Monday, October 21, 2013

Mint Spring Access, Bourbeuse River

A couple weekends ago I made my last outing of 2013 in the kayak. Matt and I visited Mint Spring Access on the Bourbeuse River in Gasconade/Crawford Cos.

Water levels were very low, so we knew that this would be a lake-like situation on the river. This part of the river was known to hold Grass Pickerel (our target) in the early 2000s, but we were unable to locate any on this trip.

This part of the river had no perceptible flow.
I really wanted to fly fish (I'd been tying flies for a couple months with no chance to use them), so I threw out a jug and then started tossing the flies around. I didn't have much luck on the downstream side of the bridge, so I eventually meandered upstream.

Matt flew out of sight, looking for pickerel, and I didn't see him for a couple hours. I never made it more than 100m past the bridge while I methodically probed for fish with my fly rod. Unfortunately, I wasn't having much luck.

I  pulled my fly away from a few sunfish (they're a pain to deal with, especially in the kayak), but I also accidentally pulled a wooly bugger away from a 12-15" Smallmouth Bass! I was able to get the fly to him again, and he charged it, but pulled away at the last second. Other than that, the fish weren't into my flies.

My jug (upper right) had a few tugs, but all I ever pulled up was an empty hook.
After losing a couple flies, and a couple regular lures on my spinning rod, I opted to head downstream from the launch point and see what I could find.

I should have spent all my time downstream! The river really narrowed (to the point we had to get out of the kayaks after about 100m), and it started to get some current. One nice stretch was about 30-40m long, 1m wide, and probably only 0.5m deep. What I would have given to have had a seine!

That stretch eventually gave way to a much wider, very shallow run (with limited current) that went on for as far as we could see. It was time to set up shop for microfishing!

We only had ~1 hour left at this point, and I spent most of my time trying to catch my first member of Family Percidae.

I saw several Meramec Saddled Darters, but they were not interested in the pieces of worm I was offering. I was really struck by how large they were...a couple were as large or larger than the sculpin in my aquarium!

I was able to bring in several minnows (I could have had many, many more, but I got tired of catching them), and I succeeded in avoided all sunfish. Darters were, by far, my main target. We saw many Orangethroated, and a few Gilt, that were interested in the worm, but I wasn't having a lot of luck hooking them.

Lifer #42: Bigeye Shiner!
Striped Shiner. This was the most abundant minnow in the stream, and they got to be rather large. 
Unidentified minnow
Another minnow I'll never identify.
It didn't take long for me to learn that I need not jerk the hook as hard as possible when I had a bite. Once I got my worm piece small enough (using Owner New Half Moon tanago hooks), I started to get regular hook-ups.

At first, I was getting them just out of the water. Then I got one a bit farther out. Then, I had a Gilt Darter almost over land fell off the hook only ~6" from dry land and disappeared into the rocks.

My time was almost up....actually, it was past my turn-around time...when I finally hooked a Rainbow Darter and managed to grab it in my hand before it could fall off. My first darter!

Lifer #43: Rainbow Darter
I ended the day with a pair of lifers: Bigeye Shiner and Rainbow Darter. I can't say I'll ever go out of my way to revisit this spot, but I certainly wouldn't pass it up if I were in the neighborhood.

Species encountered (visual or caught):

  1. Smallmouth Bass
  2. Bluegill
  3. Green Sunfish
  4. Longear Sunfish
  5. Striped Shiner
  6. Orangethroat Darter
  7. Rainbow Darter
  8. Gilt Darter
  9. Logperch
  10. Meramec Saddled Darter
  11. Banded Darter
  12. Fantail Darter
  13. Bigeye Shiner
  14. Sand Shiner
  15. Blackspotted Topminnow
  16. Blackstripe Topminnow
I had to take a photo of the sign for my son, Owen.


  1. Awesome! Next spring when the darters are riled up I'm sure you'll get those saddled darters and a bunch of others.

  2. Those unidentified fish look like baby carp, maybe bighead, silver, or grass.