Brook Silverside of Silver Creek

Brook Silverside - Labidesthes sicculus

Brook Silverside – Labidesthes sicculus

I grabbed a few minutes this afternoon to fish the close “swimming hole” down on Silver Creek.  I wanted to try the Marukyu tanago bait I recently purchased.  This is a pink/red gel in a tube and is used extensively in Japan by Tanago fishermen.  I’m looking for other micro-fishing bait alternatives that will travel well.  I have no doubt the tube will travel well, but I sure could not get the small blob of gel to stay on my hook well.  I quickly resorted to a small piece of Berkley Gulp Earthworm.  I have been using this bait with some success when I do not have real earthworms.  Real earthworms perform the best though.

This pool is known to hold a variety of sunfish, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Bulheads and Weed Shiners.  On my first cast with the Gulp earthworm I caught a scrappy little bluegill that made the 7x tippet line on the Soyokaze 20SR sing.  Even with his small size, he sported a striking orange chest. Mind you now, this piece of bait is significantly smaller than a match head and the hook is a micro tanago hook.  Luckily I hooked him in the lip, so hook removal was non eventful.

Silver Creek Bluegill

Silver Creek Bluegill

With the quick action of the Bluegill, I thought I was in for a fast paced afternoon.  It was not meant to be….  Nothing.  Usually, the Weed Shiners eventually find me and keep me busy, but they were no where to be seen.  This water is not clear, has a black bottom and the surface is almost entirely obscured by canopy.  Sight fishing is not an option, but I usually fish without a bobber/float while micro-fishing here.  I use a single #6 (.1 g) split shot about an inch and a half above the hook, and flip it out, letting it slowly sink.  This normally is where I’ll get the activity, but not today.

The swimming hole in Silver Creek

The swimming hole in Silver Creek

It seemed like an eternity, so I decided to change up my presentation a bit.  After letting the bait sink, I began twitching it, much as I do my soft bait jig while fishing for Speckled Trout.   On my second cast with this technique, I had a “strike”….fish on!  I must have aggravated the 3 inch Brook Silverside (Labidesthes sicculus), as he inhaled the bait.  His face showed hints of red which the males get when in breeding condition.  This is the first Brook Silverside I’ve caught in Baldwin County and was quite surprised to find him in Silver Creek.  Other Brook Silversides I’ve caught have generally been sight fished while they are on the surface. Even on the surface, action to the bait seemed to be key to success. After a brief photo session, he was returned to the creek.

Silver Creek Checkup

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It has been several months since I made the effort to fish the neighborhood creek.  After rototilling the garden this afternoon, I went down to Silver Creek with my 6’6″ Soyokaze  20SR rigged with a 6 foot piece of 7X tippet, a quarter of a BB split shot and micro hook.  I cut a tip of a red wiggler, probably about the size of half a match head, and pierced it with the Tanago hook.  I’ve found that leaving the hook tip exposed greatly increases hook ups.  A piece of worm lasts a long time while microfishing, and if I start missing “hook sets”….to use big fish terminology!….I most often find that the bait has moved on  the hook, covering the hook point.  A quick adjustment of the bait has me back in effective business.

My goal this evening was to see how the local Weed Shiners (Notropis texanus) were doing.  They are the only microfish I’ve caught in this stretch of water and are usually present and cooperative.  This evening was no exception.  I also wanted to see how my new (Christmas) camera would handle the photo tank.  The new camera is a Nikon CoolPix, which is much smaller than my trusty Canon PowerShot Pro 1, but as of yet, unproven in its ability to clearly and accurately document my “on the water” adventures.

It seems that the Nikon needs a solid background upon which to focus, thus the white towel in the background.   I have less control over the pictures, but I think the CoolPix’s small size and convenience will win a spot in the travel bag.  The Canon takes pictures that are clearer and with more detail.  It will still be used in situations where small size and portability are not critical.

The above picture of the Weed Shiner shows its typical coloration from the dark local waters.  All the rays of the dorsal and caudal fin have pigmentation and the last 3 rays of the anal fin are usually prominently pigmented.  The dark lateral band extends around the face with pigmentation on both the upper and lower jaws.

