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*

Rock Bridge State Park, Boone Co.

I visited Gans Creek in Rock Bridge State Park, Boone Co., Missouri yesterday to do a little microfishing. I was hoping to run into an Orangespotted Sunfish (I didn't), but other than that I didn't really have any targets planned.

Unsurprisingly, my first fish of the day was a Creek Chub.

I think I ended up with about a dozen Creek Chubs. I do not like them.
The next fish was my only Common Shiner of the day:

I decided to wear sandals instead of my usual sneakers to help me get rid of rocks a bit easier. Or so I thought. While wading back to shore with the shiner, I couldn't get a large rock out of my right sandal. Turns out it wasn't a rock!

This crayfish was trying to stay hidden beneath my toes. It was slightly unnerving when it threatened to pinch me.
I saw some topminnows swimming amongst the little emergent vegetation that was present, so I dragged my tanago hook across the surface in front of them and picked off a few until I found one with decent coloration for a photo.

Blackstripe Topminnow
As I moved upstream I started to notice that the creek didn't really have a whole lot of fish in it. I kept walking and walking, but all I saw were crayfish and water striders. Then I noticed a little shimmy below a rock...a school of fish! I tossed some bait in and quickly pulled out....a Creek Chub. 

Most of the fish in the school (~30-50) didn't look like Creek Chubs though, so I kept at it, and I eventually pulled out a couple of species:

I believe this is a Bluntnose Minnow.

Same fish as above. It's face reminds me of a salamander!
The next species immediately struck me as a stoneroller, which I eventually confirmed with the help of some NANFA members. I believe this is a Central Stoneroller based on the lateral line scale counts I keep coming up with in Photoshop. If so, that makes it life fish #45!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Saline Valley CA, Miller Co.

Last Friday was my final day of work in Missouri, so I opted to spend all day Monday, 22 June, at Saline Valley Conservation Area in Miller Co.! My friend Nick and I visited 08 June 2013, and I was eager to visit again with more time to play.

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
I could see lots of minnows swimming around in a small run, so I lobbed my half moon tanago hook on my kiyotaki rod out into the run and pulled out a fish on every "cast!" I often think about switching to an ultralight spinning reel, but I just enjoy fishing with what amounts to a stick and some line.

Most of the minnows I caught were Bleeding Shiners like these two. Most of them had very little color.
After I had my fun with the minnows in that run, I decided to try my dipnet. I received a Perfect Dipnet for Christmas a few years ago, but I think this may have been my first time out with it! I enjoyed being able to get a look at some of the fish that were around, but not biting (mostly darters). I was also really surprised to see a tiny sculpin (that I did not ID to species)!

Nick and I seined a few sculpin here a few years ago, but this was the only individual I saw yesterday.
Despite seeing lots of darters, I wasn't having much luck catching any. I kept telling myself it was because the minnows were hitting my bait (redworm) before it could get to the darters, so I tried to find a nice, quiet, shallows spot with some darters and no minnows. Easier said than done! Luckily, I eventually found just such a spot and I quickly caught my 44th life fish and second darter ever, an Orangethroat!

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!

Common Shiner
Common Shiner

Ozark Minnow

Longear Sunfish

Rainbow Darter