Florida Fish Species Hunt

This last month has been full of adult responsibilities: I’ve been working on finishing up my last semester of college, getting in as much time at work as possible, and finding time to fill out job applications. All of this hard work has made the reality of my final semester quite clear to me, but this also meant that this was my last chance to get to enjoy a spring break. My dad and I have talked about making a trip down to Florida to do some fishing for years, but we knew this was our last chance to make it happen. So, we both researched where to fish and started making plans. I had a pretty simple goal for this trip: I wanted to add 10 new species to my list. My dad wanted to do a little bit of bass fishing. Besides those two things, our plans were pretty wide open.

Indiana had just started changing to spring when a sudden cold snap brought back some light snow. I don’t think any other weather would have made me more excited to go to a coast.

20170303_085503

On the first Friday of spring break we drove all day and spent the night in a hotel. On Saturday, we got up early and drove the last bit down to Gainesville, Florida. We visited with my uncle, who lives there, and hiked around Paynes Prairie to spot some wildlife.

20170304_154752

This sign didn’t lie; we saw more alligators than I could count. It was easily one of the coolest places I’ve hiked yet.

20170304_163409

We got up bright and early Sunday morning with plans of going down to Cedar Key to do some fishing with my uncle.  It was only a short hour drive there, but I hadn’t gotten to do any fishing yet and I was starting to get excited about catching some new species. We started off by bank fishing some of my uncle’s secret spots in hopes of catching a Red Drum. We all got a few bites, but no one was able to connect with a fish. We drove around, hoping to find another good spot to fish, but the tide wasn’t where we wanted it (so we were mostly out of options). Luckily for us, there were a few public piers and bait shops nearby, so we had a fall back. I ducked into one of these shops and bought us some frozen shrimp. I didn’t really know what we would catch from this pier, but I figured that one rod with a slip rig and one rod with a tight line would give us a decent chance at catching something. The fishing started out slow, but after moving around a little bit we managed to find a deep channel running parallel to the pier that was full of Silver Perch.

20170305_132342.jpg

We caught a ridiculous number of these little guys, but it was an absolute blast since the morning had started off so slow. After weeding my way through a lot of these little Silver Perch, I managed to hook into an Atlantic Croaker.

20170305_132754 (2)

We fished until a little after lunch. We then made the drive back to Gainesville to drop off my uncle and then drive down to Lake Mary, Florida. We spent the rest of the day at my grandmother’s house and enjoyed catching up with her and her husband. We rested well that night and had big dreams about getting to fish a private lake that was rumored to have huge bass. Getting going on Monday was slow- all of the driving had started to catch up with us. But after breakfast, we drove to the lake to try our luck at some lunkers. There, the lake looked like it had potential, and on the second cast of the day I hooked into a fish. This ended up being a sixteen inch bass and I knew we would be in for a good day. Little did I know that on the third cast I would hook into the biggest fish of the day.

20170306_112350

We worked our way around the lake and landed close to thirty fish. Dad even managed to catch his new personal best!

20170306_130453.jpg

This lake seemed to be the perfect bass fishing paradise, so much so that I couldn’t resist breaking out my five weight fly rod for a little bit to test my luck. It didn’t take long before a fish fell victim to my Clouser Minnow.

20170306_135259

We ended our fishing adventures for the day around 4pm to run some errands for the saltwater fishing we had planned for the rest of the week. Plus, we wanted to get everything done early so that we could be well-rested and make our fishing charter in the morning.

On Tuesday, we got up before the sun rose and started down to Ponce Inlet. I was delighted to see all of the green on the drive there, but I was much more excited when we arrived at the charter and saw how beautiful the water was. We heard the usual safety speech and then we were off to find some fish. Our guide motored the flat bottom boat to an old dock that was destroyed in a hurricane. He had us using rods with 1 oz slip sinker rigs with kahle hooks baited with frozen shrimp. I hadn’t actually ever fished with kahle hooks before, so you can understand my frustration as I was getting numerous bites and not being able to connect with any of them. It took a while, but we finally figured out how to hook the fish. At the first dock, we both managed to land Lane Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, and Hardhead Catfish.

20170307_08231120170307_082518(0)20170307_085313

Dad caught a few fish here that I didn’t, including a Pinfish and this lovely Pigfish.

20170307_085327

Motoring around the intercoastal waters, we fished many of the places the guide suggested. We had lots of bites, but we were still having trouble keeping the fish hooked with these new hooks. However, after a lot of frustration, I finally managed to land my first Pinfish (the fish I thought would have been the easiest to catch)!

20170307_095600

At this point, it just became embarrassing how many fish I missed, but dad had much better luck. He landed a Black Drum, Red Drum, and some Weakfish (some of which ended up coming home with us to be cooked for dinner).

20170307_111749(0)20170307_11244320170307_113802

With that, our half-day on the boat was up and it was time to go to our next spot. We decided that we would go to Canaveral National Seashore with the big dream of catching my first fish while surf fishing. As soon as we arrived, it was abundantly clear that today was not the day to go surf fishing, so we decided to focus our attention on Mosquito Lagoon. We tried a few spots with little luck, and eventually ended up at the fishing docks they had built. As you’d expect, there were fish by the docks. I quickly caught my fair share of Pinfish and even got lucky enough to hook my first Southern Whiting.

20170307_15441120170307_160645

The next fishing dock we tried was closed for construction, but had the added benefit that it was built right beside an oyster bed. This spot didn’t yield any new species, but I caught more Pinfish than I could count, some Silver Perch, and some small Mangrove Snappers.

20170307_16261520170307_162807

On Wednesday, we made the drive over to Cocoa Beach to rent a kayak and fish the Banana River. My dad grew up close to the spot we fished, so he was excited to show me how the fishing was done here (and promptly out-fished me). He managed to land another Red Drum, a Spotted Seatrout, Southern Whiting and Hardhead Catfish. I only managed to land Southern Whiting and Hardhead Catfish. But it was priceless to see how excited he was when he hooked that Red Drum.

20170308_114535(0)20170308_122932

The wind started to pick up and I was trouble keeping the kayak in the cover provided by the island, so we decided to paddle back. Our next stop was at Cocoa Beach Pier. We didn’t last long here, the bite was slow and this pier was particularly crowded.

20170308_145658

We decided we would try to fish at Rodney S. Ketcham Boat Ramp, which is the closest public fishing spot we could find to Canaveral Lock. Small schools of bait fish were swimming around where we could see them, so I was hopeful that we would find some predators hanging around. Dad managed to hook and land a Ladyfish on a small spoon. It was deeply hooked, so we unhooked it and released it before getting a chance to take a picture. I set up a small rig to target some of the smaller fish with shrimp. It didn’t take long before I found something willing to bite. Over the next hour, I landed a good number of Irish Mojarra and even got dad to catch his first one, too.

