I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon and evening on the pier at Fort Morgan, AL. It had been several weeks since I last fished and in talking with Jack that afternoon, we decided to head down to the pier. Jack wanted to throw his cast net for mullet, so I took my ultralight rod and rigged it with a small 1/16 oz. jighead and a small white Gulp curlytail grub. I caught 6 different species of fish and the most unusual was this Bighead Searobin – Prionotus tribulus. What a photogenic guy he was with all his spikes and armor and his dramatic fan like pectoral fins! The name Searobin refers to the way he uses his huge pectoral fins like the wings of a robin as he swims. This was the first one I have ever seen, and quite honestly, I did not even realize they existed locally. I caught him right at dusk, and come to find out they are typically nocturnal feeders.
Three rays of each pectoral fin are separated as feelers and evidently are used to scratch the bottom and feel for shrimp and other food items. Interestingly, the ventral fins which are back toward the anal fin on most fish, are located right under the pectoral fins. The feelers can be seen forward of the huge pectoral fins and the white ventral fins can be seen peeking out behind the pectoral fins in both pictures above. As you can see below, his body is pure white underneath and the fin placement and configuration is clearly visible…..well…except for the water spot on the lens! He was safely returned to the water after his brief photographic ordeal.
As multi-species fisherman, we’re always looking for opportunities to add another species to the lifelist. Reading reports of awesome catches in what often seem like far away places gets us dreaming of new and exciting trips. If it’s not a Tangerine Darter from Tennessee, it may be a Warpaint Shiner from North Carolina. While pursuit of these may be worthwhile trips, we often overlook the opportunities within our own backyard. Sometimes it is not overlooking what’s there, we just don’t realize what’s there.
I recently decided to take a look at my backyard and measure the opportunities that live there. Paging through the Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes, looking at the distribution maps, soon became laborious (though I do enjoy browsing my reference books!) and I was forced to manually create a list. Now, I also own a couple other great reference books specific for parts of my backyard that help tremendously with distribution data and maps, but once again processing the information becomes a manual task and they left geographic holes.
It was only after discovering the websites described in a prior post, that I had the tools to accomplish what I had envisioned. What resulted was a chart of freshwater species that potentially lie within a 100 mile radius of my home and broken down by the watershed in which they occur. I’ve created a landing page describing the process and giving easy access to the data and sources. We all need to know what’s in our backyard! Take a look at mine and let me know what you think!
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!
I’ve shared a couple line spool concepts I’ve explored in the past. They were specifically crafted for my Soyokaze micro-fishing rod. As my initial inspiration came from the world of Tenkara fishing, I thought it fitting to see how I might create one appropriate for that genre. Tenkara rods being larger, need a larger diameter opening in the center to properly “fit.” This larger void in the center decreases the area that can be utilized for keeping a fly and limits the design elements that can be used. I’ve been working on this spool for a while now, but things have slowed down with the heat outside as “the one who must be obeyed” seriously frowns on the dust created in the dining room! These pictures show it as it presently sits on my desk, in its rough stage. I think you can visualize somewhat where I’m going with it though….