Friday, June 22, 2012

Bigmouth buffalo and bowfin in Wisconsin

In June I was able to meet two great species fishing guys, Josh Knuth and Gary Dietenberger.  They were hunting species for the Roughfish June contest, and they invited me to join them at their bowfin and bigmouth buffalo spots.  Needless to say I was thrilled!

We met at a dam on a small river in south Wisconsin.  The goal was bowfin, but we started off catching sunfish and bullhead.  Apparently the bullhead make great cut bait for bowfin.  After an hour or two, Gary landed a nice looking bowfin, but I wasn't able to get one.  I took a photo of this rather dark pumpkinseed as well as my lifer orangespotted sunfish though.  The latter was quite exciting.  This location must be about as far north as you can find this species.

Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)

Orangespotted Sunfish (Lepomis humilis) - new hook & line species #53

Before we moved on to the next spot, I tried out my new Tanago hooks to see what micros were in the river.  On my first drop I caught this very gravid emerald shiner.

Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)

We moved on to another spot further up the river where bigmouth buffalo can usually be found.  Sure enough we saw the school of buffalo, but like the bowfin at our first spot I couldn't get one to bite!  I switched to a small piece of nightcrawler on the bottom, and after a few black bullheads I caught my first brown bullhead.

Brown Bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) - new hook & line species #54

Our third and final spot for the day was below an old mill dam.  It was a very fishy spot.  The catch of the day for me was this nice channel catfish.

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Two weeks later I came back to the same spots to spend more time trying for the fish I missed when I was with Josh and Gary.  It was a hot day, and I remember sweating like a dog for several hours before I finally got a buffalo to bite.  I was so incredibly nervous bringing it to shore, but all my worries disappeared when I laid it down in the grass for a picture.

Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) - new hook & line species #61

Glad to take a break from the sun, I drove to the bowfin spot to work on my next target.  I started off with nightcrawlers and caught the usual bullheads and sunfish.  I also caught this colorful drum.

Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)

I was losing hope up by the dam, so I decided to head downstream to see what else there was to see.  The river split in two for a stretch, and where it came back together looked like a great location to fish.  I threw a whole nightcrawler towards the opposite shore, and instantly there was a huge swirl in the water.  It must have nearly hit a bowfin on the top of the head!  I must say this is one of my favorite fish.  Evolution stumbled upon this design more than 150 million years ago, and it still persists today.  That deserves respect.

Bowfin (Amia calva) - new hook & line species #62

Later in the fall I came back to the bowfin spot to catch a few more.  Sure enough, they were in that same spot where the two branches of the river came back together.  What an incredible fish!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Microfishing in Champaign County

I'll keep this short with mostly pictures. I fished two spots in Champaign County on Friday. The first was the Copper Slough, which later becomes the Kaskaskia River. It's not much more than a field drainage ditch, but it's spring fed so it has a small but steady flow of water year round.

Bluntnose Minnow male (Pimephales notatus)

Tadpole Madtom (Noturus gyrinus)

Sand Shiner (Notropis stramineus) - new hook & line species #57

Yellow Bullhead (Ameiurus natalis)

Central Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis megalotis)

Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

My second location was a tributary of the Salt Fork Creek. This was my first time using microfishing gear in this location, so I was looking forward to sampling from a different demographic than I normally do in this area.

Spotfin Shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera)

Striped Shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus)

Redfin Shiner male (Lythrurus umbratilis) - new hook & line species #58

Central Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis megalotis)

Hornyhead Chub male (Nocomis biguttatus) - new hook & line species #59

Creek Chub female (Semotilus atromaculatus)

Sand Shiner (Notropis stramineus)

Carmine Shiner (Notropis percobromus) - new hook & line species #60

Central Greenside Darter (Etheostoma blennioides pholidotum)

I spent over 2 hours trying to catch a greenside darter hook & line with no success. Had 3 good bites where I saw the bit of worm disappear into the darter's mouth, but wasn't able to set the hook. I think I need to look into the Tanago hooks that so many people are recommending. I really enjoy microfishing, but I'm starting to feel limited by these #20 hooks. Darters, topminnows, and silversides have all been very difficult to catch with them.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Microfishing in southeastern Wisconsin

After catching an orangespotted sunfish a few days ago, the only remaining sunfish I have left to catch in Wisconsin are a northern sunfish and a warmouth. So, I traveled down to a river in the southeastern part of the state to try for both species. I stopped by a trout stream on the way in hopes of finding a lifer brook trout. The stream was small and clear. Caught 20+ creek chubs and finally one brown trout, but no sign of brook trout. Luckily it was a non-lifer brown trout I caught, because he unhooked himself and flopped back into the water a split second before I could take a picture.

Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)

I continued on to the river. The water was low and crystal clear. You could tell that restoration work has been done on the river, because there were lots of little piles of rocks been done recently. My first fish was a northern sunfish, a new lifer!

Northern Sunfish (Lepomis peltastes)

Great! So now my goal was to catch a warmouth. As it turned out though, it was very difficult to get past the northern sunfish, because they had nests everywhere and were very agressive. Here's a picture I snapped from a pedestrian bridge a little ways downstream.

I also caught bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, rock bass, largemouth bass, and a hybrid longear X bluegill (or maybe something else). The only one I took a picture of was this green sunfish, because I'd never seen those dark horizontal bars on one before.

Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

I also hooked into this guy, yikes! I pulled him up on shore to see if it was possible to get the hook out, but luckily the hook came out on its own as he snapped at me. He may look like he's smiling in the picture, but he was not happy with me!

My hopes of catching a warmouth were diminished, so I switched to micro gear. Before long I had a nice variety of micros, with the rainbow darter being a new lifer. Pictures below are blackstripe topminnow, rainbow darter, and logperch. I also saw tons of starhead topminnows, but they were 100% focused on spawning, ignoring my bait completely. A grass pickerel came out of the weeds at one point as well, but he ignored my bait too.

Blackstripe Topminnow female (Fundulus notatus)

Blackstripe Topminnow male (Fundulus notatus)

Rainbow Darter male (Etheostoma caeruleum) - new hook & line species #55

Logperch (Percina caprodes)

I caught a good mix of shiners, the common shiner being a new lifer.

Golden Shiner juvenile (Notemigonus crysoleucas)

Common Shiner (Luxilus cornutus) - new hook & line species #56

Spotfin Shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera)