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.

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