May 22, 2016

2016 US Midwest (Day 5)

Our original itinerary to spend the entire day on the Mississippi River was axed by flood condition. After consulting with Ben, he suggested two other locations around Charleston, Illinois with greater multi-species opportunities.

Michael and I broke camp at 6am in the morning and began our 4 hours drive to Fox Run State Park. Unfortunately, Ben told us the Embarrass River was too high and fast to fish. The alternative was a small tributary nearby with many micros available.

We quickly relocated to a crystal clear creek. Ben and Michael started to probe the sand flats and rocky shorelines for Darters. They found some Johnny Darter that were not very willing to bite. Ben spotted three Eastern Sand Darter that were too fast and elusive for any bait presentation.

I moved upstream to a shaded pool with fairly deep water and started to search for Spotted Bass. This was one species that I’ve tried repeatedly in Illinois and Virginia but yet to score. Fishing chunks of crawlers, I caught some Bluegill Sunfish but nothing else interesting. Switching over to the tanago hook, the Spotfin Shiner and Sand Shiner were very active.

I needed a better photo of Sand Shiner for the lifelist, and this one will do just fine.

Ben scouted upstream and called to me excitedly that he caught a Spotted Bass in next pool. I waded upstream quickly and shakily tied on a jighead and a plastic grub. The fish were quick to respond and within a few casts, I had a small Spotted Bass on the line. Unfortunately, I only managed a photograph of the head before it wiggled out of my hand and back into the pool. Darn it!

Thankfully, that was not the last Spotted Bass to grace my line. A few more casts later, another fish took a liking to the jig and this time, I set up my photo tank to keep the bass alive while spending more time with the camera.

Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus) - Species #573

Ben thought we found some Bullhead Minnow, but after more careful examination, they all turned out to be Bluntnose Minnow.

Pushing upstream yet, Ben found some Dusky Darter at the tail of a pool. We looked ahead a little more and saw many of them on a sandy gravel flat where they were busy spawning. The males were especially aggressive and it took very little convincing before they attacked the bait.

Dusky Darter (Percina sciera) - Species #574

There were some skinnier Darter mixed in with the Dusky Darter. We thought they were Eastern Sand Darter. I really wanted to catch an Eastern Sand Darter since they are endangered in Ontario, but rather common in the US. When a skinny Darter finally bit my bait, I was pretty excited...but instead it was a Slenderhead Darter. It wasn't my intended target, but a new species just the same.

Slenderhead Darter (Percina phoxocephala) - Species #575

There were a few big bass in the pool, so Michael grabbed my rod to try catch his own lifer Spotted Bass, which he accomplished with a stunning 2lb specimen. I was a bit jealous and knew there were a few more bass in the pool, so I reclaimed my rod and started sorting through Sunfish after Sunfish only to land one little Spotted Bass that was completely unimpressive in colour or size. :(

Sure, the Longear Sunfish were pretty...but I really, really wanted a coloured up adult Spotted Bass for once...

To make life even more unfair, I spend the next 3 hours chasing Brindled Madtom only to lose 3 of them, while Michael caught one without as much effort...and he has the audacity to take some pictures of his fish with my camera just to rub it in.

There are special names for people like that...such as Chubsucker, or Slippery Dick...

I could stay at the creek and fish for the Madtom until I finally caught one, but Ben was getting Hang-gry and Michael was ready to I finally waved the white flag and left an unaccomplished species for next time. Actually, there would be two unaccomplished species because none of us caught an Eastern Sand Darter.

Ben suggested that we check out a BBQ joint in Urbana.

The ribs were good, but the beef brisket can't compare to HI-BBQ. I don't think there's any comparison to HI-BBQ! I was so hungry that an extra order of fries was needed LOL.

After dinner, we parted ways. Ben drove back to Peoria while Michael and I continued to Lafeyette to stay for the night.

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