Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hitting #300 with the last of the Nocomis

A week after my Illinois blitz, I was back on the road again.  This time I was teaming up with Miciah to revisit parts of Tennessee that we had fished in February and some areas near the KY / TN border.  We started our trip in Clarksville at the same spot where we skunked out trying for redtail chubs in February.  This time the fishing was much better, but it still took us a while to find them.  Miciah caught a great looking one first, and then I followed with the tank below.  It looks like he survived an attack from a bass when he was younger.  I don't know how big redtail chubs get, but this must be right up near the top in terms of size.

Redtail Chub (Nocomis effusus)  - new hook & line species #300

It would have been neat to catch them in spring when their tubercles were showing.  You can see the marks on its head where they used to be.

Next we headed south to another spot we visited in February.  Soon after arriving it began raining pretty steadily, but luckily we were able to hang out under the highway bridge and stay dry.  My photos from this spot didn't turn out very well due to the low light, but I did the best I could.

Scarlet Shiner (Lythrurus fasciolaris)

Fantail Darter (Etheostoma flabellare)

One of the fish we caught at this spot was blackfin darter.  There are very few photos of this species online, and none of them are high resolution, so I was really hoping to get a good photo.  The one I caught refused to put his first dorsal fin up.  The photo below is the best of the ones I took.

Blackfin Darter (Etheostoma nigripinne)  - new hook & line species #301

My last fish at this spot turned out to be another lifer.  Saffron darters are incredibly colorful in the spring when they are spawning, but they are pretty drab the rest of the year.  I'd love to come back and see them when they're at their peak!

Saffron Darter (Etheostoma flavum)  - new hook & line species #302

We visited one more spot in the upper Duck River drainage before calling it a day.  This spot was full of redband darters.  We caught quite a few, and while most weren't coloful, a few still had bright red bands.

Redband Darter (Etheostoma luteovinctum)

We strategically stayed the night at a motel near the Cordell Hull Dam on the Cumberland River in the morning.  At first light we drove to the spillway to fish for striped bass.  Miciah already had one on his lifelist, but he was a good sport, giving up precious time from fishing for darters.

The stripers weren't cooperating, but I caught several big skipjack herring.  These guys fight like mini crazed tarpon, shaking their heads and jumping over and over.  They were a blast to catch, but I was quite jealous when Miciah caught a juvenile striped bass right before we left.

Skipjack Herring (Alosa chrysochloris)

Next we drove north to a small stream near the KY / TN border.  It was loaded with fish, and we quickly got out our Tanago hooks.  We caught a lot of species, but unfortunately none of them were new to us.  The lighting was perfect for good photos though!

Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum)

Western Blacknose Dace (Rhinichthys obtusus)

Banded Sculpin (Cottus carolinae)

Tennessee Shiner (Notropis leuciodus)

While we were fishing, we noticed small suckers with fine black stripes, and we knew right away what they were - blackfin suckers!  We saw dozens of them, but there was no way to catch them on hook & line.  They were too spooky, and there were just too many minnow species that were eager to attack our baits.  Before we left, I netted a few with my dip net so I could get photos of them (there are very few online).  I also netted some splendid darters, another species that we saw but were unable to catch.  Both were stunning species, and the splendid darters would be much more colorful in spring.

Blackfin Sucker (Thoburnia atripinnis)

Splendid Darter (Etheostoma barrenense)

Further into Kentucky, we stopped at a spot that Miciah had fished before.  There were a number of darter species in the sampling data that would be new to us, but we weren't able to find them.  I think Miciah caught an orangethroat darter split that was a new lifer for him.  I couldn't find one for myself.  I caught an orangefin darter that Miciah needed but couldn't find.  Funny how it works that way sometimes.

Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

Orangefin Darter (Etheostoma bellum)

Greenside Darter (Etheostoma blennioides)

To be honest I expected more than three lifers on this trip, but the scenery was fantastic, the fishing was great, I broke through the 300 barrier, and Miciah and I both succeeded in finishing the Nocomis genus by catching the redtail chubs.  I have no complaints!


  1. Congrats on 300 and the entire nocomis! That is quite a feat. BTW, Western Blacknose are no longer considered a species, they are now a subspecies of the Eastern Blacknose Dace, or just the Blacknose Dace. (or so is said by the American Fisheries Society)

  2. Thanks Brandon! Do you have a source for that claim about the blacknose dace? If you read the abstract for this paper from 2014, it's authors decided that they should be separate species.

  3. Sorry I couldn't find the original article, I found a clip though on roughfish..

    Rhinichthys atratulus. Recent arguments for recognizing R. obtusus as distinct from R. atratulus have been varied and inconsistent, as discussed in the Appendix to the 2004 list. Some publications treat obtusus as a subspecies of R. atratulus (W. J. Matthews, R. E. Jenkins, and J. T. Styron, 1982, Copeia 1982(4):902–920; R. E. Jenkins and N. M. Burkhead, 1994,Freshwater fishes of Virginia, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland). Others recognize R. obtusus (R. M. Bailey, W. C. Latta, and G. R. Smith, 2004, Univ. Mich. Mus. Zool. Misc. Publ. 192:1–215) or R. meleagris (C. L. Smith, 1986 [dated 1985], The inland fishes of New York State, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,Albany) as distinct from R. atratulus. D. A. Etnier and W. C. Starnes, 1994 [dated 1993], The fishes of Tennessee, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, and H. T. Boschung, Jr. and R. L. Mayden, 2004, Fishes of Alabama, Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C., recognized three subspecies, R. a. atratulus, R. a. meleagris and R. a. obtusus, but describe different ranges for them. A study of 20 Canadian populations, covering the ranges of two putative taxa, could not differentiate the taxa using characters presented in those publications (B. A. Fraser, N. E. Mandrak, and R. L. McLaughlin, 2005, Can. J. Zool. 83:1502–1510). Although it seems likely that several populations within R. atratulus deserve taxonomic recognition, we remove R. obtusus from the list pending a comprehensive study of variation and return to the long-standing common name of Blacknose Dace for R. atratulus.
    Larry M. Page, Curator of Fishes
    Dickinson Hall
    Florida Museum of Natural History

  4. So basically they're a subspecies now. Or not, really depends on which organization's view you take. But AFS is the major one, so I just tend to go along with what they say. Cyprinid taxonomy gets pretty confusing.

  5. The 2014 journal paper looks legit, so I'm going with separate species. Thanks though!