Saturday, May 20, 2017

Tennessee road trip with Lance - part 2

The first stream we tried in the morning didn't have good access, but I scrambled down to try it anyway. Sampling data for this spot showed good numbers of cherry darters.

Lance had no desire to climb down through the poison ivy, so he relaxed up on the bridge. To the best of my knowledge I'm still immune to the stuff, but everyone tells me I'll get it eventually.

After some difficulty finding a worm to use as bait, I was able to catch my target here, a male cherry darter!  The sun hadn't yet risen over the trees, so I had to take the photo in fairly low light.

Cherry Darter (Etheostoma etnieri) - new hook & line species #440

My only other catch from this spot was a juvenile striped shiner.

Striped Shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus)

Next we went to a public boat launch on the Barren Fork. I found darters in the pools next to one of the bridge pilings.  Most of them were interested in mating, so I had to search for ones by themselves who would take an interest in my bait.

My first catch was a small fringed darter. At least, I'm 99% sure it's a fringed darter. The other possibility is the barrens darter, but from what I read they only inhabit the furthest upper reaches of the tributaries in this area. Barrens darters are able to out-compete fringed darters once the stream depth is below a few inches.

Fringed Darter (Etheostoma crossopterum)

There were plenty of cherry darters at this spot. I used tiny earthworms that we dug up locally, and they worked much better than store bought redworms.

Cherry Darter (Etheostoma etnieri)

Further to the south we crossed into the Duck drainage, which is one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country. Lance wanted to get a photo of a colored up flame chub, so that was our priority. The good news is that it didn't take long to find a few flame chubs, but the bad news is that none of them were colored up.  It was probably too late in the year.

Flame Chub (Hemitremia flammea) - new hook & line species #441

There were plenty of other fish at this spot. The rosyside dace were looking good.  We also saw some large creek chubsuckers, but didn't stay long enough to try to catch them.

Rosyside Dace (Clinostomus funduloides)

The only darter I caught at this spot was a saffron.  It had a little more color than the one I caught a few years ago.

Saffron Darter (Etheostoma flavum)

Our last fishing spot was just upstream of Rutledge Falls, also in the Duck drainage. Before fishing we walked down to the waterfall to take a look. We don't have these in Illinois!

Once again we were looking for colorful flame chubs, but we were not successful. However, I did catch several darters that have been a giant pain to identify.  The possibilities are black darter or Duck darter, but neither of the two males below seem to fit those species.  For now I'm going to call all three black darters and add +1 to my lifelist.

Black Darter (Etheostoma duryi) - new hook & line species #442

Black Darter (Etheostoma duryi)

Black Darter (Etheostoma duryi)

The rosyside dace were looking good at this spot as well. They had incredibly large mouths and had more pigment on their scales than the ones from the previous spot.

Rosyside Dace (Clinostomus funduloides)

At this point we were anxiously watching the weather forecast because a line of thunderstorms was approaching from the west. We decided to cut our trip short because the streams were likely to be blown out if it rained hard. It wouldn't arrive for an hour though, so we drove a few minutes to a park to see another waterfall.

Lance is a big fan of aquatic plants, so he thoroughly enjoyed this spot.

The first set of falls was man-made, but further downstream we found some natural falls. It was a nice end to the trip.

Thank you Lance to a great road trip!  It was a bummer that we didn't catch a blackfin sucker or a colorful flame chub, but we saw tons of fish and enjoyed some great scenery.  If anyone has ideas about those last three darters, please send me a message!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tennessee road trip with Lance - part 1

Lance Merry and I got the itch to go to Tennessee and catch fish, so by golly that's what we did. We drove down on a Friday morning and reached the Kentucky / Tennessee border shortly after noon. Our first stop was a tributary of the Green River.  Sampling data showed good numbers of elegant madtoms in this stretch.

The road crossing formed a nice riffle, but the madtoms were nowhere to be found. However, we were excited to find an active chub mound immediately upstream of the crossing.  It had dozens of Tennessee shiners and scarlet shiners spawning on it. Redtail chub is the local Nocomis species that built the nest, but we didn't see any near it.  Here's a view from above.

I rigged up a Tanago hook with a piece of locally sourced earthworm. It didn't take long to catch a brilliantly colored male scarlet shiner.  Needless to say, my unimpressive lifelist photo for this species is getting replaced by this one!

Scarlet Shiner (Lythrurus fasciolaris)

Lance set up his photo equipment and got to work taking photos of the scarlet shiner.  Next up was a male Tennessee shiner.  I've caught them on several trips in the past but never with spawning colors.

Tennessee Shiner (Notropis leuciodus)

Lance can't resist an active chub mound, so he put on his mask and snorkel and jumped in the water with his camera. I'm honestly not sure why his ass was in the air. Maybe it needs to breathe too?

Before we packed up, I poked around in the riffle some more and found several orangefin darters. The one in the photo below isn't bad, but I caught a spectacular "super male" that came off the hook before I could snap a photo. Bummer!

Orangefin Darter (Etheostoma bellum)

Once Lance was finished, I took a turn using my waterproof camera. My photos turned out ok, but I'm really looking forward to seeing Lance's.

We packed up the car and drove across the creek. It made me a bit nervous with the loose gravel, but we came through the other side no problem. We didn't make it down the road very far though, because these two guys were doing their business in the road. And I do mean guys, because they were both males!!

Our next stop was about 5 miles upstream where the creek bottom transitioned from gravel to bedrock slabs. This is a spot where I've tried, and failed, to catch blackfin suckers in the past. Once again I saw several of them and even had one nibble my bait, but when I tried to set the hook, it didn't connect. My only consolation catch from this spot was a tank of a rainbow darter.

Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum)

Next we headed south to a stream that was stocked with redeye bass back in the 1940's. The population must be doing well, because Lance and I had no problem catching a few. They were a distinct teal color that really stood out compared to the usual smallmouth and spotted bass. The internet says that typical adult size is 0.5 lbs.

Redeye Bass (Micropterus coosae) - new hook & line species #439

A little ways downstream was a waterfall, and we hoped to catch a lunker bass out of the plunge pool, but we only found rock bass. Good old goggle eyes - when no one else is biting, you always come through!

Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris)

We stayed the night in a motel in the next town and continued our journey south the next morning.