Monday, June 1, 2015

2015 NANFA convention part 3 - madtom frenzy

After a much needed rest at Isaac's family's lodge, we started our third day by meeting up with Josh and Joy Leisen, who you ought to recognize from previous posts in this blog.  It was their first time visiting the Ozarks, and needless to say they were enjoying themselves.  The six of us met at a tributary of the Buffalo River to fish for madtoms and darters.  We fished the head of a riffle just downstream from a bridge.  As you can imagine, people driving past gave us strange looks.

We desperately wanted to catch a checkered madtom, but unfortunately none us was able to find one.  We did however find quite a few Ozark madtoms as well as a few slender madtoms.  I had no idea that slender madtoms got so large!

Ozark Madtom (Noturus albater) - new hook & line species #275

Slender Madtom (Noturus exilis)

The only darters we caught here were rainbows.  I saw a few yoke darters, and possibly a saddled darter, but they were hanging out in current too fast to fish effectively.  Eventually they bolted down the riffle, never to be seen from again.  To change things up we tried throwing jigs and spinners around the bridge supports and a submerged tree to see if Ozark bass might be around.  No Ozark bass showed themselves, but we caught green sunfish, longear sunfish, smallmouth bass, a monster hornyhead chub, and some very handsome northern studfish.

Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

Josh and Joy were going to stay in the Buffalo River drainage for a few days, and Ryan left the group to find his way to an airport to head home to Tampa.  Pat, Levi, and I drove south, crossing the very flooded Arkansas River and continuing until we reached the Ouachita River drainage.  We stopped at a park with a spring fed creek flowing through it.  The scenery was fantastic!

The clear water made it easy for the fish to see our bait.  Despite the presence of creek chubs and a variety of shiners, my first catch was a highland stoneroller!  I didn't know this species existed until recently.

Highland Stoneroller (Campostoma spadiceum) - new hook & line species #276

We had to look hard for them, but eventually each of us caught at least one redspot darter.  We wrapped up by catching shiners until we each got a male redfin shiner.  In Illinois all of the fins on the redfin shiners are bright red, but here only their tails were red.  The irridescent blue-green on their other fins was really cool.

Redspot Darter (Etheostoma artesiae) - new hook & line species #277

Western Redfin Shiner (Lythrurus umbratilis umbratilis) - new hook & line subspecies

We drove down a bumpy logging road to reach our last spot of the day.  Once our vehicles were thoroughly coated in a layer a dust we arrived at a small creek.  We carefully flipped a few rocks and soon found madtoms, Ouachita madtoms!  This species is endemic to the Ouachita drainage and is one I was pretty excited to see.

Ouachita Madtom (Noturus lachneri) - new hook & line species #278

We also caught a few darters, but the colors didn't turn out very well in the low light.  The one below is a female Creole darter.  Fortunately, we found some nice males the next day.

Creole Darter (Etheostoma collettei) - new hook & line species #279

Once again we ended the day after the sun had set.  We stayed the night at a motel in Hot Springs Village, strategically setting ourselves up for the next day's fishing spots.

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