I spent the night sleeping in my car at the first fishing spot, a drainage canal connected to the Mississippi River. It was a cold night, but I survived and woke up as the sun was coming up, ready to fish. I started off with nightcrawlers and right away caught several small channel cats.
Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
This didn't surprise me, so I switched to corn and chummed a spot with corn and alfalfa pellets. About a half hour later I started catching big common carp. This was a good sign - I hoped I would catch a few buffalo as well.
Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
My friend Garren decided the night before that he would drive over, and after I had been fishing for an hour he showed up. He rigged up similar to me, and we both caught quite a few carp. The buffalo did not make an appearance unfortunately.
A few of the carp had lampreys attached to them. Our friend Tyler Goodale informed us that chestnut lamprey is the only parasitic lamprey in Missouri, so that's what they were. They're a bit frightening when you're looking at their tooth-filled jaw-less mouth.
Chestnut Lamprey (Ichthyomyzon castaneus)
However, when you flip them over with their beady little eyes looking up at you instead, they're quite adorable.
Garren also caught this spotted bass using a nightcrawler. He needed a good photo for his lifelist, so he was glad he caught it.
Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
After about 15 carp, we decided to pack up and head over to Duck Creek Conservation Area. This area has a number of lowland species that I have not caught, such as banded pygmy sunfish, pirate perch, slough darter, bluntnose darter, creek chubsucker, and spotted sucker. We rigged up our Tanago hooks and fished below a culvert with running water. My only hook & line catch at this spot was a lone black bullhead. This bugged the heck out of Garren, because he needs one for his lifelist. Don't worry Garren, you'll get yours soon!
Black Bullhead (Ameiurus melas)
We weren't able to catch anything else in the muddy water, so before we left I grabbed my dip net out of the car to see what we missed. Each scoop of the net had about a half dozen fish, mostly banded pygmy sunfish, but also some slough darters and bluntnose darters. It was frustrating knowing that three potential lifers were abundant at this spot, but we couldn't get them to bite!
Banded Pygmy Sunfish (Elassoma zonatum)
Slough Darter (Etheostoma gracile)
We continued west to the Lake Wappapello spillway. It was surprisingly warm for March, and we enjoyed sitting in the sun while we fished. Unfortunately, our only catches were small channel catfish. We had baits in the water for several hours, and I also spent time throwing small white jigs and inline spinners, but we didn't get anything else.
In hindsight we really moved around a lot that day. We were impatient and didn't want to spend our time catching small channel cats. Who knows, maybe we should have stuck it out longer. We drove down to Poplar Bluff to microfish some tributaries of the Black River. Tyler Goodale took us to these spots before, and I knew that one of the creeks was full of cypress darters. Garren and I both spent time fishing for them, but the only one we landed was one I foul hooked in the chin. Grrr!
Cypress Darter (Etheostoma proeliare)
Feeling bummed about the cypress darter, I cheered myself up by catching a big blackspotted topminnnow. They're very easy to catch, and it helped take the sting out of the foul hooked darter.
Blackspotted Topminnow (Fundulus olivaceus)
Tyler showed up at this point, so we walked over to another creek and caught some brook darters. They're a split from orangethroat darter and certainly look quite a bit different from the ones in central Illinois. This time of year they males are really colorful!
Brook Darter (Etheostoma burri)
Garren and I planned to camp somewhere along the Current River (which is further west), so we said goodbye to Tyler and drove over to the boat ramp in Van Buren to fish as the sun went down. Pretty soon it was dark, so we got out my spotlight to look for sculpin. We found several of them hiding among the rocks near shore. I caught a nice banded sculpin, and Garren caught a lifer knobfin sculpin.
Banded Sculpin (Cottus carolinae)
I also caught a mudpuppy, which is a native amphibian that has external gills. It was hiding under a rock near shore and grabbed my bait as I was looking for sculpin.
Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus)
At the end of the day I finally caught a new lifer. We saw a few madtoms hiding under rocks, and they turned out to be the one madtom species in the Ozarks that I haven't caught. It was a long day, and it felt good to finally get a new species.
Black River Madtom (Noturus maydeni) - new hook & line species #323
Ever since dinner Garren had been feeling pretty rotten, and at this point he knew he was sick and couldn't continue with our trip. He grabbed a motel and went home the next morning. I drove a few miles out of town and spent the night in my car again alongside the Current River. My hobo fishing trip was under way!