20170308_162843

After about an hour, we called it quits for the day, but we couldn’t resist going down to the lock to see what kind of fish were hanging out there. I was stunned to see the sheer number of large fish here. Everywhere you looked there were schools of fish that dwarfed everything we had caught so far this trip. I even saw my first Tarpon, and after laying eyes on it, I started to understand why there were “No Fishing” signs hanging everywhere at the lock.

Thursday was our last day of salt water fishing, so we planned to make it a special day and drive all the way down to Sebastian Inlet to try our luck at the big fish. We had heard reports of people catching large fish there recently, so we figured if they could do it, maybe we could too. We came prepared with heavy weights, new hooks, live bait, and frozen bait. We tried fishing live baits in the inlet and the ocean side with no luck, but we had driven this far and there wasn’t a chance we were leaving without catching something. I decided to shift my expectations and try to catch a smaller fish. I tied a simple tight line rig with a dropper loop and baited it with shrimp. This time, instead of casting it out, I simply lowered it down right beside the pilings of the jetty. As soon as I lowered my bait, it got a hard tap so I instinctively set the hook, expecting a little fish. The drag screamed and the fish darted- trying to break me off on the pilings. I got lucky and worked the fish out before it broke the line, but the next challenge was how to land this fish. I ended up hand lining the fish up the wall of the jetty and was amazed that the fish didn’t shake the hook or break the line. I was ecstatic to have landed my first Sheepshead, especially with how slow the fishing had been up to this point.

20170309_105341 (2)

I figured Sheepshead wouldn’t be the only thing near the pilings, so I lowered my rig again and quickly got another bite. This time, I was greeted by the first of many Hairy Blennies. It was amazing to see how different the coloration was between the male and female Hairy Blenny.

20170309_11093620170309_111036

I was lucky enough to catch a second type of Blenny, the Molly Miller.

20170309_110246

Dad even joined in on the fun and quickly mastered the art of catching these little guys.

20170309_112530

Before leaving, we tried fishing the section of the jetty that ran under the highway. In retrospect, we should have started fishing here because there was a fantastic current break that looked like it would hold some large fish. We ended up catching more Hairy Blennies than we could keep track of, but after weeding my way through them, I managed to hook my first Wrasse. I think that fresh water fish have some strange names, but this fish seems to have them all beat: This type of Wrasse is called a Slippery Dick.

20170309_120235(0)

With this fish, we decided to move on to our final salt water location: Jetty Park in Port Canaveral. The people at this pier were some of the nicest I think we’ve met. The pier wasn’t crowded at all, so we had plenty of room to fish without having to worry about tangling up with other people’s lines. I kept fishing my tight line setup with small pieces of shrimp. I learned my lesson from Sebastian Inlet and simply lowered my rig straight down from where we were instead of casting it. It didn’t take long before a small Blue Runner found my bait.

20170309_144702

I seemed to get a bite each time my weight touched bottom; it was just a matter of getting a hook to hold in these little bait stealers. After a few missed hook sets, I managed to hook into my first Spottail Pinfish.

20170309_145558(0)

Every time I reeled up a fish, it seemed to be a new species for me. My luck with this tactic ended with this small Atlantic Bumper.

20170309_154432(0)

After this, the Harry Blennies started finding my bait before anything else could.

20170309_160311(0)

It was time to try something new, so instead of fishing the side facing Port Canaveral I decided to fish the side facing the jetty. The meant making daring casts into the rocks of the jetty and hoping I’d be able to pull out whatever fish lay inside. I was once again greeted by a large number of Harry Blennies.

20170309_160150

But dad and I knew that there had to be more than just these hiding in the rocks. After catching my fair share of Hairy Blennies, I set the hook into something slightly larger. Luckily, this fish decided to charge out of the rocks instead of going back into the snag. I was ecstatic seeing another new species for me: a beautiful little Black Margate.

20170309_161804

Dad managed to catch a few Sergeant Majors off of the jetty rocks, but I couldn’t seem to get as lucky. But after moving to a few different spots, we found a nice section of rocks that was full of them and I managed to catch my first one.

20170309_164856(0)

At this point, it was late in the day and we still had to make the drive back to Lake Mary. So, we decided we would catch our last salt water fish and then head out. We ended the day with a double: dad caught a Sergeant Major and I caught a Spottail Pinfish.

20170309_170507.jpg

Friday morning before packing, we went back to the lake we started at to get in a couple of hours of bass fishing before starting the trip home. Dad and I both managed to catch a couple of solid fish to end the trip on, but nothing that compared to the fish we landed on that first day.

20170310_111852.jpg

With this last bit of fishing under our belts, we packed everything up and made the drive back up to Gainsville. We visited with my uncle again and shared some fish stories. After spending some time with him, we went and checked into our hotel. That evening, we went and watched a Gator’s baseball game at the University of Florida. This was the big thing dad wanted to do this trip, and while I don’t usually enjoy sports much, I ended up having an absolute blast at the game.

Saturday morning, we got up early to go to Paynes Prairie one last time, and this time we were armed with our nice cameras to get some better pictures. Thankfully, the alligators were still out even though it was a cooler day.

DPP_0011DPP_0001

There were also a good number of gorgeous birds and cranes flying around. I even got to watch one catch a small Bowfin, a fish that I didn’t realize was really on the food chain for these birds.

DPP_0004DPP_0012DPP_0013

With this last adventure, we all hopped back in the car and made the long drive back to Indiana. By the end of the week, I had added 17 new species to my list and learned a lot of new things about how to fish saltwater. All in all, the fishing was great, but the real highlight of the trip was getting to spend time with my dad doing something we both enjoy.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

A Strange Winter Continues

I have always had this paradoxical obsession and hatred of the winter months. Part of me wants to prove that I am a true outdoorsman and that no weather can stop me from spending time outside, and the other part of me just wants it to be spring again and for green to start creeping into the forest. This strange dichotomy has fueled many of my fishing adventures in the winter months, though I will willingly admit that part of what always draws me to that outdoors this time of year is that rare peace and quiet that only exists in the winter.

