Saturday, March 30, 2013

Wisconsin quillback, channel shiners, and Illinois micros

Yesterday I made a short trip up to the WI River, mostly to scout out new fishing spots. I found a couple tributaries and backwater spots that look promising when the snow melt is finished and the water clears up. One of the backwater sloughs was full of starhead topminnows! Always nice to find healthy populations of endangered species.

I fished a couple sandy flats in the Spring Green area in hopes of shovelnose sturgeon. Didn't get any bites on those lines, but found a school of shiners in the shallows that was a lot of fun with micro gear. I figured most of them were emerald shiners, but didn't give up after a few emeralds in hopes that other species were mixed in.

Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)

Pretty soon I began catching channel shiners (Notropis wickliffi) - new hook & line species #92.

I saw some slightly larger fish turning on their sides on the bottom. My first guess was golden shiners based on the size and shape, but the feeding behavior didn't fit. I put a bigger chunk of crawler on my Tanago hook to make it difficult for the shiners to hook themselves, and soon I caught the mystery fish. Juvenile quillback! (Carpiodes cyprinus) - new hook & line species #93.

Today I headed down to central IL to spend Easter weekend with my family. I stopped at a river in northern IL on my drive down where I had some luck last fall. A piece of crawler on a #10 circle hook yielded two species, a nice shortnose redhorse and a hornyhead chub.

Shorthead Redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum)

Hornyhead Chub (Nocomis biguttatus)

The micro gear produced a few different species from yesterday, bluntnose minnows and sand shiners.

Bluntnose Minnow (Pimephales notatus)

Sand Shiner (Notropis stramineus)

This weekend I'll check out the creek by my parents' house. I'm hoping to find male orangethroat darters with spawning colors so I can replace my lifelist photo. An adult central stoneroller would also be nice.

While the rest of my family sat around digesting lunch, I snuck off to sample the creek. Micro fishing wasn't all that productive. The fish spooked easily, so I switched to a net after catching a few southern redbelly dace hook & line.

Southern Redbelly Dace (Chrosomus erythrogaster)

Blacknose Dace male (Rhinichthys atratulus)

Central Stoneroller female (Campostoma anomalum)

Orangethroat Darter male #1 (Etheostoma spectabile)

Orangethroat Darter male #2 (Etheostoma spectabile)

Orangethroat darter female (Etheostoma spectabile)

Striped Fantail Darter (Etheostoma flabellare lineolatum) - very excited to find these!

Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)

As I mentioned above, I was very excited to find the fantail darters! As far as I know, they are the only species in the creek I haven't caught hook & line. Next time I'll leave the net at home so I can focus on adding one to my lifelist.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Central mudminnow and brook stickleback

This will be a short post. I wanted to share some pictures of two fish I found in a small vegetated ditch. I tried catching them hook & line, but after only receiving half hearted attempts at eating my bait, I opted to net them so I could get pictures in my acrylic box. When it's warmer out I'll be sure to go back and try for them hook & line again!

Central Mudminnow (Umbra limi)

Brook Stickleback (Culaea inconstans)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sauger, lake sturgeon, and paddlefish!

Ice fishing season is finished! I ordered a tow hitch for the Subaru a few days ago, installed it last night, and today Terry, my roommate and I headed up to the WI River to try everything out. With only 148 horsepower, the XV Crosstrek is not the best towing vehicle, but with a few downshifts on the big hills we made it to Prairie du Sac without a problem.

The water levels are significantly higher than last year, but I think this is close to normal for this time of year. It looks like you would need waders to fish from shore.

We anchored the boat in 28 feet of water on the calm side below the dam. The vexilar marked a lot of fish, but the bite was slow. Terry lost a small walleye at the boat, and I caught a small sauger. New lifer #91, so I was excited!

Sauger (Sander canadensis) - new hook & line species #91

After a short break, we headed back to the dam and set up closer to the discharge in 24 feet of water. We continued jigging minnows, and I threw out a nightcrawler off the side to sit on the bottom. Smallmouth buffalo and shovelnose sturgeon were a few of my hopeful targets. We were marking large suspended fish on the Vexilar, which I guessed were paddlefish, but the bite was very slow. My roommate had one fish on for a bit, and Terry and I got a few taps, but that was it. The nightcrawler was productive though! I got a 31" lake sturgeon on it, and when the rod bent over a few minutes later I handed it to my roommate and she caught a 40" one. We released both of them quickly after taking photos.

Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)

Our last fish was quite an excitment. My roommate's jigging pole bent over, and her line shot to the left under my lines. I got my two lines out of the way, and after a short but exciting battle she got the fish to the boat. It was a snagged paddlefish, not a large one compared to others in the water, but still quite a large fish for the average angler. Unfortunately it had two lampreys attached to its belly and half a dozen additional open sores. It came up to the boat fairly easily probably because it was so weak from having its blood sucked out. We got the hook out of its gill flap and quickly returned it to the water. I hope it makes a full recovery!

American Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)

One lamprey fell off on its own, but the other I pulled off and put in the boat for a photo op. He may have lost his head afterward.

Silver Lamprey (Ichthyomyzon unicuspis)