Monday, August 4, 2014

Sunfish of Sandy Creek, IL

Yesterday I took a break from trying to catch alligator gar and made the short drive up to Sandy Creek to fish for whatever was biting.  Sandy Creek has a couple lifers that I'm hoping to catch eventually (suckermouth minnow, mud darter, and banded darter), but I just wanted to catch whatever was biting rather than spend the day hunched over trying to catch those elusive ones.  I set up at my favorite pool where this baby swallow was hanging out.  I showed him the fish I caught, but none of them impressed him.

I caught nice examples of the different sunfish in Sandy Creek.  It will be nice to have these pictures for future reference.  Bluegill were particularly aggressive in the center of the pool, and green sunfish would slam my worm whenever I cast near the rocks and fallen wood near shore.  The big surprise of the day was longear sunfish!  I've fished Sandy about a dozen times and never caught a longear until yesterday.  I caught around half a dozen of them, with the most colorful one shown below.  Super cool!

Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)

Juvenile bass were all over the place.  Every now and then I'll see an adult, but rarely any lunkers.  I hope the people who fish the Illinois River realize how important Sandy Creek is as a spawning grounds for the bass they like to catch.

Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)

There were a few juvenile carp mixed in as well.  Of course I'd rather they not be in here, but I released all the fish I caught because killing a few individuals wouldn't put a dent in their population.

Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Towards the end of the day I put on a Tanago hook and did some microfishing.  There were plenty of shiners eager to bite.  I caught some brilliantly colored spotfin and red shiners but didn't take photos of them because they were coming home for my aquarium, and I didn't want to stress them.

Sand Shiner (Notropis stramineus)

Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)

Blackstripe Topminnow (Fundulus notatus)

In addition to the longear sunfish, I also saw gizzard shad in the creek for the first time (which is no surprise, given how close I was to the Illinois River).  Adding those two species to the list of fish I've seen in Sandy Creek puts the new total up to 37.  Sandy Creek is one of the most diverse bodies of water I've come across in Illinois!  As you may remember from one of my earlier posts, there is an industrial hog factory proposed to be built adjacent to Sandy Creek.  Please join the fight to stop it before it's built!  The link below is for the Save Our Sandy facebook page.

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