With only five species left to hit #300, I came up with the idea to do a weekend blitz to try to catch five new species without leaving Illinois. I had my eye on the Embarras River, because in the past two years I've seen and failed to catch quite a few species in it. I hit the road after work on Friday so I wouldn't have to drive so far Saturday morning. I stopped by the Mackinaw River, which is close to home. My targets were banded darter and freckled madtom, but my first catch turned out to be one of the fish I was hoping to get out of the Embarras.
Slenderhead Darter (Percina phoxocephala) - new hook & line species #296
The next morning I headed to the dam in Charleston. I knew most of my lifers would be micros, but I started off bottom fishing for larger species. My first catch was a redhorse, probably an intergrade between shorthead redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum) and smallmouth redhorse (Moxostoma breviceps). It had the sharp concave dorsal fin of a smallmouth, but it's fin ray counts indicated shorthead. I need smallmouth for my lifelist, but I'll wait until I get a 100% pure one before I add it.
Shorthead / Smallmouth Redhorse (Moxostoma sp.)
I switched to microfishing, hoping to catch a freckled madtom. Brindled madtoms outnumber them, and that's what I ended up catching.
Brindled Madtom (Noturus miurus)
I needed a change of scenery, so I moved to Kickapoo Creek on the south end of Charleston. Sampling data showed lots of eastern sand darters, and sure enough I saw dozens of them. Please don't ask me if I caught one though...
The sand darters weren't cooperating, so I looked in the pools for other species. I found this handsome dusky darter hanging out in pile of rocks.
Dusky Darter (Percina sciera) - new hook & line species #297
Some of the most greedy fish were these juvenile spotted bass. As you read futher, you'll see that I caught quite a few juvenile fish on this trip.
Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
My next catch was a species that I'm surprised I hadn't caught earlier, a bullhead minnow. It's a relative of bluntnose minnow but built a little sturdier. Just two more species to go!
Bullhead Minnow (Pimephales vigilax) - new hook & line species #298
I wanted to check out the Embarras further downstream where it begins to slow down before joining the Wabash River on the IL / IN border. I found a good access spot in the town of Newton. Sure enough, the river looked completely different from the stretch in Charleston.
I drifted a small piece of worm on a size #14 hook along the bottom. It looked like decent habitat for silver chubs, but I wasn't sure if they would come this far upstream. After half a dozen channel catfish ranging from somewhat small to very small, I caught a surprise. It was a juvenile grass carp with its side covered in teeth marks.
Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
My next fish was the one I was looking for, a silver chub! I was pretty happy to finally catch one, because I had failed to catch one in the Wisconsin River when I lived in Wisconsin. One more to go!
Silver Chub (Macrhybopsis storeriana) - new hook & line species #299
I stayed the night in a motel near the IL / IN border, and in the morning I started out fishing the Wabash River in St. Francisville. I wasn't quite sure what my targets were, but I hadn't fished this stretch of the river before so maybe something would surprise me. I started off with a two jig setup that caught the attention of the juvenile white bass near the boat ramp.
White Bass (Morone chrysops)
I used my other rod with a bottom rigged nightcrawler. It got the attention of drum, lots and lots of drum. They're not very exciting when you're looking for new species, but a couple of them were pretty big and fought well. The one below was 18 inches and quite fat.
Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)
I gave the boat ramp some more attention, and I caught this juvenile skipjack herring. It wouldn't hold still for a photo.
Skipjack Herring (Alosa chrysochloris)
When I switched to a Tanago hook, all I could catch were these juvenile common carp. They were certainly the smallest carp I'd ever caught!
Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
I had lost hope that I would catch a new lifer in the Wabash, so I packed up the car and headed back to the Embarras River in Charleston. If I looked hard enough, I figured I could catch a freckled madtom under one of the rocks near shore. Sure enough, I saw a small, darkly colored catfish and followed it around until I caught it. I went the next four hours thinking I had caught my 300th species. However, once I looked at the photo on my laptop, I realized something was wrong. The adipose fin was separate from the caudal fin, and the lower jaw was even with the upper jaw. It was a juvenile flathead catfish!
Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)
Thinking I had my last lifer secured, I relaxed for a while and fished blindly in a pool below a riffle. My first fish was this logperch.
Logperch (Percina caprodes)
Next was a longear sunfish. The ones in the Embarras River look pretty good!
Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)
I let my bait drift downstream under a bobber. There was a big swirl of water, my bobber went under, and then I spent the next ten minutes fighting this silver carp. There was a school of them feeding in the pool, and my hook had snagged its dorsal fin.
Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)
That was it for my blitz. One more species to go...