Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Three Creeks Conservation Area, Boone Co.

For my final fishing trip in Missouri before our move, I decided to visit Three Creeks Conservation Area in Boone County. I first visited this area sometime in the summer of 2010, when I discovered fly fishing. I was tired of fishing in lakes, and this area offered the closest access to a good, old-fashioned creek that I could find.

I think I caught ~20 fish on various little foam flies on my first visit. All little Bluegill, Green Sunfish, and Longear Sunfish, but I was hooked! So much so that I brought Diana back a few days later and made her fish with me! I started visiting the area every chance I had, and I think I pretty much exclusively fished Bonne Femme Creek.

For my final trip, I decided to visit an upstream part of Bonne Femme Creek that I had never been to. I had a feeling my favorite hole had changed greatly in the two years since my previous visit, and I wanted to remember it the way it used to look.

When I got to the 'new' part of the creek I was amazed at how intermittent it was, even with the recent rains. My usual stretch always had pretty decent flow, but this part was pocked with a little hole behind a tree here, a narrow furrow there, a slow run here, tons of gravel there...

I brought a microlite spinning rod, my fly rod (just in case!), and my tenkara rod. It took a surprisingly long time (~20 minutes) to get the spinning rod and tenkara rod ready to go, but it only took one cast to catch a....wait for it....Creek Chub!

I hope these guys are less abundant in Maryland.
My second cast with the microlite rod was also technically successful:

I wasn't even mad.
After those casts, I was done with the microlite rod for the time being, so I tried to find some minnows or darters with the tenkara rod. I found some little Bluegill, Green Sunfish, and Longear Sunfish, but again, no Orangespotted Sunfish for me.

This poor fish was used as bait for a Longnose Gar I saw swimming around. The gar never bothered with him though, so he was eventually set free, although I imagine s/he had a sore jaw for the rest of the day.
However, the minnows that were present were interesting. I managed to catch at least a half dozen of the species shown below. At the stream I thought, "Rosyface Shiner!" but when I got home I couldn't find that species on any of the range maps/collections for Boone County, so I erroneously assumed the green coloration meant I had Emerald Shiners. Luckily, the helpful members of NANFA set me straight and identified these fish as Carmine Shiners, my third life fish in three days! And life fish #46 overall (either Rosyface or Carmine would be new, so I'm counting it)! At least I was pretty much right with my first guess of Rosyface Shiner (Carmine was split from Rosyface).

In hindsight, that mouth and 'small' eye should have told me, "No! I'm not an Emerald! Stick with your gut!"

I went downstream a bit and found a pool that was about 3 feet deep and maybe 4 feet in diameter behind a root wad. I dropped in a hook and pulled out what I think is a Red Shiner:

There were probably 20-30 of these guys stuck in that tiny pool! They were not too eager to bite, however.
After spending 10 minutes trying (and failing) to catch another shiner, I decided to try my dipnet and I pulled out something unexpected!

I think this is a Stoneroller, probably Central. 

I eventually moved on to a big swimming hole at the confluence of Bonne Femme and Bass Creeks. Downstream of the hole is where the flow really starts to pick up, and in the past I only made it up to the pool one time (I preferred to avoid the crowds while fishing). Unfortunately, the fifth piece of my tenkara rod snapped when I cast it! No clue why, all that was on there was a tanago hook and teeny tiny split shot. This will be the third replacement piece I'll have to order for it! (The first two broke because I was being careless in my kayak in October 2013).

Luckily, if I can say that, it broke near the base so I was still able to fish with most of the rod the rest of the day.
The pool is where I found many more sunfish, a Longnose Gar, darters, shiners, and other minnows. I was blindly casting when I pulled out another Central Stoneroller!

Then I saw some darters and ended up catching three or four Orangethroats in quick succession. I think I'm finally getting the hang of darter fishing! Or, maybe not. We'll see!

Finally, I spent some time trying to catch some little Northern Hogsuckers in a deeper run with some redworm on a size 18 hook. I never caught one, but I did bring in some Creek Chubs, Red Shiners, Common Shiners, and this very eager Largemouth Bass:

And that wraps up my fishing in Missouri for the foreseeable future! I wish I had started microfishing years before I did, and I really wish I hadn't packed all of my fish-related books back in May.

My note taking became less detailed once I started microfishing, but I know I caught well over 1000 fish in Missouri from 2010-2015, with almost all of them coming in 2010-2013. In fact, I think I only caught 5 or 6 fish in all of 2014! Of the 46 species currently on my life list, only two were caught outside of Missouri: a White Pollack in Dingle, Ireland, and a couple Redbreast Sunfish on the New River in Virginia.

Here's a roundup of all the fish species I remember catching or seeing (*) at Three Creeks CA over the years, in no particular order:

  1. Largemouth Bass
  2. Bluegill
  3. Green Sunfish
  4. Longear Sunfish
  5. Creek Chub
  6. Longnose Gar* (had one briefly hooked, but I still haven't caught one anywhere)
  7. Golden Shiner* (caught by my friend)
  8. White Bass
  9. Common Shiner
  10. Redfin Shiner
  11. Carmine Shiner
  12. Central Stoneroller
  13. Orangethroat Darter
  14. Flathead Catfish* (I watched it swallow my live bait, then I over-eagerly tried to set the hook and lost it! Still haven't caught one!)
  15. Red Shiner
  16. White Crappie
  17. Bluntnose Minnow* (dipnetted)
  18. Northern Hogsucker*

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