Monday, February 16, 2015

Tennessee winter microfishing

Against my better judgement I joined Miciah for a road trip to Tennessee over the weekend.  On the drive down I felt the start of a cold, and sure enough it hit me hard the next two days.  A cold front was moving through the midwest, and the only way we could escape the low temperatures was to drive south.  We knew fishing would be tough, so we kept our expectations low but checked out a bunch of spots to increase our chances of finding something.

We skunked out in the Cumberland River drainage, but at a small tributary in the Duck River system we found a few darters.  Miciah caught a fantail, and I caught this redband. I'm guessing it's a male that hasn't developed its spawning colors yet.

Redband Darter (Etheostoma luteovinctum) - new hook & line species #264

Here's a photo from a spot where we didn't catch anything.  I'm including it in the post because it does a good job of showing what Tennessee microfishing looks like in February.

In the southern part of the state we found a nice spot, but unfortunately I wasn't able to find any new species.  We caught rainbow darters and Tennessee shiners here.

Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum)

Tennessee Shiner (Notropis leuciodus)

After checking in to a small town motel, we tried some quick nighttime microfishing in the creek nearby. It was really cold!  Miciah caught a rosyside dace, and I caught this northern studfish.  We were tired and couldn't feel our fingers, so we called it a night.

Northern Studfish (Fundulus catenatus)

Our last stop before heading back north was a nice little tributary of the Duck River. We thought the creek was too big for orangethroat darter variants, but we found a bunch of buffalo darters in the vegetated side pools. Banded sculpin were hanging out under the larger rocks. One of the deeper pools had a large school of minnows, and between Miciah and I we caught striped shiner, rosyside dace, and largescale stoneroller.

Buffalo Darter (Etheostoma bison) - new hook & line species #265

Banded Sculpin (Cottus carolinae)

Largescale Stoneroller (Campostoma oligolepis) - new hook & line species #266

Three new lifers from a weekend road trip in February is nothing to complain about.  Miciah and I drove home feeling successful, but we also knew that we missed dozens of species that were right under our noses.  We can't wait to go back when it warms up!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Powerton blue catfish

A week ago my friend Brad and I visited Powerton Lake in Pekin, IL. The target was blue catfish, which are stocked in the warm-water cooling lake. Brad brought a cast net, and we took turns trying to figure out how to use it. Neither of us were very good, but we did manage to catch plenty of small threadfin shad to use for bait.

Threadfin Shad (Dorosoma petenense)

The weather was great, but unfortunately we spent the day catching tiny channel catfish instead of the blue catfish we were hoping for. Nonetheless, we were catching open water fish on a sunny day in January, so we weren't complaining!

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Today I couldn't find anyone to join me to try Powerton again, so I made the trek over to Pekin by myself. The weather was not pleasant. It snowed all day, and it was just warm enough that the ground became a muddy mess. Bleh!

I put out two rods, each with a 4/0 and 8/0 hook suspended off the bottom with a length of line to a pyramid sinker. Cut channel catfish was the bait. It didn't take long before one of my baitfeeder reels began to click. I let the fish run for about 10 seconds and then picked up the rod and put tension on the line. With such heavy gear, the fight was pretty short. It was a blue catfish! It was only 26 inches, but it was my first so I was quite happy.

Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) - new hook & line species #263

That's an 8/0 hook in its mouth. It's a little big for this fish, but for a 75 lb blue catfish (which are in Powerton) it would be about the right size to deal with their larger jaws.

In hindsight I should have tried microfishing for a threadfin shad...