Early in the year temperatures fell well below freezing and an exciting thought kept occurring to me. This could be the year that I was finally able to catch a fish through the ice. A few days of brutally cold temperatures finally happened and an icy film started forming on the lakes, I had my fingers crossed that we could hit that magic depth for it to be safe for me to walk out on. But I wasn’t naive enough to count on that happening, so I did some early season scouting and I had a backup plan. Our ice thickness only hit an inch and a half, so the idea of safe ice disappeared quickly. Luckily, I had found a fishing pier at a local lake that had access to 6-8 ft of water directly off its edges. So, on a chilly Monday afternoon I bundled up in all of my winter gear, tossed my ice rods in the car and drove to my secret spot. I wasted no time punching a few holes in the ice at the end of the dock and tied on a size 14 tungsten jig and tipped it with a wax worm. It didn’t take long before I felt a light tap, I set the hook hard and quickly saw the silhouette of a fish swimming under the crystal-clear ice. I carefully got the fish up through my crudely cut hole in the ice and was delighted to see a lovely little Bluegill. A quick photo session later and I released him back through the ice.

wp_20170109_14_55_58_pro-2

I hadn’t in my wildest dreams thought that my plan to catch fish through a small hole in the ice would actually be effective. But after working my way through 2 containers of bee moths, I knew I had figured something out. I was hoping I would be able to get my first crappie through the ice before calling this adventure a success. But instead I hooked into a small Redear Sunfish, another first for me through the ice. With this small victory, I retreated to the warmth of my car.

wp_20170109_14_20_39_pro-2

That night I dreamed of returning to the ice before this fickle winter weather melted it, but between work and school I wasn’t able to return soon enough. I was disappointed I wasn’t able to catch my first crappie through the ice, but I did mark an item off my bucket list: I caught a fish through the ice.

The weather continued its odd habits and before I knew it enough rain had fallen for the Ohio River to be in full flood stage. Most people would be fishing the river for the chance at a trophy Blue Catfish, but my target laid in a humble flooded out creek. One of my goals for the 2017 fishing season was to catch a Flier Sunfish on my fly rod, and these high-water conditions provided me with the chance at this. Armed with my 5 weight fly rod and a variety of size 12 minnow imitations I turned my focus to this creek. It didn’t take long for my first fly rod fish of the year to find my fly, a healthy little Bluegill.

 

wp_20170115_13_56_34_pro

This fish gave me the confidence to keep fishing this spot, even with the cold-water temperature the high water seemed to have pushed a good number of fish into this stretch of the creek. I found some submerged stems from dead lily pads, and started targeting this feature. I knew that Fliers like to hug vegetation, and this was the only form of vegetation I could find in this creek. Finally, I landed the perfect cast on the edge of lily pad stems and slowly worked my minnow along them. I saw the slightest twitch of my line and instinctively set the hook expecting another little Bluegill. Suddenly a golden fish surfaced and I knew I had accomplished my goal, I quickly grabbed my net and landed my first Flier of 2017.

wp_20170115_14_07_01_pro

To my delight this spot wasn’t holding only one Flier, but ended up catching three of them before I called the day. I snapped a quick picture with my nice camera before releasing them, this was the first time I’ve seen them take on such a vibrant golden hue. I put my 4-inch knife for scale in the picture, making the larger fish in the image below my new personal best.

wp_20170115_15_14_57_pro_edited

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try to catch my first fly rod crappie of the year while I was at this creek. I knew from past years that this creek tends to be one of the first places to fill with crappie in the spring, so I was hoping with the high water a few little crappie would have traveled upstream with the other sunfish. Much to my delight I found a school of small Black Crappie in the deeper section of the creek.

wp_20170115_16_14_38_pro_edited

Another week passed and the weather had continued to warm up, my dreams of learning how to catch fish in the cold were starting to disappear into dreams of fishing crappie spawn. I put in extra hours at work early in the week so that on Friday I could take a half day and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. I had been spoiled by the early season fly fishing and just couldn’t seem to shake the fly fishing itch. As soon as I got off work I made my way to one of my most reliable lake with hopes of finding some willing Bluegill. It didn’t take long to find some hungry Bluegill that had moved up into shallow water. A few casts with a small wet fly resulted in my first Bluegill of the day.

dpp_0154_smaller

There seemed to be no shortage of Bluegill up in the shallows, I was even able to get them bold enough to rise to surface and strike at top water flies. I couldn’t help but smile like a little kid with the idea of catching fish on top water in the dead of winter.

dpp_0171

After catching my fair share of Bluegill I moved over to the deep end of the lake with the wild idea of targeting some of the crappie in the deeper water. I knew that the chances of this working were slim since I was fishing with floating line and a very short tippet. But after about 20 minutes without a fish my line made an uncharacteristic twitch and I set the hook. To my surprise I wasn’t snagged, and was battling a small crappie. A quick fight later I was holding my intended target, a small White Crappie (also the first White Crappie I caught on the fly rod in 2017)! The rest of the fish I caught that day faded in comparison to the excitement I had catching this little fish.

dpp_0188

The weather continued cycling from freezing cold to surprisingly warm as the winter got older. But I wasn’t going to complain about the idea of being able to fish in a long sleeve shirt, even if it only lasted for a day. I took advantage of the warm days while they lasted and turned my attention over to catching more White Crappie. The warm weather had scattered the fish throughout the water column, and these conditions are a dream for a fisherman like me. It didn’t seem to matter what depth I was fishing at I would hook into a fish, mostly they were Bluegill. But occasionally a Largemouth Bass would find my hook before a Bluegill could, and on rarer occasions a White Crappie would do the same.

2-nice-crappie

The warm weather was quickly replaced with a bitter cold wind that dropped the temperature across Indiana. Once again a thin layer of ice started forming on the lakes, but the sun came back out and melted this off quickly. This quick cold snap followed by a lot of sunlight had the bass in a feeding frenzy, and I seemed to be the only one brave (or crazy) enough to go out and try to capitalize on this bite. When I know fish are in feeding fairly aggressively I like to tie on two white grub lures and fish them at different depths. This seems to mimic a small group of bait fish, a sight a hungry bass just can’t resist. It didn’t take long for me to hook into a handful of small bass, but on the last cast of the day I set the hook into a fish that actually started pulling some drag.

dpp_0008

This has one of the strangest winters I have ever experienced, but it has offered some new challenges that are helping me improve my fishing skills. Easily my favorite challenge of winter was getting the chance to catch a few fish through the ice. I hope you all have been able to make the best of the odd weather we are having this year.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

Early Winter Panfish

Whenever I think of fishing in January, people in huge, winter coats walking on sketchy ice always come to mind. Personally, I’ve never seen ice thick enough to even think about stepping on. Until this year, the idea of fishing a lake during the winter seemed like some kind of cruel joke. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to fish lakes in the winter before and I have caught a few fish doing it. But I have always been very dependent on live minnows and I tend to catch far fewer fish than the 12 minnows I purchase. In the past, the best reasoning I could come up with for the fishing spots I chose had been, “I caught fish here in the summer, so they are probably here in the winter, too.”

