August 4, 2014

2014 Pennsylvania and New Jersey (Day 4)

The 8am alarm was annoying...but we had to get up and get going. This was basically a driving day, but we arranged with Anthony to fish for an hour or two together. He had a spot loaded with Cutlip Minnow. Although Cutlip Minnow is found in Ontario, they are a Species At Risk and their number and distribution is rather spotty. It was easy to say yes when Anthony offered to help us add Cutlip Minnow onto the list.

Everything was pretty smooth in the morning and we arrived at Anthony's house by 12pm. After a quick gas fill up and grabbing some bait, we were off on a twisty gravel road just outside of Scranton. It was a pretty fun drive, but a bit scary at the same time when cars came flying head on in the other lane.

This particular creek was on the site of Anthony's previous work location. He knew it like the back of his hand. As soon as we arrived, we could see a good number of minnows in the small creek. Anthony said the ratio between River Chub and Cutlip Minnow was about 5 to 1.

Indeed, my first 3 fish were River Chub, but the fourth fish was finally a Cutlip Minnow!

Cutlip Minnow (Exoglossum maxillingua) - Species #403

The lips that gave the fish its name

Michael somehow, on his first cast, caught a Rosyface Shiner. Shines species usually school together, but strangely, this was the one and only Rosyface Shiner in the creek.

I commented that this creek was great habitat and asked Anthony if he has seen or caught darters in the past. Anthony said he has never seen them in the creek, but perhaps he didn't know what to look for.

As I was chasing the non-existent Rosyface Shiner, I noticed something moved on bottom. Usually that could be either a crayfish or a darter. In this case, the mystery fish was a darter!

We had no idea which species this might be, so I was trying hard to catch one for ID. I missed two good bites and the remaining darters were not very cooperative.

Anthony had never caught a darter before, so he strapped his baby girl on the carrier and began fishing. Most of the darters were quite small and they would not take the bait or the tanago hooks. Finally, I spotted a big darter under a rock. It came out to check out the bait and darted around. I waved Anthony over and we tried to position the bait in front of the darter. Darters are very wary fish, often getting spooked by movement around them, or by vibration or sounds that send them into cover. I suggested that he should position the bait as close as possible, then leave the bait sitting to allow the darter to find the baited hook. It was difficult to resist the urge to set the hook too early, but Anthony was finally able to catch one of the darters.

The fish was a Tessellated Darter. Anthony was excited to have caught a darter, especially in a creek where he had fished multiple times in the past and never saw the darters.

When the baby girl got a bit fussy and hungry, Anthony bid us goodbye and returned home. We didn't stay too long after since we had a 6-hour drive home. Just like the entire weekend, the drive was fine until we reached the border. It was a long weekend and people were returning to Canada. We were caught in an hour long wait at the border. After we crossed the border, it was smooth sailing until Burlington. Apparently, Burlington received 125mm of rain in the past 12 hours due to some thunderstorms. Some of the streets were flooded, including a portion of Highway 403. We had to find our own detour around the closed sections...and even our detour was flooded in a couple of spots. This added another 20 minutes of our drive. When we were almost home, there was another accident on the 401 and the one and only exit I needed to reach home was closed. Traffic came to a crawl and we were stuck for a while until we could detour home. At the end, we rolled into my apartment parking lot at 11pm when we should have been home by 9pm.

This entire weekend expedition with nothing short of frustration and delays, but it was also nothing short of spectacular and surprises. We were happy surprised by the sheer amount of micro sunfish and the ease of catching them in the lake. We were fortunate that most of our targets were met and the big Flathead Catfish was definitely icing on the cake. The only regret I had was not catching any of the searobin species which was supposed to be plentiful and easy. I guess it gave me an excuse to return to New Jersey to catch one in the future.

I have to thank Anthony, Matt and Pat again for their hospitality and for being a part of our success. Can't wait to fish with them in the future!

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