With the keys behind us, it was time to make the journey across the state to Tampa. However, before we headed through the everglades we took some time to stop at a few more urban spots. The target at the first park was Midas cichlid. We baited up with bread, and I cast out to a feeding school of bright orange fish. The cichlids looked interested, but something dark rushed in and grabbed my bait. After a short spirited fight, I landed this nice oscar.
Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus) - new hook & line species #198
My next bread ball was picked up by one of the Midas cichlids. I'm impressed that he got to it first, because his eyes were clouded over. While Ruoxi was taking my picture, Michael was in the background fighting something larger, a triploid grass carp stocked to keep the vegetation in check. After some comical efforts by Ken to get it into the net, he got a chance to pose with his catch as well.
Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) - new hook & line species #199
Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
Our other urban spots didn't produce much, so we headed west into the everglades. At the entrance to one of the parks we found a great spot full of fish. Florida gar were splashing on the surface, so I tossed out a spinner that works great for shortnose and spotted gar back home. It didn't get any hits, so I caught a few sunfish to use as cut bait. My first was a new subspecies of bluegill, and my second was a spotted sunfish, my 200th hook & line species!! Using my 200th species as bait, I caught my 201st species, a Florida gar. Lifelist fishing doesn't get much better than that!
Coppernose Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus mystacalis) - new subspecies
Spotted Sunfish (Lepomis punctatus) - new hook & line species #200
Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus) - new hook & line species #201
Ruoxi also caught this huge oscar.
Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus)
Further down the road we stopped a spot that Michael and Ken had fished at the beginning of the trip. They had caught walking catfish here, so I was hoping to pick one up as well. It was daytime though, and we couldn't find any catfish for the life of us. We caught plenty of other exotics though, so we didn't complain.
Mayan Cichlid (Cichlasoma urophthalmum)
Spotted Tilapia (Tilapia mariae)
We had to reel in our fish quickly, because something lurked in the water that wanted a meal.
As the sun began to set, we switched to smaller hooks to try to find some smaller fish. Thanks to Michael's need to commune with nature, we found a nice area with rocks and small fish. With a Tanago hook I was able to add two new cichlid species to my lifelist.
Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
Black Acara (Cichlasoma bimaculatum) - new hook & line species #202
African Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis bimaculatus) - new hook & line species #203
Ken insisted that once the sun set the walking catfish would make their appearance. Sure enough, once it was completely dark, I pointed my spotlight into the water and saw dozens and dozens of catfish. When the light hit them they rushed for cover, so I turned off the light and dropped a nightcrawler to the bottom. Two seconds later I felt the tap tap of a fish and caught my first non-native catfish.
Walking Catfish (Clarias batrachus) - new hook & line species #204