Saturday, November 21, 2020

Georgia Florida part 1 - mostly micros

Towards the end of November I spent a week in Athens, Georgia visiting my brother and sister-in-law. Late fall isn't the best time to go microfishing, but since I was in the area I decided to check out Trail Creek in one the public parks it flows through.

I'm embarrassed to report that the first fish I caught was a new species, but I didn't get a photo of it. After a decade of fishing you wouldn't think I would make a rookie mistake like that! Here's what happened - I caught a Westfalls darter (a split from blackbanded darter), but my camera was about 20 yards away. Just then a dad and his three kids stopped on the trail above me, and the dad proceeded to yell at the kids about something they were doing. It felt like an awkward time to come scrambling up the boulders and surprise them, so I figured I'd wait for them to leave. The Tanago hook was still in the mouth of the darter, so I put it back in the water so it could breathe while I waited. The dad and kids left, I lifted up my rod, and the fish was gone. Yes, I am an idiot.

This chain of events didn't bother me too much, because I figured it would be easy to catch another Westfalls darter. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I caught five more fish, four of which were spottail shiners, and one bluehead chub. Ah well, I'm sure I'll be back someday.

Spottail Shiner (Notropis hudsonius)

Bluehead Chub (Nocomis leptocephalus)

After my stay in Georgia I headed down to Florida to visit a few of my fishing friends, starting with Ally. She had a spot for platies that sounded like a sure thing, so we headed there as soon as I arrived. It was a nice little urban park with a ditch full of nonnative fish. Many of them were platies, but it took a while to get one to commit to taking the bait before a convict cichlid or mosquitofish got to it. We figured them out though, and we also caught a few female swordtails before calling it a day.

Convict Cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata)

Eastern Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki)

Variable Platy (Xiphophorus variatus) - new hook & line species #680

Green Swordtail (Xiphophorus hellerii)

Next we went to Sebastian Inlet thinking we might snorkel the sheltered area off the main channel. The cold water and poor visibility quickly changed our minds, but we could still fish the rocks for hairy blennies.

We didn't bring bait, and it turned out to be rather difficult to find something local to use. Eventually I was able to scrounge up a few snails and crabs, and we were in business. Fishing isn't always easy, and in this case the blennies were guarded by an army of militant damselfish. After battling the ranks of night sergeants and sergeant majors, we eventually got our baits to the blennies, and I was able to add the species to my list.

Night Sergeant (Abudefduf taurus)

Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis)

Hairy Blenny (Labrisomus nuchipinnis) - new hook & line species #681

The species hunt continued at a quiet pond along a local hiking trail. There wasn't much daylight left, so the pressure was on. Ally had previously caught blackchin tilapia here, so I hoped to pick up another easy one.

I only had my micro rod at this spot, so I was limited to juvenile fish hiding in the vegetation near shore. There were plenty of them, and in a few minutes I had caught several blackchin tilapia and jewel cichlids. It was nice to catch some colorful examples of the latter, because my only one from years ago wasn't very photogenic.

Blackchin Tilapia (Sarotherodon melanotheron) - new hook & line species #682

African Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis bimaculatus)

The next day we did some urban ditch fishing, which is a right of passage for species fishing in Florida. We were armed with oats and bread so we could chum for mullet. The tilapia turned out to be equally excited by the chum, and when I dropped a single oat on a #14 hook into the canal, a big blue tilapia rushed over and grabbed it. This is definitely an upgrade over ones I've caught in the past!

Blue Tilapia (Oreochromis aureus)

The tilapia were the most aggressive fish, but little by little we were able to get the school of mullet interested in feeding on the chum. Pretty soon we had a steady supply of hungry fish. I was able to catch an adult blackchin tilapia, and after that I got my lifer striped mullet. Other catches included Mayan cichlid, striped mojarra, and crested goby, and there were a few other species that we saw but didn't catch. I am very excited that I don't have to worry about catching a mullet in San Diego now, since they are the same species!

Blackchin Tilapia (Sarotherodon melanotheron)

Striped Mullet (Mugil cephalus) - new hook & line species #683

Mayan Cichlid (Mayaheros urophthalmus)

Striped Mojarra (Eugerres plumieri) - new hook & line species #684

Crested Goby (Lophogobius cyprinoides)

I never knew that crested gobies had translucent crests on their heads until I was editing the photos for this post. Who knew! Florida fishing was off to a good start.

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