But this year, I decided this lazy mentality had to stop. This year, I was going to learn how to catch fish during the winter. I figured when most people start learning how to fish they start out targeting Bluegill, so why shouldn’t I start there as well? Bluegill seemed like the obvious choice since they are a fairly predictable fish: they will try to eat almost anything and they are (thankfully) still fairly aggressive when the water temperature drops.

I started by fishing all of the lakes that hadn’t iced over yet. The first lesson I learned was that it wasn’t really necessary to go to the outrageously small size jigs that I had thought I would need. It turns out that that isn’t entirely what dictates if you will catch fish. I started my Bluegill quest fishing with 1/200 oz jigs and I caught a lot of fish on this set up. The problem with fishing jigs this small is that I had to set up a special ultralight rod just to be able to cast these. This ended up being an 8 foot 5 weight fly rod with a small spinning reel spooled up with 2 lb test line. I love fishing with 2 lb test line (which is about the only line I’ve found that can cast these tiny jigs), but when ice starts forming on line that small, it becomes a nightmare to cast.

wp_20161203_11_16_51_pro

The smart solution to this problem would be to step up the weight of the jigs so you can cast it on heavier line that can handle the build-up of ice. The solution I found was to use an ultralight rod with larger guides and spool it up with 4 lb test line. The larger eyes make it easier to cast line with ice on it and makes it harder to totally freeze over the front guide. I’ve found that 1/64 oz jigs have worked the best for me so far: they fall slow enough to entice bites from some of the smarter fish, but still weigh enough to be able to cast it a decent distance. The problem with jigs this size is that smaller Bluegill can have trouble hitting the right spot to get hooked, especially if they are a little lethargic and not sure they want to hit at all. Luckily, this problem can be solved by tipping a jig with some crappie nibbles, or better yet bee moths (if you can find any tackle shops that carries them in middle of January).

Bluegill haven’t been to hard to find; the easiest feature to target them has been to find a source of water flowing into a lake and fish the deeper water around it. This can mean there is slightly warmer water for the fish to live in or that the fish are used to this flow of water bringing them food. The second feature I’ve had luck with is to fish the first major drop-off from the bank. Most of the lakes I fish have shallow edges that are only about a foot deep, but about 10 feet from the bank they quickly drop off to a depth of about 6 feet. A lot of Bluegill will follow this drop-off in search of food, even though the water temperature isn’t as warm as some of the deeper spots in the lake.

wp_20170103_13_23_55_pro-2

Once I felt like I was starting to gain some headway on catching Bluegill, I decided to shift my emphasis over to catching winter crappie. My favorite time of the year has always been spring, and this is largely due to the fact that crappie spawn in the spring and they become easily accessible from the bank. I knew in bigger lakes that I would need a boat to have much luck finding them this time of year, so I decided to focus my attention on large ponds that I knew had a few crappie. The problem with this particular lake was that I have only caught 10 crappie in the last 4 years from it, and the largest one I caught was only about 9 inches. I have always just assumed that there wasn’t a very large population of fish, and that the few fish that did survive were usually harvested by the other anglers in the spring. But the one advantage you get with heavily pressured lakes is that the fish that are left tend to be smart, and as a byproduct of that, they tend to be much larger than the fish that are harvested. I knew that the bass population in this lake was that way, so I was crossing my fingers that the crappie would be, too. And by some miracle, I was actually right.

snow-flurries-and-crappies

I try my best not to over-complicate crappie fishing. My usual tactic is simply finding a ledge and hopping a jig tipped with a bee moth across it. If I don’t find fish on the ledge, then I usually tie on a searching bait, like a curl tail grub, and work a lot of different depths and locations until I can find where they are schooled up at. So far this winter I have found them consistently sitting on ledges. If you can find any underwater structure, that has been an added bonus (but not at all necessary to hold crappie). I’m a firm believer that a slow rate of fall triggers more fish to hit than a fast rate of fall, so I tend to fish with a 1/64 oz jig and occasionally 1/32 oz when it is particularly windy.

wp_20161230_13_00_56_pro

I didn’t expect the crappie fishing to be better in the winter, but so far this pond has fished better in the cold than it ever has before! I’ve caught more than 3 times the crappie these last 2 months than I had caught in all of the last 4 years at this pond. I also managed to catch the biggest crappie I have ever seen in this pond (as shown in the picture above).  I have always loved the challenge of catching “smart” fish, so I decided to keep the tradition of this lake alive and practice catch and release on all of the crappie I have caught. Now the question is, can I fool these fish twice?

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

2016 Year in Review

2016 has been one of my best fishing years yet and I thought it would be fun to do a quick review of the best fishing trips of the year. I caught a record number of fish this year and managed to bump my species list up 45 different types of fish!

I thought a good place to start would be with some of the best bass I caught this year. The first big fish I caught was during early spring, while I was fishing for crappie. I wasn’t really expecting to catch any big fish that day; I was fishing with an ultralight rod with 4 lb test line, hoping to get a limit of crappie. But while jigging a 1.5 in fluke, something much larger engulfed my lure. Luckily, the water was cold and the fish was a little sluggish, so I was able to carefully work it out of the fallen tree it was hidden in. As you can see, I was pretty excited to catch this 5 lb 9 oz beauty!

big-bass

The next big bass I came across was during prespawn. I was exploring new places to fish and came across a series of beaver ponds in one of my favorite federal wildlife areas. I found a shallow cove with an old abandoned beaver dam and knew that at some point the big fish would have to move from the deep water to spawn in the shallow area. I fished this spot religiously for a few weeks and caught a lot of fish in the 2-3 lb range, but I just couldn’t connect with a big fish. After a few weeks, I was starting to give up on my mission, but then I struck gold: a 6 lb 6 oz tank of a bass.

wp_20160324_18_09_39_pro

After this fish, I really just started focusing on catching numbers instead of size. But as many of us know, once you catch enough fish you are bound to catch a few big fish, too. Throughout early spring, I got hooked on catching fish on top water frogs and caught a ton of little fish on them. But one day, right before a big storm front pushed through, I fished one of the many public ponds close to school. I was really just hoping to catch a couple little fish before the rain started. But today held something different in store: right as the wind was starting to pick up, a big fish smashed the surface after my frog but totally missed it. I twitched the frog a few more times and it smashed the frog again, this time taking the frog under. I set the hook so hard I lost my footing and slid down the bank into the pond. I fought the fish while standing knee deep in water and landed the biggest fish I had ever seen in this lake. My scale put this fish at 6 lb 1 oz, but I’ll be honest: I don’t think I really buy that number.

