Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ryan's visit to Illinois part 2 - Embarras and Big Muddy

We had a little bit of daylight left when we arrived in Charleston, so we fished the Embarras River for a bit.  My first fish was a beautiful shorthead redhorse (or possibly and intergrade between shorthead and smallmouth redhorse).  Ryan wanted one as well, but that ended up being the only one we caught.  He focused on small sunfish hiding in the rocks by shore, and eventually caught his lifer orangespotted sunfish.  The rest of our catches were juvenile channel cats and miscellaneous sunfish.

Shorthead Redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum)
The next morning we decided to skip the main Embarras and go strait to one of its tributaries.  This creek is great for spotted bass, longear sunfish, and an impressive number of micros.  I had hoped that we could sight fish redhorse, but we didn't end up seeing any.

Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus)

Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)

I had fished with Michael and Ken at this spot just a few weeks earlier, so I was surprised to find that the micros we were catching were different.  The sunfish had built nests to spawn on, and they were packed with shiners that were spawning as well or waiting to eat eggs laid by other fish.  The male steelcolor shiners in particular were stunning with their spawning colors.

Spotfin Shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera)
Steelcolor Shiner (Cyprinella whipplei)
Redfin Shiner (Lythrurus umbratilis)
We  packed up after Ryan caught a brindled madtom that was barely over an inch long.  It was probably for the best that no one saw how excited we were about it.  Our last target for the day was spotted gar below the Rend Lake spillway near Benton.

It was incredibly hot when we arrived.  The water level was low, and there were a lot of dead fish with arrow holes littering the bank.  The smell was nauseating.  We focused on the task at hand though.  Ryan tried for spotted gar, and I used small sabiki hooks to try for gizzard shad.  The spotted gar weren't cooperating, and neither were the gizzard shad (but come on, that was to be expected).  Mostly I caught yellow bass and bluegill, but one surprise was a juvenile grass carp.

Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)

Yellow Bass (Morone mississippiensis)
The combination of the sun beating down on us and the stench of rotting fish really wore us down.  We hiked up the stairs to my car feeling pretty demoralized.  Once we sat in the air conditioning and drank a few chilled bottles of water, we felt better.  On the drive back to the St. Louis airport we talked about the highlights from the trip and put the Rend Lake spillway experience behind us.  Overall it was a fantastic trip.  We saw a lot of Illinois fish in two days!


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  2. Were you using the full sabiki rig or just one hook from it?

    1. Hey AJ. I was using 2 hooks cut off from a 6 hook rig.