November 17, 2012

Urban new species

As I check off many of the standard size species in Ontario, it is getting harder and harder to add new species locally.

Yet, within the urban landscape, there remains many little creeks and rivers where micro species opportunities exist yet to be explored (by me).

After a few weeks of work and other obligations, I finally had a few morning hours to explore a little urban creek that a forum member, Nick, had caught some interesting micro species.

Similar to many creeks and rivers in Southern Ontario, this little creek is populated with many Creek Chubs. This species of minnow often greatly outnumber all other minnow species in the same body of water. It will make it difficult to find my target species, the Western Blacknose Dace, among all the Creek Chubs. There is also a remote chance to encounter a Redside Dace, which is locally endangered in Ontario.

Many of these minnows are quite small. I choose to use New Half Moon tanago hooks snelled on 2lb mono tippet to have a chance hooking these little fish. Although I didn't have an ultralight or tanago rod, I made it work with a medium spinning rod.

Early in the morning, the water temperature might have been too cold. The fish were extremely shy and easily spooked. Many times, our approach to the stream side caused the fish to vacate the area. We needed to stay still for a few minutes until the fish settled down and returned to the area. Even so, any splashes created by the landing of a tiny float or split shots would send the fish running again. In the end, it was best to gently lower the rig ahead of a school of minnow and wait for them to find they bait on their own.

Once the sun climbed higher in the sky, the fish got a little more active. We also found a nice little pool where the fish were a bit more cooperative. It didn't take long to catch some Creek Chub. I finally had a chance to test a micro species photo tank that Michael made for us.

Now I am able to photograph these small minnows with good focus, good lighting and with fins fully spaded while keeping the fish in the water to increase their post-release survival!

Unfortunately, this pool was filled with Creek Chub. My forum friend Nick did catch a Western Blacknose Dace though.

After spending an hour at this pool, Nick suggested to check out a previous spot fished earlier in the morning - a spot where he believed there were more Western Blacknose Dace.

This time, the fish were a little more active. They were hiding tight to an undercut bank where shoreline brush had grown over the bank. It was a little tricky positioning the rig in the right area, but once it was in the area, fish would respond. I quickly caught two very small Creek Chub, but also saw two larger minnow inspected and attacked the split shot.

Luckily, I noticed a minnow with a different appearance gobbled up my tiny chunk of worm. Finally, it was a 2.5" Western Blacknose Dace (Rhinichthys obtusus) - my new species #276!

The photo tank allowed for great closeup picture!

It was a great test run of some micro fishing gear today. Catching a new species made it all the better!