wp_20160420_18_00_57_pro

The last fish was by no means a monster, but it was one of my favorites of the year because it was a great trip with a close friend. I had always heard rumors about how good the fishing was at Sugar Ridge FWA, but the first lake we fished was full of stunted fish. I was a little disappointed at first, but this FWA has multiple lakes, so we switched to a new lake. We didn’t catch a lot in this lake, but all the fish we caught were quality.

wp_20160530_16_41_43_pro

While I did catch some nice bass this year, I really focused more on panfish than I ever have before. I started in the spring like I usually do, with a lot of crappie fishing. I’m usually more of a catch-and-release fisherman, but this year I actually harvested some my catches. One of my best trips was on a perfect, cold, rainy day. The crappie bite was crazy- it seemed like on every cast I would hook into a quality Black Crappie. Indiana has a really large crappie limit, so I chose not to take a full limit, but I caught enough for a few meals.

crappies-for-days-lower-quality

The best White Crappie I caught this year was (oddly enough) while I was doing some bass fishing. I launched my little, inflatable kayak into a beaver pond in hopes of some big bass. Strangely, instead of the bass I was hoping for, I actually hooked into my biggest White Crappie of the year.

wp_20160529_14_18_08_pro

I also spent a lot of time this year trying to break my personal best for Warmouth. I know this isn’t typically a fish people care much for, but I think they are one of the most underrated panfish out there. My hunt this year was very successful: I landed some of the biggest Warmouth I have ever seen in Indiana. None of my fish were record fish for my state, but as far as I was concerned, they were trophy fish.

CAMERA

wp_20160528_14_10_20_pro

One of my favorite catches this year was a Flier Sunfish. I tend to catch a couple of these each year in the Ohio River flood plains, but this year I wanted to catch my first one on an artificial lure. And I actually succeeded! I also discovered after releasing this fish that Indiana’s record Flier is only 3.5 oz, so I think next year I am going to try to break this.

wp_20160508_17_16_09_pro

I caught the usual Bluegill, Longear, and Redear Sunfish throughout the summer. They stayed shallow for most of the year, so my 5 weight fly rod was the weapon of choice to target most of these fish.

wp_20160821_16_53_03_prowp_20160620_15_41_43_prowp_20160830_15_36_08_pro

The prize fish I caught this year was my first ever Redspotted Sunfish! I know they are common in most areas, but I am right at the edge of their native range, so they really aren’t a common catch for me. The best part was that I caught it on one of my homemade jigs.

wp_20161001_11_05_34_pro

As you’d expect, I also spent a lot of time fishing the Ohio River. This was probably my worst year for catfish because I spent more time fishing lures than cut-bait in the river. But I did manage to catch the three main catfish species from the Ohio River. The biggest catfish I caught this year was this Blue Catfish during the spring flooding, but I also caught the odd Flathead Catfish and a lot of little Channel Catfish.

blue-cat-river-fishy

wp_20160623_18_00_17_proWP_20160419_19_01_32_Pro.jpg

I seem to catch one Smallmouth Buffalo a year, and this year I actually had a decent camera with me so that you all could see it. These are always one of my favorite fish to catch, and one of these days I’m going to figure out how to catch them regularly.

buffalo-fishy

And if you’ve ever fished the Ohio River, you know there is never any shortage of Freshwater Drum there. And I caught a LOT of them this year! None of them were particularly big, but they always break the silence on slow fishing days.

WP_20161010_18_23_58_Pro.jpg

On one of my rare night-fishing trips, I broke my personal best for Longnose Gar. I got very lucky with this fish because I don’t tend to fish with steel leaders.

img_9351

Every year, there seems to be about a two-week window where the river conditions are right to catch Sauger from the bank. And this year, I actually managed to guess the right day to find where they were schooled up. Still no big fish, but this was the first year I was able to capture a high-quality picture of these gorgeous fish.

wp_20160419_18_36_40_pro

I even managed a rare Ohio River Smallmouth Bass this year (well, rare for how south I am). I’ve caught a whopping 3 of these out of this river for as long as I have fished it. This one was easily the smallest one I’ve ever caught, but it was also one of the prettiest.

wp_20160703_10_59_54_pro

The summer brought the usual run of Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass. I tried my hardest to catch one of these fish on my fly rod, but that just wasn’t in the cards this year. But I did catch more of these fish than I could keep track of on my spinning rod.

wp_20160724_16_33_08_pro

I rarely target Spotted Bass because I don’t have many good access sites where they are common. But there is one rock wall by a public boat launch that tends to hold one or two Spotted Bass, so I went out with my ultralight rod on a mission to catch one. Oddly enough, I hooked into one on my very first cast at this spot (after this fish, I couldn’t seem to find another Spotted Bass for the life of me).

wp_20160703_10_38_12_pro

I spent less time in the Ohio River flood plains due to the heavy course load I took this semester, but I did manage one adventure back into some of flooded areas and hooked my only Bowfin for this year. I’m proud to report that this year I even manage to not get injured while handling it (last year one of these put a hook right through my hand).

wp_20160701_18_49_39_pro

This year, I even hooked into a few Rainbow Trout! It’s been years since I have been lucky enough to even see one of these fish, so to actually be able to fish for them was enough to make my year. To make it even better, I even caught my first trout on my fly rod!

wp_20161029_15_16_13_pro

One of the most surprising catches I had this year was a Koi from a local park pond. I was hoping to catch a little Common Carp, but this fish was far more exciting than my target.

wp_20160704_16_17_50_pro

While exploring a little drainage ditch for Creek Chubs, I caught my first Grass Carp ever (not the size I was expecting my first Grass Carp to be, but it was a Grass Carp none the less).

wp_20161016_15_46_33_prograsscarp

On a quick trip to Los Angeles, I added a good number of fish to my species list. I fished from a few public piers and managed to catch some Barred Sand Bass, Kelp Bass, California Scorpionfish, California Lizardfish, Pacific Mackerel, and Queenfish.

img_4901

img_4950IMG_4869img_4893img_4937img_4921

This was a fantastic year filled with some great trips with some phenomenal people. I hope that you were all able to spend some time out on the water with the people you care about and catch a few memorial fish. I hope 2017 is just as fishy as 2016!

