I forgot to take any photographs of the creek itself (Big Saline Creek), but it was your typical northern Ozarks stream: gravel bottom with "deep" holes separated by riffles and runs that went from less than an inch deep to at least waste deep.
Since the creek was right next to a parking spot I decided to bring my big fish photo tank out with me for the first time (after building it in 2013!). I quickly realized two things: I wish I had made it narrower, and I wish I had purchased black acrylic for the backs and sides. Two things that will be remembered for my next box!
Once I picked my first spot I quickly caught a few topminnows. I was really hoping to run into Plains Topminnows, but all I could find were Northern Studfish.
|A young Northern Studfish|
|An adult Northern Studfish|
|Most of the minnows I caught were Bleeding Shiners like these two. Most of them had very little color.|
|Nick and I seined a few sculpin here a few years ago, but this was the only individual I saw yesterday.|
|I was glad that this one still had some color. Most of the Orangethroats I saw were rather faded.|
I moved a little farther downstream where I had easy access to some shallow riffles, a deeper run, and a nice, deep hole. It was getting warm by this point in the morning, so I decided to throw on my mask and snorkel and look around underwater.
|One of many Rainbow Darters I saw while snorkeling.|
|Another Rainbow Darter. Some were very white on top, some were very dark.|
|I bet I could ID this crayfish to species if my Crayfishes of Missouri book weren't packed!|
|An Ozark Minnow (?) in the current.|
|I could watch the Bleeding Shiner schools for hours.|
I can't believe I never snorkeled the streams of Missouri before! It was incredible! Dozens of crayfish and Rainbow Darters were visible just about everywhere I put my face in the riffles. I saw a few Northern Hogsuckers and White Suckers feeding on a sandy area in a deeper run, so I
wasted spent at least 90 minutes with my face in the water, a spinning rod in my hand, trying to catch either species. I'd look at the fish, try to get my rod over its general area, then drop a redworm. Unfortunately, the hundreds (literally) of minnows made sure that my worm only made it to the bottom ~10 times the entire time. Needless to say, I didn't catch any suckers!
Eventually, I got tired of the minnows stealing my bait and accidentally getting hooked now and then (My hope was that a size 10 circle hook would be too big for them....I was generally right, but not always). When a medium-sized Bleeding Shiner got hooked I was about to just toss it back, but then I remembered seeing a few Longnose Gar in the deeper pool, so I cast it back out...and immediately got a hit! A second later I saw it wasn't a gar (bummer), but I ended up pulling in a 13" Smallmouth Bass. I never pictured them as minnow hunters, but this one had a shiner and my worm visible inside it as I removed the hook. Unfortunately, as I was removing the hook I dropped the bass on the ground and the minnow and worm popped out! Everybody lived!
|I always forget to wipe the water off the lens of the waterproof camera. I weighed this fish at 14 oz. after the minnow popped out.|
After I had my fill of fun at Big Saline Creek, I decided to drive down to an access point on Tavern Creek about 15 minutes away. Not a good decision! Well, it looked like it would have been fun to play around in, but there was a hole along the shoreline that my ~5' dipnet couldn't reach the bottom of, so I had to pass on the area when I couldn't find a suitable way to access the shallower portions of the creek.
That led me to return to a different part of Big Saline Creek for my last 45 minutes, where I failed to entice any new species to take my bait. I did dipnet (finally) a Rainbow Darter though. Here are a few of the remaining photos from yesterday!