Monday, August 31, 2020

Southern California micros

Aug 22, 2020

It turns out I'm not invincible. My wrist decided to call it quits after that 31 mile paddle, and as a result I haven't kayaked or fished in the past 4 weeks. Eventually I realized I could still go fishing without using a kayak or my left hand, so I dusted off my Tenkara rod and drove down to South Bay to check out a spot where people had seen sailfin mollies.

I arrived at low tide and saw a huge school of topsmelt out in the open and smaller schools of mollies cruising close to shore. Finding your target is the first challenge, so at least I had that out of the way. The next thing I noticed was that there were small chameleon gobies coating the bottom. I couldn't believe how many there were.

I baited my Tanago hook with a small piece of worm and set to work targeting the mollies. It wasn't a surprise that they wouldn't bite, but I figured if I tried for a few hours maybe one would break character and go for my bait. Every now and then I'd get bored though, so I'd catch one of the other species I saw: chameleon goby, California killifish, and topsmelt.

Chameleon Goby (Tridentiger trigonocephalus)

California Killifish (Fundulus parvipinnis)

Topsmelt (Atherinops affinis)

The mollies refused to eat anything other than microscopic bits of nothing, so finally I dunked my camera under water and took some photos of them pecking at the rocks.

Sailfin Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

I meant to bring bread to chum with and try for bait, but I forgot, so that will have to be something I try next time. Maybe if I chum with enough different baits I can find one that interests them. Honestly, it's kind of nice having a new nemesis, especially one that's easy to find.

Aug 29, 2020

The following weekend I continued my microfishing adventures, this time combining fishing with a road trip. I kept seeing online that Big Bear Lake has a booming population of introduced prickly sculpin, and Lake Gregory, 45 minutes to the west, has a population of introduced tule perch.

Both species seemed like easy targets, and I was in need of a lifelist confidence boost. First stop was Big Bear, which according to the signs has actual bears. I parked near the dam and scrambled down the rocks to the water. It took a minute to tie on a hook, but once my bait was in the water it took around 5 seconds to catch my first sculpin. They were under every rock!

Prickly Sculpin (Cottus asper) - new hook & line species #673

Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

After catching about 20 sculpin and a bonus green sunfish, I hit the road again and headed west to Lake Gregory. The drive through the mountains was scenic. Big Bear is at an elevation of 6750 ft, and Gregory is 4550 ft, so the air temperature was noticeably lower than Los Angeles.

Again I parked near the dam and set up in a corner where there was some submerged tree branches. My first tule perch took a little longer than my first sculpin, but it was an easy catch as well. They're small fish with small mouths, but they would come out of heavy cover to investigate my bait. Tule perch are the only freshwater surfperch, and their reproduction and life history is fascinating if you want something to read about online.

Tule Perch (Hysterocarpus traskii) - new hook & line species #674

I had some extra time before I needed to head home, so I stopped by the Santa Ana River in Riverside to check out a spot where I had caught arroyo chubs a few years ago. It's a pretty sketchy area with a number of homeless camps, so I bushwacked into a more isolated stretch of the river to avoid the bridges and areas where I thought people might be. I still came across a few people hanging out by the river, but it was mostly families who had driven in (how I don't know) and parked their trucks by the water to let their kids play. Considering that the Santa Ana River is 100% fed by a waste water treatment plant about a mile upstream, this didn't seem like a great idea.

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find arroyo chubs this time, but there were plenty of largemouth bass, green sunfish, and black bullheads. Hopefully the chubs are surviving somewhere else in the river. They're one of the few native freshwater fish in southern California, so it would be nice if they stuck around.

Fishing takes you to some crazy places.