May 21, 2016

2016 US Midwest (Day 4)

We woke up as the sky was getting bright. We could have slept in a little, but we needed to leave the "wild" for areas with satellite service.

We had planned to meet with Tyler today in search for Bantam Sunfish and Redspotted Sunfish. However, the last contact we made with Tyler was early afternoon yesterday. Tyler mentioned he was in Mississippi and running late, and he would contact us again. But we didn't hear from him since, and the area we were fishing had no satellite service.

Driving back toward civilization, we still did not get any message from Tyler. Without any locations shared to us, we basically had a full day without any plans. I was determined to find the two sunfish species, and I remember Tyler mentioned that he caught them near his home in Poplar Bluff. So Michael and I looked for possible areas to fish on GoogleMaps.

We also knew Tyler caught Brook Darter in a creek near the location where he caught Redspotted Sunfish. So we started by looking at small creeks for Brook Darter. We fished two creeks without seeing any darters at all. Giving up on the Brook Darter, we decided to fish a public park to see what we may find.

Initially, we fished a little pond and caught some Dollar Sunfish and Green Sunfish. There were a lot of Topminnow just under the surface and found out they were a new species to me!

Blackspotted Topminnow (Fundulus olivaceus) - Species #564

Blackspotted Topminnow closely resembles the related Blackstripe Topminnow. The Blackspotted Topminnow has a velvety black stripe with more numerous black spots on the back of equal intensity of black as the lateral stripe. Most importantly, the Blackspotted Topminnow has a longer snout and head compared to the Blackstripe Topminnow.

We noticed a little creek nearby and we couldn't believe our eyes when there were Darters in it! After catching a couple of females, I finally caught a male to confirm these were Brook Darters! They are also a species split from the Orangethroat complex.

Brook Darter (Etheostoma burri) - Species #565

In Brook Darter, the spiny dorsal has a thick blue margin with a thinner orange stripe underneath. These Darters are also the smallest Orangethroat split we've seen so far.

Now that we caught the Brook Darter, we knew we could be close to solving the Redspotted Sunfish mystery. We fished the park more intently and covered a lot of areas. Finally, we fished a slow moving stream and started catching Longear Sunfish and Dollar Sunfish. Finding the Longear Sunfish was important as Tyler often caught them among the the Redspotted Sunfish.

Here's a brilliantly coloured Dollar Sunfish that is a great addition to the lifelist photos.

Dollar Sunfish (Lepomis marginatus)

I cast a chunk of crawler into the deeper hole of the stream and soon connected with a larger sunfish. In the water, it looked a little like a Bluegill Sunfish. However, the white margins on its fins suggested that it couldn't be a Bluegill. In fact, it was the fish we were after!

Redspotted Sunfish (Lepomis miniatus) - Species #566!

The Redspotted Sunfish was split from Spotted Sunfish. Like the Spotted Sunfish, it has a blue rim under the eye and white edged fins. The Redspotted Sunfish, as the name implies, has red spots in the center of scales on the side of the body. These red spots are especially pronounced in males.

We had one species of Sunfish caught. But we still have no clue where to catch the Bantam Sunfish. As luck would have it, Tyler finally texted us with information to his Bantam Sunfish spot. We hurriedly drove over to the new fishing location and found a beautifully wild swampy environment. I could have mistaken this area for parts of Florida!

It was already later in the afternoon and we had little time to waste. Luckily, the fish were very easy to find and we crossed off three species in a hurry.

Bantam Sunfish (Lepomis symmetricus) - Species #567!

I finally caught all the Lepomis species!!!

Starhead Topmminnow (Fundulus dispar) - Species #568

Slough Darter (Etheostoma gracile) - Species #569

There were so many fish among the rocks, including the three species caught plus Pickerel species and Western Mosquitofish.

As usual, we were running out of time. We wanted to fish a small tributary of the Current River. With an hour drive away, we had to hurry.

Arriving 3 hours before sunset, we had just enough time and light for some micro fishing. The creek was small but filled with all kinds of micros!

I had just put the bait into the middle of a school of minnow and immediately hooked a Central Stoneroller! This species had been very hard for me to catch in the past. I've even tried to find them locally in Ontario but have not had any success yet. It was a shock to catch one so easily!

Central Stoneroller (Campostoma anomalum) - Species #570!

Then the Bleeding Shiner came in droves.

Bleeding Shiner (Luxilus zonatus) - Species #571

The Bleeding Shiner can be distinguished from the other two related species by a dark lateral stripe that does not cross below the lateral line. In fact, the stripe narrows and tapers behind the gill as the stripe follows the lateral line closely.

As I was photographing the Bleeding Shiner, my line dipped into the water just beside a rock. When I picked up the rod, I found a Sculpin wriggling on the end! By chance, we found lots of these Sculpins in the little creek. Ben did not find them last time. I'm not sure why there are so many of them this time.

Knobfin Sculpin (Cottus immaculatus) - Species #572

The Knobfin Sculpin differs from the Banded Sculpin found in the same area by its jointed spiny and soft dorsal fins. In addition, like the Ozark Sculpin, the Knobfin Sculpin has anterior and posterior black patches on the spiny dorsal fin.

We caught lots of Sculpins even when we were trying to catch other micros fishing blindly on the bottom. Rainbow Darters were strangely equally aggressive to take the bait.

It was just a beautiful stream. I could fish it all day.

Since we had caught our Knobfin Sculpin, it wasn't necessary to fish at night anymore. We decided to end the day at dusk and grabbed a decent dinner, then retired to bed by 10pm that night. For once, we slept before 12am!

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