Monday, May 18, 2015

Bottom fishing for mud darters

I've been back in Illinois for almost two years, and little by little I've been exploring what my home state has to offer.  Last Saturday a fellow species angler, Matt Cox, was doing a job in Moline (one of the four towns making up the Quad Cities), so I was happy to have the excuse to come up and fish with him on the Rock and Mississippi Rivers.  Matt had to work during the morning, so I fished downstream of the Steel Dam on the Rock by myself to pass the time.

I fished bottom rigs for whatever would bite.  I didn't have any lifers in mind, but carpsuckers or buffalo would have been welcome.  The fish that showed up were the typical species you'd expect on a gravel bottom river in the midwest.

Shorthead Redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum)

Silver Redhorse (Moxostoma anisurum)

Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

The drum became annoying, so I packed up and headed to Lock & Dam #14 on the Mississippi River.  Believe it or not, this was the first time I'd fished the big river!  I baited an area on the downstream side of the dam with corn and alfalfa pellets and then fished corn on circle hooks.  After a few timid bites, I hooked into a huge fish, the biggest common carp I've ever had on the line!  I would guess it was 30 lbs, but of course talk is cheap and I have no photo.  Such is life!  I got the carp up to the rocks, had no way of getting it into my small landing net, and finally watched it thrash around and snap my leader.  Oh well.

Matt finished his work for the day and joined me at the lock & dam.  He fished nightcrawlers on the bottom and landed this nice bass.  Other than that we didn't catch anything, so we headed back to the Rock River.

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)

We set up bottom rigs again, this time in the swifter water closer to the dam.  While we waited, I tied a Tanago hook on my second rod and fished a slack water spot by shore.  Matt was pretty excited when I caught this little orangespotted sunfish.  He needed one for his lifelist, and shortly later he caught one for himself!

Orangespotted Sunfish (Lepomis humilis)

I continued microfishing, hoping for something like a Mississippi silvery minnow or bullhead minnow.  What I caught though took me completely be surprise.  At first I thought it was a rainbow darter, but the orange belly and black head didn't fit.  I suspected it was a mud darter, and when I got home I confirmed it.  A lifer darter caught blindly off the bottom in muddy water!

Mud Darter (Etheostoma asprigene) - new hook & line species #271

It's good to leave on a high note, so I packed up my gear and headed to my car.  I stopped at the old Hennepin Canal lock on the way to the parking lot.  There's a lot of interesting history in this state, a lot of which involves man's domination of nature.  The canal was an extraordinary engineering feat for its time, but the widening of the locks on the Illinois River made it obsolete by the time it was completed.

As always, I hope you enjoyed the post, and stay tuned for a big adventure coming up in June!

1 comment:

  1. Really beautiful little fish that Mud darter :)) Congratulations ;)