For our second day in Tahlequah, we decided to stay in town, fish a couple spots, and then meet up with the rest of the NANFA folks in the afternoon. In the morning Pat and I headed down to a lower stretch of Tahlequah Creek. Right away we noticed dozens of longnose gar spawning. The water was crystal clear. Pat and I tied on rope lures to target some of the gar that weren't spawning, but by the time we started fishing for them the water had started to become cloudy. What was going on?
Pat got a hit on his rope lure. He walked with the fish downstream for a bit to let the rope fibers tangle in its teeth and then tightened up his line. All he had to do at that point was walk the fish back to shore and land it. Pat was pretty happy, as this was the longest fish of the trip!
Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus)
By now the water was completely opaque. Something was going on. We could see a white colored film on the surface of the water. I couldn't get any hits on my rope lure, and we packed up and left. As we drove away from the spot, we realized that the J. M. Hicks Wastewater Treatment Facility was directly upstream of the spot we were fishing. Gross.
We drove back to the middle of town to fish an upstream stretch of Tahlequah Creek. This stretch of the creek looked like it had undergone a restoration project recently.
The most common fish here were redbelly dace. It was hard to catch anything else! A few of them had good colors, and many of them also had black spots along their backs. We also caught a few creek chubs, redspot chubs, cardinal shiners, and plains darters.
Southern Redbelly Dace (Chrosomus erythrogaster)
Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
Cardinal Shiner (Luxilus cardinalis)
In the afternoon we headed over to the Illinois River where the NANFA convention was getting started. We enjoyed chatting about fish with other enthusiasts. They had a big aquarium set up with fish from the river. See the baby paddlefish in the upper right?
After the party split up, Pat and I headed back to the park we fished the day before. We didn't have any real ambitions for new lifers, but maybe we'd turn up something interesting like a slim minnow. You never know. My first catch was a slender madtom. After that we caught more of the same, plains darters, fantail darters, sunburst darters, and longear sunfish. Once again I failed to catch a big banded sculpin I saw, so I bent down and grabbed it with my hands.
Slender Madtom (Noturus exilis)
Sunburst Darter (Etheostoma mihileze)
Banded Sculpin (Cottus carolinae)
It was a zero lifer day, but Pat and I got to know Tahlequah a lot better, and we called it a day early so we'd be well rested for the next day. Stay tuned!