I was quite surprised when this beautiful Bluegill sucked in the tiny bait.  The tussle with the light Soyokaze was delightful, with the fine line singing as it raced through the water.  The tiny Tanago hook, hooked in his upper lip held long enough for me to land him for a photo shoot.  Quite a handsome guy!

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Micro-Fishing the Tamiami Canal

My business travel this week found me with meetings on both the east and the west sides of southern Florida.  This seemed the perfect opportunity for some micro-fishing, so I packed accordingly! ( this means my two Soyokaze rods and a small plastic box containing 7X tippet material, small “Tanago” hooks, small split shot and a small jar of Berkley Gulp “earthworms”.)  After my meeting in Fort Myers on the west side, I drove east on US-41 along the Tamiami Canal.  I was anxious to get in some long anticipated fishing.

02202013 Tamiami Canal 220 800

My first stop was near the eastern border of Collier-Seminole State Park.  I quickly caught a small bluegill, the smallest Dollar Sunfish I’ve ever caught and a Brook Silverside.

Bluegill

Bluegill

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Dollar Sunfish

Brook Silverside

Brook Silverside

The rest of the trip consisted of numerous stops and a quick sampling of the resident population.  By far, the most numerous species caught was the African Jewel Cichlid.  They were very wide spread and caught at most stops.  Many were very dark, almost black with light blue spots, while others were lighter colored with the same light blue spots and three dark blotches along the side, the first on the gill plate,sometimes encircled with orange, the second about mid body and the third at the base of the caudal fin.  I don’t know if these differences are sexual, dominance or age related.

African Jewel Cichlid - Hemichromis bimaculatus

African Jewel Cichlid – Hemichromis bimaculatus

African Jewel Cichlid

African Jewel Cichlid

African Jewel Cichlid

African Jewel Cichlid

The surprise of the day was the one stop where all I caught were Crested Gobies – my first 2013 Lifelister!  I didn’t think the Tamiami Canal is even a little brackish, although this location did have extensive Mangroves growing on the opposite shore and I did see an Atlantic Needlefish, which I almost hooked!

Habitat of the Crested Goby in the Tamiami Canal, FL

Habitat of the Crested Goby in the Tamiami Canal, FL

The Crested Gobies were thick in this spot.    I thought they looked pretty handsome with the lighter green spots on their faces.

Crested Goby - Lophogogius cyprinoides

Crested Goby – Lophogogius cyprinoides

Crested Goby

Crested Goby

Crested Goby

Crested Goby

....a smaller Crested Goby

….a smaller Crested Goby

Along the way I caught a single small Spotted Sunfish and took one picture of the ever present Eastern Mosquitofish.

Spotted Sunfish

Spotted Sunfish

Eastern Mosquitofish

Eastern Mosquitofish

Here are pictures of a couple fish I did not attempt to tempt with the gear I had.

Florida Gar

Florida Gar

Florida Gar

Florida Gar

I was all re-charged and re-juvinated for my meetings in Coral Springs and Bocca Raton……

Bay Minette Creek Topminnows

I recently took my boat out on Bay Minette Creek to learn a bit about some water that should prove quite productive for the fisherman interested in multiple species.  I did not have a lot of time, but explored enough to know that I’ll be back.  I caught a few different fish, some of which fit into my Lifelist.  I brought my phototank, but upon reviewing the pictures, I’m going to have to change a few things to get the quality of pictures I seek.  In the past, I’ve primarily used the tank while fishing the shaded banks of the local creeks with good success.  This trip I was out in the bright sunlight while photographing and the scratches in the lexan tank were much more evident.  I’ll have to play with a shade screen and maybe more back lighting in this environment….  I might even consider building one with a glass front.

The first Topminnow I caught was this female Russetfin Topminnow (Fundulus escambiae).  I first thought it to be a Bayou Topminnow, but the lack of pigment between the horizontal lines makes it a Russetfin.

Russettfin Topminnow - Fundulus escambaie

The next topminnow caught was a young male that I’ve identified as a Western Starhead Topminnow (Fundulus blairae).  Identifing marks on this guy are the irregular rows of red spots and the lack of vertical dark bars along the side.

