May 20, 2016

2016 US Midwest (Day 3)

The 5am alarm turned into a 6am alarm. We couldn't delay any longer but still couldn't get on the road until 7am. As I mentioned previously, GoogleMaps had misled us every step of the way. Our predicted 3 hours drive turned into 4 hours, and we didn't arrive at our first fishing location until 11am. Since it rained all night, we were worried that we would arrive to a muddy creek. Luckily, as Ben promised, this little rocky stream is quite resilient against rain and storms. The creek might be a little high, but it was extremely clear.

Wasting no time, Michael and I spread out to search for the unique Darter species found in this drainage. The Plateau Darter was split from the Orangethroat Darter complex. Expecting typical Orangethroat Darter habits, we searched the slower shallows without so much as a sign.

Fishing the deeper pools we quickly caught some brilliant Cardinal Shiner though. Apparently, they get even more ornate with deep crimson when spawning was in full swing. We were already a little too late past spawning.

Cardinal Shiner (Luxilus cardinalis) - Species #557

The Cardinal Shiner can be confused with the Duskystripe Shiner and the Bleeding Shiner. Cardinal Shiner has the widest lateral stripe of the three species and the stripe readily crosses the lateral line.

Michael was checking a slow eddy around a tree root and found Southern Redbelly Dace. I capitalize on the opportunity as well.

Southern Redbelly Dace (Chrosomus erythrogaster) - Species #558

Still missing the Plateau Darter, I decided to search all habitats within the creek. It was good that I kept an open mind, as these Plateau Darter favoured much swifter current than the other Darters within the Orangethroat complex. Males can become quite colourful, but unfortunately we could only find females.

Plateau Darter (Etheostoma squamosum) - Species #559

We also caught some Creek Chub and a single Rockbass.

After finding all our targets, we drove another hour to the second spot of the day. It was yet another small urban creek with another Darter species split from the Orangethroat Darter complex. Yet again, the creek was clear and unaffected by the rain from the night before.

Before we found any Darter, a fish quickly dove out from under a rock and grabbed my bait. It was a Sculpin! After consulting with Ben, he said these were Ozark Sculpin. There were so many of them that we had trouble catch Darter because the Sculpin were much more aggressive!

Ozark Sculpin (Cottus hypselurus) - Species #560

Ozark Sculpin was split recently as a unique species from the Ozark Highlands. It is identified by an anterior and posterior black blotch on the spiny dorsal fin, 8 dorsal spine, a jointed spiny and soft dorsal fin, marbled patterns on the side, and 3 dark bands on the posterior end of the body.

Avoiding likely Sculpin holding rocks, I finally caught an Ozark Darter. In fact, I caught a mix of females and males and the males were very beautiful.

Ozark Darter (Etheostoma cf. spectabile) - Species #561

Ozark Darter has a mostly orange spiny dorsal fin with red spots in the center of dorsal scales. Males also develop blue diamond-shaped blotched on the tail and a blue sheen along the lower front half of the body.

We also caught some Southern Redbelly Dace from this location, but found nothing else.

The day was getting late and we had another 3 hour drive to the final destination of the day. We grabbed a quick lunch along the way and tried to stay awake for the drive. All said and down, we would have driven 8 hours between fishing spots on this day. That's a lot of driving compared to the limited fishing time at each location.

Even on a slightly cloudy evening, the White River was very scenic. I hope that we could dedicated more time to fish this beautiful river next time.

Unfortunately, even if it was bright enough, we didn't have time to try for Yoke Darter. They inhibit strong current and it would be very difficult to fish for them in the dying light. Instead, we focused on Ozark Bass which were almost too easy and borderline annoying when we wanted to catch other species.

Ozark bass (Ambloplites constellatus) - Species #562

Ozark Bass is found only in the White River. They resemble Shadow Bass but the body colouration is usually much paler and the spots are much darker.

In addition to the Ozark Bass, there were many Longear Sunfish taking our bait. I was trying for a Hornyhead Chub and finally caught one.

Hornyhead Chub (Nocomis biguttatus)

Ben told us to photograph our Hornyhead Chub from White River since they may be elevated to full species status in the future. For now, it is simply a Hornyhead Chub.

After dark, we started to fish chunks of nightcrawler on the bottom. We had a couple of Madtom targets - the Checkered Madtom and the Slender Madtom. After sorting through a number of Ozark Bass and Longear Sunfish, I finally had a Catfish on the line. Unfortunately, it wasn't a Madtom; but fortunately, I needed a nice lifelist picture of a Yellow Bullhead.

Yellow Bullhead (Ameiurus natalis)

It took another 20 minutes before I caught another Catfish. Luckily, this time it was one of the targets.

Checkered Madtom (Noturus flavater) - Species #563

We tried hard for a Slender Madtom, fishing all habitats from rocks to mid channel to shallow shoreline sandy and gravel areas, but the Slender Madtom was simply too elusive. Along the wait, I got a good hit and a fish that was heavier than the rest. It turned out to be the biggest Yellow Bullhead I had even seen!

Just like the night before, we were too determined, too stubborn, to quit fishing until it was too late. When we finally checked the time, it was already 12am yet again. We had been awake for another 18 hours straight. Instead of driving an hour back to the campsite, we decided to simply sleep in the car beside the river.

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