Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hinkson Creek, Boone County

Last night, I met my friends Nick and Jenna at Hinkson Creek for about 90 minutes of microfishing between when my son went to bed and sunset. Nick and Jenna were already there, and I believe they'd managed a few Sand Shiners and a Bluegill prior to my arrival.

Usually, I  microfish with a 13' crappie pole, but last night I decided to use a 6'6" spinning rod with 2 lb. test tied to the last eyelet of the pole. On the business end was a size 28 dry fly hook just below a small weight. I normally use pink PowerBait pieces, but last night I opted to try some real, live worm for a change to see what that might get me.

Nick tries to catch some shiners.
I wasted spent my first half hour chasing Orangethroat Darters. I still have never caught (on hook-and-line) a member of Family Percidae. Even Diana, who has gone fishing maybe 10 times in the past four years, has caught a Logperch (on a rooster tail)!

There must have been three dozen darters of all sizes moving around at my feet. I watched several dash beneath rocks, and I managed to get two or three to take my worm, but I never did get one to shore. The closest I came was having one fall off just as I brought it above the water's surface.

Having grown tired of not catching anything, I switched to my trusty pink rubber. There were lots of shiners schooling around, but they were not interested in my rather natural looking bait. A switch back to real worm resulted in my first fish within about two seconds of dropping the bait in the water.

Lots of Sand Shiners were willing to bite on nightcrawlers.
I was able to pull out many Sand Shiners, and three or four Red Shiners. I kept yanking my bait away from sunfish, topminnows, and what looked like a large Creek Chub. At one point I pursued a small Largemouth Bass (no luck, it spooked), and what looked to be a Logperch, but I mostly focused on trying to catch as many shiners as possible.

Part of the reasoning was just in case something new might be in there, but it was also because I want to familiarize myself with the common species. In birding, picking out the rarer birds is easier when you know the common species inside and out. I'm hoping that it's similar in fishing, so I'm trying to get a firm handle on what to generally expect in these local streams.

One fish that really surprised me was a very colorful Red Shiner. If he had been a bird I'd have said he was molting from breeding plumage to winter plumage (in layman's terms), but I have no idea (yet!) what the proper ichthyological term might be.

Red Shiner 
These photos don't do this fish justice. He had a marvelous purple cast to most of his body, with a particularly dark spot on, and right behind, the gill plate.
After heading upstream (habitat looked pretty good...starting to get some woody cover and emergent vegetation...can't wait to get back) too far, I looked at the time and realized I had to be out of there in eight minutes!

I ran back to Nick and Jenna, and then I sped past them to try my luck with the darters one last time before sunset (which was also in eight minutes). I tried and failed several times before I saw a dark catfish-shaped fish emerge from beneath a large rock. Madtom!

This was my first encounter with a free swimming madtom in the wild. Nick and I seined my first ever madtoms back in June, and I see them in my aquarium almost every day, but this was the first time I actually saw one swimming around on its own in a creek. I had to catch it.

Nick and Jenna laughed at me when I said I was going to catch a madtom, and they walked past and continued to their truck. I watched the madtom go after my worm, barrel roll, then miss it completely before scattering to a nearby rock.

I knew I had just a couple more minutes of useable light, and I had very little chance of hooking this guy. Still, I had to try, so I did what a baseball player does in an 0-2 count. I choked up.

At this point, I was practically kneeling in the creek. My rod was resting on my knee and pinched beneath my armpit. My right hand was holding the line itself, while my left hand was just a few inches above the water surface.

I jiggled the worm in front of the madtom, and he took the bait! I instantly pulled up with my right hand and grabbed the fish in my left hand just inches above the water surface. I was not letting this guy get away due to a poor hookset like the darter earlier in the evening!

I whistled down to Nick and Jenna to show off my lunker: a ~38mm Slender Madtom (lifer #41!).

Slender Madtom!
I thought about bringing it back to join the two Slender Madtoms in my aquarium, but I feared he'd just end up as food for something and released him back into Hinkson Creek to (hopefully) grow a few more millimeters.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bonne Femme Creek, Boone Co.