Western Starhead Topminnow - Fundulus blairae

Near the boat ramp I caught this plain colored female Gulf Killifish (Fundulus grandis), locally known as a Bull Minnow.  They are used extensively as a bait fish.  This picture demonstrates well another challenge I was having with the phototank… focus issues!

Gulf Killifish - Fundulus grandis

I also caught a small Bluegill while fishing the main chanel.  Being too large for the phototank, I used a new net I made, just for photographing fish a bit larger than the standard minnow.  I think the net will work out well for some interesting pictures.  I made the frame from a seedling Water Oak after the fashion of the Tamo used by the traditional Tenkara fishermen.

BluegillThe final fish I’ll share from the trip is a Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas).  This guy was a hoot to catch as I saw him approach the boat and he took a free falling morsel with barely any weight.  He put a nice bend in the Soyokaze with his lively fight!

Golden Shiner - Notemigonus crysoleucas

Multi-State Sunfish

While driving through the countryside of Michigan last week, I stopped at a bridge crossing the Shiawassee River near Byron, Michigan to give my Soyokaze 31SR a try.  The water here ran clear and I managed to get access in an area with tall grass edges and floating aquatic vegetation.  I could see small fish and with the 10 foot pole, easily reached them with my 7X Tippet line.  By sight fishing I could see the take and set the hook appropriately.  I caught several small sunfish before I had to get back on the road.   The 31SR did give me the reach advantage for this situation, but it’s backbone renders it less sensitive in the hand than the 6 foot 6 inch 20SR.   Here are a couple of the baby fish from the Shiawassee.

Pumpkinseed

Pumpkinseed Sunfish - Lepomis gibbosus

Bluegill

Bluegill Sunfish - Lepomis macrochirus

Green Sunfish

Green Sunfish - Lepomis cyanellus

A couple months ago I bought a boat from my wife’s uncle’s estate and have been struggling getting it to run right.  It had been setting inside for about 15 years without being run.  I just got it back from the shop yesterday so wanted to run it a bit to insure all was finally well.  I took it out on Fish River this morning before the thunderstorms built too much.  It ran great, so I stopped and fished the river’s edges for some sunfish.  I caught a couple Bluegill and a Spotted Sunfish.  Here is a nice shot of the Spotted Sunfish in the water.

Spotten Sunfish - Lepomis punctatus

Common Shiner – Luxilus cornutus

I found myself in Detroit, Michigan this week with a few hours of free time one evening. As I usually will pack my Soyokaze rods, (I recently received a 10 foot 31SR to join my 6 foot 6 inch 20 SR) I was prepared to pursue some Metropolitan micro fishing.  About a half mile from my hotel in Southfield meandered a small stream with the interesting name, River Rouge, so with a ittle effort I found access and was in business.  A nice river walk park is being developed which provided for a very pleasant evening.

River Rouge - Southfield, MI

This stretch of water was generally quite featureless with a slow flow.  It was here that I encountered a new life lister for me, the Common Shiner, Luxilus cornutus.  I also caught several Creek Chubs from the same water.

Common Shiner - Luxilus cornutus

My shiner catches varied in size from under 3 inches to 5 and a half inches long.  I used the Soyokaze 20SR as the water was small enough for me to reach the far side if needed, and I like its ultra sensitivity.  I probably caught a dozen in the two hours I fished.

Common Shiner - Luxilus Cornutus

Common Shiner - Luxilus cornutus

Common Shiner - Luxilus cornutusWhile photographing, if I kept the angle of sunlight just right, I could easily see the true colors under the scales.  Some had dark blotches on their sides.  The bright green was quite stunning!  In normal sunlight angles, they were a bright shiny silver.

Common Shiner - Luxilus cornutusCommon Shiner - Luxilus cornutusCommon Shiner - Luxilus cornutusCommon Shiner - Luxilus cornutus

Here is one of the Creek Chubs I caught that evening.

