May 23, 2013

Illinois Exploration 2013 (Day 3)

Ben and I woke up at 7am to meet Miciah and Bryce. Miciah came delivering breakfast! Our first fishing location of the day was a very intimate stream. It was probably my favourite spot on this trip.

How could you not like a little free stone stream like this?

We did a lot of this for micro species.

And micro we did find! There were a lot of Central Stoneroller in the area with some very stunning males. The shallows were carpeted with Orangethroat Darter. The males were either fighting or chasing females and they were a lot of fun to watch. They were very different from the Orangethroat Darter a couple of days before. These fish were very eager to bite. I even had one took my bait while I left the rod with a baited hook in the water while I photograph another catch. When I went to lift up the rod, there was an Orangethroat Darter attached! How can you not love these beautiful little guys?

There were two Shortnose Gar tucked away on the far bank trying to evade our notice. There were also a lot of other minnow species in the stream that we soon began to discover...

Bigeye Shiner (Notropis boops) - Species #318

Redfin Shiner (Lythrurus umbratilis) - Species #319

There were about half a dozen Bleeding Shiners in the pool, but the Striped Shiner, Sand Shiner and Bluntnose Minnow were often too quick to the bait. I was targeting Central Stoneroller and the Bleeding Shiner often came in to steal the bait from the Stoneroller...but their quick bite always caught me off guard and I missed the bite every time. Miciah was able to catch one though. They are amazingly beautiful! That one species alone is enough to get me back to the area in the future.

Ben explored upstream and saw a feeding pair of suspected Black Redhorse. I really should have try fishing for them, since Black Redhorse is extremely rare in Ontario. It was a tactical error on my part since Central Stoneroller is common in Ontario...I shouldn't have focused so much on the Stoneroller...

Ben then noticed a couple of Logperch and all of a sudden we all saw Logperch. This is a subspecies of Logperch that perhaps one day would be split again into separate species, so I took a picture of it just in case.

NOTE: Ben informed me that this is actually an Ozark Logperch (Percina fulvitaenia). As such, it is another new species. I'll count it as Species #320

Ben found some Fantail Darter downstream and all of us went fishing for them.

Fantail Darter (Etheostoma flabellare) - Species #321

Other species caught were Central Longear Sunfish, Slender Madtom and Blackspotted Topminnow. It was truly a microfishing paradise!

After the fun, we decided to move to Horseshoe Lake to give me a shot at Spotted Gar, Orangespotted Sunfish and Western Mosquitofish.

We fished a launch area and found two of the targets.

Orangespotted Sunfish (Lepomis humilis) - Species #322

Western Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) - Species #323

We then moved to a cypress swamp area to try for Spotted Gar. Ben saw one, but it was the only one in the area and it quickly disappeared. The area had a lot of snakes...including two Cottonmouths that we saw. One was hiding under a log that we had walked pass a few times...and I was the one who got a bit too close (a few feet away) and the snake luckily escaped into the water instead of striking my leg. It was a scary moment. Ben and Miciah seemed unscathed and fished on the shoreline. I'm "snake bit" so to I decided to fish from a culvert.

I hooked and lost a few Shortnose Gar and had my hands full with a tail snagged Silver Carp. Ben landed a Shortnose Gar and Miciah and Bryce netting a few interesting fish like Pirate Perch, Bluegill and Warmouth.

With nothing much going on, we decided to fish a dam area. Due to the high water, one shallow area was flooded and it was LOADED with Shortnose Gar, Spotted Gar and Bowfin. There was also a small school of Smallmouth Buffalo that appeared to be feeding.

I tried to entice the Spotted Gar with a spinner. Although I hooked a few, none of them were hooked enough to be landed. After a long try, I finally surrendered and put on a float and single hook. Miciah and Ben caught a few gars, including Spotted Gar, by fishing live Mosquitofish that they netted. So I switched to livebait. With the first Spotted Gar within casting distance, I tossed the Mosquitofish next to the gar's snout and it was quickly snapped up. I waited for a long while for the fish to completely swallow the bait until the hookset. Finally, I was able to land my first Spotted Gar. Conveniently, Miciah also caught a Spotted Gar so we had a double!

Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) - Species #324

Miciah and Ben were using worms as well and caught some Bowfin. Here was one of their double Bowfin. I was preoccupied and entranced by the gar so I couldn't be bothered with the Bowfin.

After catching the Spotted Gar, I decided on trying something difficult. In hindsight, I should have try to entice one of the feeding Smallmouth Buffalo...but the idea of a Silver Carp on the fly was too exciting. There were Silver Carp jumping non-stop at the dam. I fished an Algae Fly at the dam with the 8-wt and had a hit and long distance release on the first cast. That basically kept me motivated to keep casting.

Meanwhile, Ben was fishing on the other side of the bridge and hooked a Bighead Carp with a spinner. There was no doubt the carp took the spinner deep into its mouth. What was this plankton feeding doing with a spinner was a mystery, but a legit catch is a legit catch, and this is a wicked spinner caught Bighead Carp! Congrats Ben!

Alas, my Silver Carp on the fly was not to be. I did snagged a Silver Carp on the side that took about 20 minutes on the fly rod to land. It was a tiring fight that was not helped by the fact that the fish used its broadside in the strong current to fight me. Although there is no honour with a snagged fish, we still took a picture of that big Silver.

As late afternoon approach, we decided to call it a day. While in the Midwest, it was a must to eat here...

And I had to order this...Fried buttermilk chicken breast, fried okra, baked sweet potato with a pile of brown sugar on top and cornbread.

Miciah and Bryce treated us to dinner again...they simply would not allow us to pay.

After dinner, Miciah and Bryce had to be on their way back to Michigan. Ben and I would be headed back toward Champaign. Our next day was mostly a travel day so there is no fishing to report. We did explore a couple of areas but didn't find much interesting. Ben dropped me off at the bus station at 3pm and my 5:30pm bus arrived in Toronto at 6am on Tuesday morning. I was very tired at the end of the trip...but it was a VERY SWEET long weekend trip!

I have to thank Ben for hosting me the entire weekend. We covered over 1400km, traveling from Chicago to the southernmost tip of Illinois, and Ben was driving the entire time. He took care of all the camping gear and sleeping arrangement. Ben spent a lot of time planning our fishing itinerary and we were very successful in catching a lot of lifers. Miciah and Bryce treated us every chance they had. Not to mention that they were very knowledgeable about the Midwest fish. Bryce spent a lot of time photographing for us and filming some of the action. He didn't spend much time fishing but you could tell he was interested in every fish caught. I can't wait for the next time fishing with all three of them. I hope it'll come sooner than later!

1 comment:

  1. What a contrast between the creek and the dam spillway! Day #3 was a multi-species fisherman's dream. Congrats on wrapping up the weekend strong with a bunch more lifers!