Tight lines,

-Isaac

Fun With Stocked Rainbow Trout

Every fall, the DNR stocks lakes in southern Indiana with trout, giving a few of us southern anglers a chance to target these gorgeous fish. This year, they stocked 650 Rainbow Trout into Garvin Park, so I was hoping the odds would be in my favor to catch at least one. I’ve tried fishing here for trout before, but have always started too late in the season (long after most of them had been harvested). This year, I made sure that my trip happened right after they stocked the lake. I started out with a small inline spinner and hooked into what I was afraid I would: a very aggressive Largemouth Bass.

wp_20161029_15_21_55_pro

I knew I needed to change spots if the small bass were up that shallow, so I explored my way around the lake. I found a shady spot with a pretty fast transition from deep to shallow water, and my luck changed quickly. On my first cast, a trout chased my spinner all the way up to the bank, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I kept casting here, and after a few minutes, I got a violent strike. After a short fight on my ultralight, I saw the fish I had been searching for: a gorgeous little Rainbow Trout.

wp_20161029_15_16_13_prowp_20161029_15_16_31_pro

I was about over the moon with this fish, so I continued to cast my spinner. I immediately managed to make a terrible cast and dangle my spinner off a tree branch just barely touching the water. I quickly reeled in my line, trying to hop my lure over the branch, and somehow an aggressive trout attacked before I could clear the branch.  After some careful maneuvering, I untangled my line and landed another little Rainbow Trout.

wp_20161029_15_20_17_prowp_20161029_16_51_14_pro

As you can tell by the picture above, I couldn’t have been more excited about actually catching some Rainbow Trout! I kept casting inline spinners and managed to catch four little trout from my spot.

wp_20161029_16_51_48_pro

I knew my luck wouldn’t last for long, so I ran to my car and grabbed my fly rod. I only had a few flies in my car (mostly flies that were meant for targeting bluegill), but that wasn’t going to stop me from trying. I tied on the least ridiculous wet fly I had in my box and started casting it around. After some trial and error, I discovered that the fish were interested in a very slow presentation and would hit as the fly was falling. Most of my bites came after the fly sank 2-3 feet. After a few minutes of casting, my line finally twitched and I set the hook into a little Rainbow Trout.

wp_20161029_16_59_48_prowp_20161029_17_00_39_pro

As you can see, the fly I was using is not what you would typically see someone fly fishing with for trout. But the fish didn’t seem to mind, so neither did I. I kept casting and was quickly rewarded with another little trout.

wp_20161029_17_20_25_prowp_20161029_17_20_34_pro

The next morning, I set right back out to Garvin Park to test out my homemade jigs. I’ve caught a lot of different species on my 1/64 oz chartreuse jigs, but they hadn’t landed a trout yet.

WP_20160927_22_42_59_Pro.jpg

I tied a jig on my ultralight with 2 pound test line and cast it around in a shallow cove. On one of my first casts my line started running sideways. I wasn’t expecting to get a hit so quickly and missed the hook set. This gave me a lot of hope that my jigs might actually work. Shortly after that, I got another strike. This time I was ready and set the hook. After a great fight on light tackle, a small Rainbow Trout was in the net.

wp_20161030_12_12_36_pro

With this last little trout, it was time to go home and start on the homework I had put off. I can easily see how people can become obsessed with targeting trout, and I’m pretty sure I’m joining the club. I hope you are all enjoying the fall fishing as much as I am!

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

Multi-Species Adventure

Last week, I had one of those rare days where I didn’t have classes, work or homework to deal with.  Naturally, I decided to go fishing. I thought it would be fun to stay close to home and see how many different species of fish I could catch at different public spots in town.

I started the day off at the State Hospital Park, tossing around a Roostertail on my ultralight rod. It didn’t take long to hook into some feisty little Largemouth Bass.

wp_20161010_10_10_19_prowp_20161010_10_15_19_pro

I actually came to this park hoping to catch some carp, but my favorite carp spot was taken so I abandoned that idea and focused on a second species. This particular lake had been heavily stocked with Yellow Bullhead by the DNR so I figured it would be pretty easy to hook into one. This pond is special because it is split between two sides of a road and is connected by two large pipes that flow under it. For some odd reason, the little bullheads love the shade and cool water that is inside of the pipes. So I cast a nightcrawler up into the pipe and waited. My bait had only been in the water for about a minute when the rod tip bounced. I set the hook and reeled up this little guy.

wp_20161010_11_04_47_pro

I then packed up my stuff and switched to Diamond Valley Park Pond in hopes of finding a couple of Redear Sunfish. My usual tactic for these guys is a small 64th oz jig tipped with a little piece of nightcrawler, but they just weren’t playing my game. But on the bright side, I hooked into a good number of Bluegill while I was searching.

wp_20161010_12_24_53_pro

After landing more Bluegill than I could count, I finally hooked into a tank of a Redear Sunfish. But he seemed to be alone today, I couldn’t find another one for the life of me.

wp_20161010_12_43_35_pro-3

I continued casting my jig as I worked around the pond, and hoped I’d be able to find a few Green Sunfish. My search for these guys was significantly more successful.

wp_20161010_13_30_01_pro-2

I even managed a surprise species while I was working my way around the lake: a Channel Catfish. I planned to target these fellows on the Ohio River later in the day, but I checked this one off my list early.

wp_20161010_13_17_41_pro

After a nice break for lunch, I meandered over to the banks of the Ohio River to try to catch the evening bite. It didn’t take long before I hooked into my first fish, a lovely little Largemouth Bass. I usually only catch Spotted Bass at this spot, so I was pleasantly surprised when I landed this guy.

wp_20161010_17_14_46_pro

The spot I was fishing at here had a large school of shiners and shad, so I knew there had to be more predatory fish hanging around. I continued working that spot and managed another species: a little White Bass.

wp_20161010_17_11_41_pro

Soon after that, I set the hook into another fish, and this one felt significantly larger. After a few drag-screaming runs, I knew there was only one thing I could have hooked into: a Striped Bass. I was especially surprised when I saw that it wasn’t a hybrid, the true Striped Bass aren’t as common to catch here.

striped-bass-woohooo

I had caught a couple of Freshwater Drum by now, but I realized that I still hadn’t taken a picture of one. So I cast out a nightcrawler on a circle hook and waited. It didn’t take very long until this little drum found my bait.

wp_20161010_18_23_58_pro

I still wanted to catch one last fish before going home for the night, so I decided to move a little further down river and try a deeper spot. I sat there for about an hour, snagging up most of the rigs on the rocky bottom. I was starting to get frustrated and considering calling it for the day when one of my rod tips finally bounced. I set the hook immediately and was surprised when whatever was on the other side of my line started peeling drag. It took off in a crazy run downriver to the point where it took half the line off my reel before I could turn the fish. As soon as I got it moving back up toward me, it made a run upstream and again took half the line off my reel. I finally worked the fish near the bank and managed to get it up to the surface. I could see that it was a gar, easily the biggest Longnose Gar I had ever hooked. I put a little bit more pressure on the fish, knowing it was hooked well, and got down to the bank before it could cut through my line. Luckily, I had a tape measure in my backpack and took a quick length measurement on this beauty: 43 inches long. A quick photo session later, I released this lovely gar back into the Ohio River to fight another day.

img_9351img_9355

This final fish exhausted my supply of bait, so I decided to call it a night. I managed to land ten different species of fish before the end of the day, which is a pretty good number for me (considering I didn’t target any of the ‘micro’ species). I had a great time chasing all of the different fish around town, and with a new personal best, I couldn’t be happier with how my day went.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

Adventures on Pigeon Creek

Late summer has always been one of my favorite times of year to go creek fishing, and this year has been no exception. By this point in the year the water levels have dropped too far to be able to navigate in a kayak so bank fishing is the best option. My favorite way to approach fishing a creek is to put bait on two rods and a lure on the other.

