a half above a Tanago hook baited with a small piece of redworm. The school of killifish would spook easily, but after casting past the school and slowly reeling in, I was able to place my bait among the fish. After a few small twitches of the bait, the killifish took notice, and I hooked into one. I'm not 100% certain, but I believe I can make the claim that I'm the first person to catch this species hook & line.
Waccamaw Killifish (Fundulus waccamensis) - new hook & line species #139
At the end of the pier there were tons of small shiners cruising around. They bit aggressively and turned out to be coastal shiners.
Coastal Shiner (Notropis petersoni) - new hook & line species #140
Finished with the killifish and shiners, we drove to the small dam on the lake. There were a lot of fish below the dam, including bluegill, redear sunfish, largemouth bass, and shad. The bluegill looked a bit different from the ones back home. I found a few references to a subspecies of bluegill on the east coast, but it does not seem to be widely recognized by the scientific community. Nonetheless, it's cool to see regional differences in fish like this.
Eastern Bluegill? (Lepomis macrochirus purpurascens?)
While I was fishing the pool below the dam, Miciah successfully caught a Waccamaw darter on the sandy flat above the dam. I can't resist darters, so of course I had to begin searching for one of my own. This obsession resulted in me being hunched over for well over an hour, searching for tiny camouflaged fish on the bottom. I found one large adult, but he would only bite at my split shot, not my bait! I don't think I've ever felt so frustrated by a fish. One day, Waccamaw darter, I will return for you...
After the dam we headed to the ocean to see what the saltwater would bring us (see next blog post). In the evening we backtracked and decided to night fish the Lake Waccamaw dam for small catfish and other oddities. I put out a piece of nightcrawler on a #10 Octopus hook, and my first fish turned out to be a new lifer. However, we didn't come across any catfish. Before leaving, we baited up our microhooks and caught a few small sunfish. We thought they were banded sunfish, which would have been a new lifer, but after the trip we were told these fish were bluespotted sunfish (see the part 1 blog post).
White Perch (Morone americana) - new hook & line species #141
Bluespotted Sunfish (Enneacanthus gloriosus)