I was feeling a bit sick Wednesday afternoon, so, naturally, I tried to see if the great outdoors could make me feel any better when I took off early from work. It didn't, really, but it was worth the try!

I ended up at Three Creeks Conservation Area, and I fished Bonne Femme Creek for about an hour. I only landed one fish (on a size 28 fly hook), but I lost several, including what would have been my first darter. It fell off the hook over dry land, then flipped back into the water before I could grab it. I suppose I could technically count it as a catch, but I'm not 100% sure on the species (although I'd bet you $20 it was an Orangethroat).

With some help from NANFA, I was able to identify the one fish I caught as a Redfin Shiner, lifer #40. I can definitely say I doubt I would have come to the proper ID of this fist anytime soon without the help of NANFA.

Redfin Shiner
In the morning, before trying to work, I fished for about 30 minutes in Hinkson Creek at Hinkson Woods Conservation Area. I managed to lose a tanago hook to a Green Sunfish before catching anything. Once I switched to a size 28 dry fly hook I nabbed a Green Sunfish, a Blackstripe Topminnow, and several Sand Shiners.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hinkson Creek, Boone County

I finished all of my Owen-related chores early last night, so Diana let me go microfishing for a couple hours when she put him to bed!

I didn't have too much time, and I wasn't sure which creeks had running water (Grindstone Creek behind our house...a tributary of Hinkson bone dry), so I headed to Capen Park. I've been driving over Hinkson Creek there all week on my way to the corn field so I at least knew it had standing water, if not running.

Luckily, the water was running at Capen Park!

I saw a group of small sunfish almost straight away. I started with a scented rubber band on a tanago hook, but in the dim light it was impossible to see and I wasn't catching anything. I quickly switched to bright pink PowerBait worms on a tanago.

Almost immediately upon switching, a small sunfish took the bait.

Unfortunately, that was the only fish I caught in my first hour. I had ~5-6 fish out of the water, only to have them fall off before I could get them over dry land. I think they were mostly minnows, but one was almost certainly a darter! I still haven't caught a darter on hook-and-line, so that one was particularly frustrating.

I worked my way over to some deeper water beneath Capen's cliffs and pulled out a ~5" Green Sunfish. Normally, I pull my bait away when I see a Green Sunfish/Bluegill heading for it, but I just wanted the monkey off my back last night!

Green Sunfish
Hinkson Creek
The deepest pool I encountered last night. Probably ~2-3 feet deep in the middle. This was a crayfish/Green Sunfish hotspot.
Once I caught the Green Sunfish I started having better luck. I tried to catch some small Largemouth Bass, but a Creek Chub darted out and stole my bait.

Creek Chub
There were large schools of minnows flashing in some shallow riffles, so I spent a lot of time trying to catch them. I had three or four fall off the hook (it's very hard for me to get a hookset with the tanago hooks) before I caught two back-to-back. I have no idea what they are yet, and have started a thread at NANFA hoping to find an answer.

Edit: Looks like it's a Sand Shiner, lifer #39!

As it crept closer to sunset, I started getting more bites, but still not many more caught fish. Another sunfish came in and just barely got the tip of the hook:

I spent a few minutes trying to catch a topminnow to finish the night:

Blackstripe Topminnow
After de-hooking the topminnow I just tossed the bait into the water so I wouldn't get it tangled. Naturally, a Green Sunfish darted out to grab it.

This stupid fish got himself hooked deep. Luckily, the forceps I carry for dealing with the tanago  hooks allowed me to safely extract it and release the fish.
Species encountered:
  1. Longear Sunfish
  2. Green Sunfish
  3. Bluegill
  4. Largemouth Bass
  5. Creek Chub
  6. Shiner sp.
  7. Orangethroat Darter
  8. Blackstripe Topminnow
Also, while not a fish, I lucked into my 70th life herp species yesterday!

Prairie Kingsnake