I always like to fish a deep stretch right after some shallow rapids because these places tend to trap fish. I hiked my way to the first spot that had these features, and quickly hooked into a few fish. The first fish that fell for the inline spinner was a gorgeous little Shortnose Gar

WP_20160830_14_04_00_ProWP_20160830_14_04_17_ProWP_20160830_14_05_00_Pro - Copy

Not long after that I little Hybrid Striped Bass took the spinner. This one hit right on at the shade line from the trees.

WP_20160830_14_24_18_Pro

After that little fish the action slowed down, but I did managed to tempt a few Freshwater Drum with some nightcrawlers.

WP_20160830_14_36_58_ProWP_20160830_14_45_04_Pro

I switched spots to a bend in the creek after about a half hour with out a bite. As soon as my bait touched the water an aggressive Longear Sunfish took my worm. This has to be one of the prettiest Longear Sunfish I have ever caught.

WP_20160830_15_36_08_Pro

At this point I was simply amazed I hadn’t hooked into any catfish so I moved further downstream to a well known log jam. I suspended my bait about a foot above a half ounce sinker and bounced this rig along the bottom with the current. This method quickly enticed a little Channel Catfish.

Catfish from pigeon creeeek

At this point I was mostly out of bait and the temperature was reaching the upper 90’s so I decided to call it quits. I was proud of all the fish I caught, and I was especially excited to land a gar (it was been a few months since I’ve gotten one all the way to the bank to photograph). Hopefully I get a chance to fish Pigeon Creek again before the fall leaves make it too difficult to fish.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

Exploring Yellowwood State Forest

This trip occurred on August 5th, 2016

Lately, I have been on the hunt for new places to fish. This led me to Yellowwood State Forest. My online research indicated that the famous Bluegill lake there had been destroyed by logging, but I wanted to see for myself. Old surveys suggested that this lake used to have Yellow Perch (a species I’ve always wanted to catch), so the 2-hour drive was pretty justifiable to me. I was also particularly curious about this lake because I couldn’t find any real information about it dated after 2011, so I figured it was time for someone to do a write up about how the fishing is. So on August 5th I got up way too early and drove my way up to the campground.

I started out fishing at the Jackson Creek trailhead and fished off the boat launch there. I quickly found some small Largemouth Bass sitting right off of an isolated grass patch.

 

WP_20160805_14_46_57_ProWP_20160805_15_38_14_Pro

I then switched over to try to catch some panfish. It quickly became evident that all of the panfish close to the boat launch were very small, but the diversity in the species raised my hopes that I could find a Yellow Perch.

WP_20160805_15_08_40_ProWP_20160805_15_11_38_Pro

I wasn’t catching anything new, so I drove over to the spillway on the south end of the lake to see what kind of fish inhabited that area. There were hundreds of small Bluegill in the spillway, so there were a few decent Largemouth Bass enjoying the easy prey.

WP_20160805_17_55_54_Pro

I could see a few other species in this area that I wanted to try to catch. The water was so clear I could see Black Crappie, Smallmouth Buffalo, Northern Hog Sucker and Common Carp. I was quickly able to tempt a crappie, but I couldn’t keep any bait in the water long enough to tempt any other species before the Bluegill would eat it.

WP_20160805_18_57_20_Pro

It was starting to get late, so I headed back to the campground to make sure everything was set up before it got dark. After I was all set up, I walked down to the lake to see if I could find any other fish. I ended up tempting a few small Largemouth Bass right off the weed line.

WP_20160805_20_10_04_Pro

Stocking reports said that this lake had a large population of Channel Catfish, so I cast out a few baits and waited as the sun went down. It didn’t take long before a catfish hit, but I couldn’t seem to find any of the bigger fish.

WP_20160805_20_49_07_Pro

But after the sun went down, a few of the bigger Shellcrackers went shallow and were biting right on the edge of the weed line.

WP_20160805_21_12_28_Pro

With that last fish, I decided to call it a night. But first thing in the morning, I started exploring the coves on the lake and found some Bluegill still on beds. It took some time, but I was finally able to tempt the biggest one to bite.

WP_20160806_08_15_45_Pro

I rented a jon boat so that I could paddle my way up the lake to where Jackson Creek flows in. There, I found a log jam that looked like it could hold some decent fish. I started by tossing a finesse worm, and immediately hooked into a large Redear Sunfish.

WP_20160806_10_17_49_Pro

I quickly caught a decent-sized Warmouth and a small Largemouth Bass.

WP_20160806_10_27_24_ProWP_20160806_10_31_01_Pro

It became clear that this lake’s reputation of having big panfish was still pretty accurate. So I tied on a small jig and tipped it with small pieces of worms… and had an absolute blast catching these fish.

100_1237100_1245WP_20160806_10_50_17_ProWP_20160806_10_46_51_ProWP_20160806_10_54_48_Pro

After catching some nice Redear Sunfish, I realized how foolish I was for not bringing a cooler to keep a few. But then I got distracted by a couple of beautiful Longear Sunfish and started targeting them instead.

100_1241WP_20160806_08_19_27_ProWP_20160806_10_53_52_Pro

I kept seeing a fish move around on the edge of the log jam, so I tossed a jig to it and a greedy Warmouth quickly gobbled it up.

WP_20160806_10_58_08_Pro

After a while, the wind started picking up so I paddled back to shore and found some more small Largemouth Bass sitting on any irregularities in the weed line.

100_1252100_1253

I also did a little bit of micro fishing before leaving. I was able to find what I think are Freckled Madtoms (or possibly a juvenile Yellow Bullhead) and some larger Blackstripe Topminnows.

100_1269WP_20160805_17_10_17_Pro

My final impressions of Yellowwood State Forest: there are still some nice panfish that can be found, but as far as I could see, there is no longer a population of Yellow Perch. I also wasn’t able to find any decent size bass, but this might have been more because I’m not a very confident deep water angler. The lake seems to have a decent number of catfish, but again I wasn’t able to find any decent size fish. Regardless, I had an absolute blast fishing this lake and I highly suggest giving it a try for yourself!