Creek Chub

Using and Obtaining Watershed Occurance Data in Freshwater Fish Identification

If you are a micro-fisherman, chances are you are a multi-species fisherman as well.  One of the joys and challenges of multi-species fishing is the identification of your catch.  A huge aid in freshwater fish identification is knowing what species are documented to occur in, or be absent from, the water you fish.  Distribution maps in field guides are a good general starting point, but are limited in the detail they can portray.  Sampling data is great if it can be obtained as it not only identifies the body of water, but the location on that body the fish was captured.  Care must always be given to differentiating between current data and historical data.  What was present in 1902 may not be today!  Detailed species occurance data is especially valuable while micro-fishing, as many of the trophies belong to Genera that have minute differences between species.  These differences are often very difficult or almost impossible to distinguish in the photos taken home from the field; therefore, occurance data is relied upon heavily.

While researching the identification of some micros from a recent trip, I discovered a cool site, NatureServe, that can produce a list of species currently occurring in any of the 2,064 watersheds of the 48 contiguous US.  Each species is identified as currently or historically occurring in the watershed.  Not only are the lists helpful, but each species is also linked to interesting data and information summarized for that species.  The NatureServe information includes life history and population status including a bibliography.  This new found capability was all good, but I often fished in creeks on my trips that I didn’t really know to which watershed they belonged.  I found a USGS site with interactive maps of watersheds so that I can now quite quickly identify the appropriate watersheds and subsequently produce the desired species lists.

Now, in planning fishing trips, using these sites I can be proactive and create these lists before I leave.  Taking them with me, they greatly assist in identifying opportunities, preparing goals and in the identification of those new Lifelisters!

Dusky Shiner – Notropis cummingsae

Dusky Shiner - Notropis cummingsae

This Dusky Shiner (Notropis cummingsae) was added to my lifelist during my recent trip into North Carolina.  One of the creeks I checked out was Rockfish Creek near Raeford, NC.  This creek is part of the Upper Cape Fear River Watershed (03030004).  The reach I visited was near a poultry processing plant and was very clear with a deep steady flow.  I spotted a school of these fish centering their activity near a tall grass lined edge.  I was able to make my presentation without them discovering me and they cooperated nicely!  The drift of the micro-baited Tanago hook was intercepted decisively nearly every time.  In an attempt to make sure no other species were present, I presented to a few individual fish away from the school, but they were all Dusky Shiners.  A handsome addition to the list.

Lined Topminnow from Horse Creek – Lumber River Watershed, NC

Lined Topminnow - Fundulus lineolatus

I had a few hours before darkness the night before my meeting in Southern Pines, NC to check out a few creeks south of Pinehurst.  One road crossing provided nice access to Horse Creek. Upstream, this creek is dammed to create Pinehurst Lake.  The water was quite clear with a dark bottom, though flowing very slowly through this area.  Among the surface vegetation along one edge I could easily see Mosquitofish scurrying around.  After catching a couple of the Mosquitofish, I spotted another surface fish, but it had a much different behavior.  First, he was solo, and second, he swam in a more deliberate fashion with distinct pauses as he seemed to carefully observe and search his surroundings.  I was able to place my tiny piece of bait close to him on the surface and he directly approached within an inch and stopped and stared.


Now, mind you, I was using my short, 6’6′ Soyokaze rod and had to lean out over the water carefully with my arm full extended to get this presentation to him.  As I patiently waited for his decision, it became more and more difficult to hold the bait steady as the tremors of my arm were magnified by the extremely light tip of the Soyokaze.  The small movements of the bait may have been too much for him as he briskly moved forward and took the deceptive morsel in front of him.  Gotta love those surface takes…..especially from a new species!

Rethinking Rod Choice

TenkaraBum recently wrote a thought provoking article on his Website that really makes sense to me.  Although I am not an active part of the Tenkara scene yet, the common sense logic presented speaks volumes toward where this sport could go.  Well worth the read.   Nicely done, Chris!

Rethinking Rod Choice III – Many.

What is interesting to me, is that I am arriving at this from the opposite direction – having obtained the 6’6 Soyokze for my Micro-fishing.  Before moving to the Deep South, I regularly flyfished for Summer Run Steelhead in the Pacific Northwest with my Sage 7wt.  I miss that time on those rivers and now find myself being drawn back into flyfishing, specifically Tenkara,  through my Soyokaze rod which was purchased for another purpose.  …….the other day I found myself furling fine tippet material for a tapered Tenkara flyline….now I need to dig out those Grouse and Starling feathers I have saved somewhere!