Orange Beach Morning

I had been hearing this week that the Sand Seatrout – or White Trout as the locals call them, were pretty thick around Orange Beach, AL.  I made the 40 minute trip this morning with Jack to check it out.  I typically do not keep fish, but White Trout are known to be especially tasty and my mother-in-law has been wanting some fresh fish….so we took the ice chest.  Jack is a serious fisherman who grew up here in Lower Alabama and has shared his local lore with me frequently.  He also loves his fish fries, so the ice chest put an especially large grin on his face this morning.  Jack also knows that I get sidetracked easily when I catch a different species and just chuckles when I bring out the camera to photograph the “Ground Mullet” or Pinfish” that  I bring aboard.

We had a successful trip in that we brought back enough White Trout to satisfy my needs and a good contribution to Jack’s next fish fry.  I didn’t take any pictures this morning of the white trout, but here are a few of some other species caught.

Silver Perch

Pigfish

Jack caught a Gafftopsail Catfish….  I lost a nice one at the boat with my ultralight gear.

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Spotted Sunfish

I live in an area of transition between two subspecies of the Spotted Sunfish (Lepomis punctatus).  To the east of me the Spotted Sunfish (L. punctatus punctatus) predominates and to the west of me the Spotted Sunfish (L. punctatus miniatus), often referred to as the Redspotted Sunfish,  predominates.  The Redspotted Sunfish supposedly does not have any dark spots on its sides, though will have some dark spots on the operculum or gill cover.  As its nick name indicates, the Redspotted Sunfish will have much red on the sides of the males.   Both subspecies will have a beautiful turquoise blue crescent on the lower edge of the eye.

Here is a Spotted Sunfish I caught while in southern Florida, along the Tamiami Canal adjacent to the Everglades about a month ago.

And here is a Redpotted Sunfish I caught yesterday while fishing the tannin stained water of the Fish River, here in Baldwin County, Alabama.  This fish has only a very few dark spots on its side, but shows clearly the deeply melanistic character of fish taken from these southern “black” waters.  I think this guy is striking!

Ohio adventure

My business travels found me in Ohio this week.  In my suitcase I found my telescopic Soyokaze 20SR rod and coincidentally on my GPS were way points of stream crossings near to my planned hotel stays.  After work I used the several hours of daylight to explore these creeks with my micro gear, hoping to encounter a few species not found in my more southern haunts.  I was not disappointed.

The first evening I walked up to a small creek full of spawning Silver Redhorse, actively splashing in the riffles.  These fish were large, much to large for my equipment!  After watching this spectacle for a while I realized I better search for some micros before the sun set.   Not seeing any other obvious fish, I decided to rig up with a #6 hook and some earthworm to search for any sunfish that may be hiding in the deep, as the water had a bit of color to it.  Imagine my surprise when midway through my second drift I had a significant strike.  Surprise soon turned to concern, then fear, as I saw and felt the torture my extremely light gear was experiencing.   I had all I could do to keep the rod angles such that the majority of the force was on the 6 feet of 3 pound test line and not the fragile 6 feet of rod.  Line is easy to replace, rod not!  This Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) is certainly the largest fish I’ve caught, and care to catch, with this light gear.  After the photo he was safely returned to the water to grow up.

After this event I noticed a small flash in about 18 inches of water so I switched to my micro setup.  That evening and the following evening I also caught and released five different species of micros to add to my lifelist.

Spotfin Shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera) – Salt Creek near Zanesville OH

Bluntnose Minnow (Pimephales notatus) – Salt Creek near Zanesville OH

Hornyhead Chub (Nocomis biguttatus) – Auglaize River near Lima OH

Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) – Auglaize River near Lima OH

Striped Shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus) – Auglaize River near Lima OH

Micro-fishing Line Spool

I like to collapse my Soyokaze rod and keep my line attached to the tip while moving between fishing spots.  I have been using a piece of foam cut from a meat packing tray to wind the line onto, though light, it is a bit awkward with no means to attach it to the rod.  It tends to flop around while walking and also does not secure the collapsed rod sections to keep the tip section from accidently being exposed and broken.  I’ve been studying the spools designed for Tenkara fishermen for this same purpose and decided it was time to make my own after this style.

My micro-fishing setup typically includes a small float, some indicator beads and maybe a small split shot for weight.  I wondered if these might present some challenges for this system as a Tenkara line is “clean”of these hindrances.

I have a small wood lathe in the shop that I use to make game calls, flutes, bowls etc. and also had a few scraps of wood flooring left over from building our house.  This Chilean Cherry made a nice proto-type spool which I’ll take with me on my next trip.  The small float etc. on the line seem to do fine.  A couple design changes are already logged for the next version.

I believe it will work just fine for my micro-fishing and I also think it could serve the Tenkara fishermen as well.

Blackbanded Darter from the Blackwater River system….

A while back I bought an aluminum fishing boat from my wife’s uncle’s estate.  It had been setting in a barn for 20 years and had been used very little.  I just got it back from having the carburetor rebuilt and wanted to get it in the water yesterday, but the wind was howling…..

Instead, I made a trip to the black waters of Negro Creek which is part of the Blackwater River drainage here in Lower Alabama.  There I found a new species for me, the Blackbanded Darter (Percina nigrofasciata).  I caught three different fish and released them before they disappeared.  They are feisty little guys with a dramatic color pattern, though not as brightly colored as some darters.

Texas Creek Micro-fishing – Sunfish and Bullheads too

I had a few hours after an early morning San Antonio meeting this week, so I decided to explore a few of the creeks in the surrounding area.  I recently purchased a 6 foot 6 inch Daiwa Soyokaze telescopic graphite rod that fits nicely into my traveling suitcase when collapsed.  This ultra sensitive and delicate rod is perfectly designed for the micro-fishing I have been doing.  With no guides or reel seat, a length of line is attached to the terminal flexible lilian and you are immediately transported to those childhood days of cane pole fishing.   What a delight this simplicity returns to the fishing experience!

Cibolo Creek runs east of San Antonio and is a major tributary of the San Antonio river.  I had time to fish one access point at a road crossing.  The water was turbid, but I could see several surface minnows, so started with my micro setup.  A small pinch of worm was all it took to interest my first Texas micro, the Blackstripe Topminnow (Fundulus notalus) and a new species for the lifelist as well!

This species is known to have a silver-white spot on top of its head….which showed up quite well in this photo….

I could see other small schooling fish close to the surface, but they stayed out of my reach toward the center of the creek where the current was stronger.  Now I see why I need that 10 foot version of the Soyokaze!

I then changed rigs for a larger hook and float to test for other inhabitants of this spot.  I was immediately rewarded with a series of Longear Sunfish ( Lepomis megalotis) with coloration much different from those of my local southern Alabama waters.  These fish are beautiful, some with much more blue on the face and extending onto the sides.  Here are a couple noteworthy examples.

I wanted to try another spot to find other species so I stopped at another creek crossing, this time the Santa Clara Creek, which joins Cibolo Creek below where I fished.  This pool was densely murky, so much so that I doubted I would have much luck.  I was quite surprised when I caught several Black Bullheads (Ameiurus melas) in quick succession. I also caught a few small Bluegill and Longears.  The bank was very slippery with a sticky mud and my shoes soon gained several pounds in weight!

On the way back to the motel, I stopped at another spot on Santa Clara Creek and added another fish to the lifelist, the Western Mosquitofish ( Gambusia affinis).  This was a very pregnant female with some colorful highlights.  At this spot I saw a couple juvenile largemouth bass and a sizable Spotted Gar.  Water here was only 12-18 inches deep and the fish were very wary and spooked easily.