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

 

Fishing Adventures in Los Angeles

My work schedule finally freed up and I got the chance to fly out to Los Angeles to visit my girlfriend. This trip, we made sure that we made a little bit of time to go fishing. The first stop that we made was to explore Malibu Creek State Park. We had a lot of trouble finding information on whether or not they allowed fishing in the park, but after asking a park ranger, we quickly learned that the creek was off limits but fishing was allowed at a little lake in the park called Century Lake.IMG_4819

We hiked a little over a mile through some beautiful landscapes to discover this gorgeous little lake (which was actually deceptively deep).

IMG_4855

There wasn’t much shore access on the lake, but I found a little rock to fish off of and hooked my first fish (which promptly came unhooked just as I was trying to land it).

IMG_4839

But I continued tossing around my little jig and was happily rewarded with a lovely little bluegill.

IMG_4842IMG_4844

I worked my way down the bank and enjoyed the lovely scenery.

IMG_4847

I even found a second little bluegill right off of some submerged branches.

IMG_4851

Right as we were getting ready to leave, I saw a new target: some bigger bluegill starting to bed in the shallows.

IMG_4859

I danced jigs around their beds, and they would nibble but not fully take the lure. So I switched tactics. Instead of jigging the lure, I would set the jig right in the center of the bed and just let it sit there. The bluegill would swim over, stare at it, go nose down on it, nibble it, then get frustrated and actually bite the lure.

IMG_4860

With this lovely bluegill, we decided it was time to hike back and get some lunch.

 

We then went to Malibu Pier to see if we could catch any fish there. Luckily, there was a little shop at the end of the pier where I bought some 2 oz. lead weights and a package of frozen squid.

IMG_4866

We started on the sunny side of the pier near the deeper water, mostly because that was one of the only places where I had some decent room to play a fish if I caught a larger one. After watching everyone else around me hook a few fish, I finally got a bite and reeled up this little California Scorpionfish.

IMG_4870IMG_4869

We stayed put at that spot for another hour, but I didn’t manage to get another bite. In the last 30 minutes, we decided to move to the deepest (and shaded) part of the pier. Instead of dropping the bait straight down like I had been, I started casting it out as far as my light line would let me. I immediately hooked into my first ever California Lizardfish.

IMG_4893

Look at the chompers on this little guy!

IMG_4900

I continued fishing this spot and hooked into my first ever Barred Sand Bass. The other anglers at this spot kept hooking into Mackerel, but I just couldn’t manage to get one this time.

IMG_4901

 

The last place we went fishing at was the Santa Monica Pier. Once again, we stopped at a bait shop right at the end of the pier and purchased bait. I was hoping for squid, but the shop only had Anchovies left (which actually worked way better than squid). We set up on the end of the pier and before I was able to hook a fish, a Sea Lion swam up begging for bait.

IMG_4920

After he swam off, I was able to fish without the fear of him eating my catches and dropped my bait down. The first fish to bite on the Anchovies was a little Queenfish.

IMG_4921

This trip, I was determined to catch a Pacific Mackerel and decided that fishing directly on the bottom was not the solution. I quickly discovered that suspending my bait halfway up the water column resulted in the largest number of bites from Mackerel.

IMG_4937IMG_4929

After catching a few of these little guys, I switched back to fishing the bottom to try to get some other species. I found a little deep spot by a pier piling that held a large number of Kelp Bass.

IMG_4925IMG_4946IMG_4950IMG_4957

I even got my girlfriend to catch a fish, her first Barred Sand Bass.

IMG_4954

At this point, I wanted to just catch one last little fish before calling it a day, another little Barred Sand Bass.

IMG_4948

With this last little fish, my trip was coming to an end. It was a great adventure and I was lucky to have great company to spend it with me. I ended the trip with a total of 6 new species for my list and only a mild sunburn.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

Exploring Ferdinand State Forest

I’ve fished Ferdinand State Forest a few times when I was younger with my father, but these trips have always focused on catching Largemouth Bass and I’ve always wanted to know what else lives out in this park. So Friday after work I started packing up all of my fishing and camping gear so that I could leave first thing Saturday morning. When I go on trips like this I always like to set myself a goal to help keep me motivated, this trip I decided that my goal would be to catch 10 different species. Saturday morning I got up with the sun, packed the last of my food and jumped in my suv to start the drive. I got to the park before the ranger at the station did and was able to secure the best camping location in the whole park. After struggling with the tent for a half hour my campsite was set up and I unloaded the rods to do a little fishing.

I started by exploring the overflow creek from the lake and tried to target some of the gar that kept surfacing. After many failed hook sets I gave up on that quest and put on my rubber boots and started microfishing my way down the creek (well as close to microfishing as you can get with a size 22 hook). My efforts were quickly rewarded with a lovely Blackstripe Topminnow.

Blackstripe Top Minnow

At the next pool I was happy to find a large number of creek chubs.

After working through a good number of chubs I found what I think is a Striped Shiner

At this point I switched over to the top lake and took the canoe out to target a few evening largemouth. It didn’t take long to find a Largemouth Bass willing to hit a top water lure.

As sunset approached I set out to find some firewood and get dinner ready. I had hoped to fish for catfish once the sun had set, but after making supper I was surprisingly tired so I went ahead and settled down in my tent for the night.

Once again I woke up as the sun was just starting to come up, I decided to go back to the over flow creek and see if I could find a few more fish species before it got too hot. I started by jigging around the rocks and as I was hoping was able to tempt quite a few Warmouth.

I then started tossing the jig into some shallower water that was at the back end of the pool I was fishing was able to find a few very colorful Green Sunfish

But I had heard rumors of that this overflow was home to some crappie and I just couldn’t seem to tempt them. Then I had the idea to start casting as far up the inflow pipe as I could. Surprisingly I started catching a lot of bluegill from this spot.

After working through a lot of bluegill I was incredibly excited to hook into a small Black Crappie (I may or may not have cheered when I landed this fish).

I tossed out a rod with some cutbait with hopes of a gar again, but this time I was lucky enough to hook into what I think is a Yellow Bullhead (I honestly have the hardest time telling the bullheads apart)

After this fish I returned to jigging, I found a small submerged tree branch and tossed my jig into it. I was incredibly excited to see this little Redear Sunfish come out of it.

The last thing I wanted to include were a few of the strange catches I had as I was exploring the forest. The first is the very oddly colored Warmouth, at first I thought it was a rock bass but it appears to have the wrong number of spines on the anal fin.

And while I was micro fishing I was very surprised to catch a frog in between the tadpole and the froglet stage!