Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lake Michigan salmon, wild goldfish, and starhead topminnow

Saturday and Sunday mornings I joined Terry for some salmon fishing on Lake Michigan. We started early, getting up at 4:15 and launching the boat from Milwaukee Harbor by 5:00. One of Terry's work friends joined us as well. We put lines in at 45 feet of water, got our first fish at 60 feet of water, and then got the rest came between 90 to 115. We kept the gear in the upper 30 feet of water to target coho salmon. Coho is what we caught, with our total catch being 15 coho and 1 steelhead (rainbow trout). The last 2 coho were a double, so we had to let the second one go without netting it. The limit of salmon and trout combined is 5 fish per person.

14 coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), 1 "steelhead" rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Sunday morning was similar. We started out in deeper water. The bite started slow, but once it picked up we caught our limit pretty quickly. This time the total was 14 coho and 1 chinook salmon. The chinook tend to be deeper and are caught in deeper water, but this one was the smallest fish of the day and was caught alongside the coho.

14 coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), 1 chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Saturday afternoon I wanted to check out some river spots north of Milwaukee. The water was high and visibility was poor though, so nothing came of it. However, we found some nice spots to try at a later date when the water is more cooperative. After checking out the last spot, I realized we were near the pond by Germantown full of wild goldfish. It's always entertaining to get Terry to catch a new species, so we headed over to the pond and broke out the micro gear. After catching several dozen green sunfish, we each caught our goldfish.

Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

On my drive home on Sunday, I stopped by a tributary of the Fox River near the IL / WI border to fish for micros. My first fish turned out to be a new lifer, a starhead topminnow!

Starhead Topminnow (Fundulus dispar) - new hook & line species #106

I also wanted to get some good pictures of logperch from Wisconsin to compare to the ones from southern Illinois. In particular, I wanted to compare the nape of their necks to see the difference between a scaled and unscaled nape, which is one of the ID characteristics between the species or subspecies of logperch (the definitions are a mess right now).

Northern Logperch (Percina caprodes semifasciata)

Unscaled nape? Looks either partially scaled or unscaled to me.

For comparison, here is the nape of the potential Ozark logperch from southern Illinois. It is fully scaled.

Saw lots of pike and pickerel in the river. I was torn between fishing for micros and switching to lures to fish for them.

Northern Pike (Esox lucius)

The micros that stood out in particular were the colored up common shiners. I've only seen them without their spawning colors, so this was a real treat. I was surprised how different they look from spawning striped shiners.

Common Shiner (Luxilus cornutus )

Here's a complete list of the fish I saw: (1) brook silverside, (2) something from the sucker family, lake chubsucker perhaps, (3) stoneroller sp., (4) common carp, (5) common shiner, (6) bluntnose minnow, (7) starhead topminnow, (8) blackstripe topminnow, (9) grass pickerel, (10) northern pike, (11) longnose gar, (12) rock bass, (13) green sunfish, (14) bluegill, (15) northern sunfish, (16) smallmouth bass, (17) largemouth bass, (18) black crappie, (19) rainbow darter, (20) fantail darter, (21) blackside darter, (22) yellow perch.  Pretty good diversity I'd say!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Return to southern Illinois: toothy gar, massive carp, and awesome micros

Last weekend I met up with some species fishing fanatics for a whirlwind tour of Illinois. Miciah and Bryce run the websites and, and Ken has the fishing blog Keep an eye out for reports on their respective sites. Ken and I started in Chicago, driving south to the Kankakee River (Illinois River drainage) and tributaries of the Vermilion River (Wabash River drainage). We caught a lot of nice micros, racking up quite a new lifer count for Ken. The next day we drove down to Carlyle to fish below the dam with Miciah and Bryce. The water was high, but we were able to continue the species count by catching smaller fish near shore among the rocks. After Carlyle we drove further south to Rend Lake to fish below its dam. The gar there were spectacular. Finally, we drove back to some of the spots I fished earlier in the spring, a nice clear stream full of micros and Horseshoe Lake in Alexander County. With the water warmed up, the spillway was full of hungry fish. Finally, on the drive back to Chicago Ken and I hit up a few spots to take notes for future trips.

Carmine Shiner (Notropis percobromus)

Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum)

Central Greenside Darter (Etheostoma blennioides pholidotum)

Stonecat (Noturus flavus) - netted, not hook & line

Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) - two hooks means you can catch two fish at once!

Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus platostomus)

Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus platostomus) - new personal best 33.5 inches

Orangethroat Darter (Etheostoma spectabile)

Ozark Logperch (Percina fulvitaenia) - new hook & line species #102

Bleeding Shiner (Luxilus zonatus) - the Fishes of Illinois does not have record of this species!

Bluntnose Minnow (Pimephales notatus)

Striped Fantail Darter (Etheostoma flabellare lineolatum) - new hook & line species #103

Slender Madtom (Noturus exilis) - new hook & line species #104

Pirate Perch (Aphredoderus sayanus) - netted, not hook & line

Weirdo micro fishermen looking for orangespotted sunfish and western mosquitofish

Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus platostomus) - caught with the famous Lambo lure

Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)

Bowfin (Amia calva) - Miciah and I caught these back to back

Bighead Carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) - new hook & line species #105

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Slimy sculpin 100th species, Roughfish Roundup

The milestone has been reached! While driving to Minnesota for the Roughfish Roundup, Don and I stopped by a trout stream southeast of La Crosse. Sampling reports showed high numbers of slimy sculpin, a species that I've been looking forward to finding for quite some time. And with no mottled sculpin present, any sculpin I caught would be a new lifer! You can imagine the excitement I felt when a big sculpin swam away when I lifted up a rock in the stream. In fact, there were sculpin under almost every rock. Don and I broke out the micro gear and caught several within a few minutes. Hook & line species #100! Unfortunately, we only have cell phone photos, so they will have to suffice.

Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus) - new hook & line species #100

We also encountered some juvenile brook trout.  The strange shape of the first fish's throat and belly is due to distortion at the bottom of the acrylic box.  Sorry!

Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) -

Don and I continued on our way to southeast Minnesota to the Root River for the Roughfish Roundup. The roundup was a great time. Head over to to see the full report and the pictures shared by people who went. My camera was broken, so I had to rely on others to take photos. Thanks Don, Greenwood, and Corey!

Silver Redhorse (Moxostoma anisurum)

Shorthead Redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum)

Northern Hogsucker (Hypentelium nigricans)

White Sucker (Catostomus comersoni)

Common Shiner (Luxilus cornutus)

Carmine Shiner (Notropis percobromus)

Stonecat (Noturus flavus) - new hook & line species #101

On the drive back on Sunday, I stopped by a few trout streams in Wisconsin. I caught a few brown trout in one, and a few rainbow trout in another. No pictures, but you'll have to believe me that they were colored up nicely. Hope you enjoyed the post!

Hook & line totals for the weekend:

5 slimy sculpin (new lifer)
19 silver redhorse
1 shorthead redhorse
1 golden redhorse (foul hooked in the cheek)
2 northern hogsucker
6 white sucker
5 stonecat (new lifer)
1 common shiner
8 carmine shiner
4 sand shiner (no photos)
2 brown trout (no photos)
2 rainbow trout (no photos)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Brook trout and brook stickleback, lifelist at 99 species

What a beautiful spring day! Other than my allergies flaring up, I couldn't have asked for a better trout fishing opening weekend. Back in March I did some scouting of a trout stream south of Madison. I'll leave the stream unnamed so that it doesn't get unnecessary fishing pressure. DNR surveys show equal numbers of brook trout (my target for the day) and brown trout. I headed for an upstream portion of the stream with plenty of shade. Downstream of my starting spot was a grassy wetland with little shade. I assumed the browns would be more common downstream where the water was warmer, and brooks would be more common upstream where the water was colder. Sure enough, the first deep pool had fish in it, and they were all brooks!

Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) - new hook & line species #98

I was hoping for a productive day, so I stopped after a couple fish and headed back to my car. I had parked near a drainage ditch with clear water, a lot of vegetation, and a mud bottom. I expected brook stickleback and central mudminnows. Sure enough, the sticklebacks were abundant and eagerly went after the bit of worm I had put on a Tanago hook.

Brook Stickleback female (Culaea inconstans) - new hook & line species #99

Brook Stickleback male (Culaea inconstans)

It was still early morning, and I was tantalizingly close to 100 hook & line species. After a dozen sticklebacks and no mudminnows, I hopped in the car and drove to the spot where I had netted mudminnows in March. After an hour or two at that spot I had only caught one stickleback. I knew the mudminnows were in there, but perhaps I was targetting them the wrong way, or they bite better at dusk, dawn, or on cloudy days (today was full sun).

After a quick lunch, my next stop was the Sugar River in Belleville. I was hoping for a banded darter or Johnny darter based on the netting I did there last weekend (see previous post). Unfortunately, my camera took its last picture as I was photographing a sand shiner for a micro fishing competition. I doubt it's worth repairing, so I'll have to start shopping for a new camera right away.

Sand Shiner (Notropis stramineus)

I couldn't find any darters due to the cloudy water, so I ended the day by using up my nightcrawlers at the dam. I caught 7 common carp and lost 3 others at shore. No other species hooked, which was quite interesting based on last weekend's results.