Where Time Stops

Time moves fast. Every moment seems to pass by faster and faster than the one before. New distractions are always at our fingertips: one buzz and you are linked into a whole virtual world. We daydream of far-off places, wondering how we could ever match the experiences posted by everyone else. Counting the reasons why our life isn’t following the same ‘perfect’ path that we see on our screens. So caught up in trying to manicure our lives that we never stop to live our own.

There is beauty in disconnection. Wonder in the unknown. An excitement in accepting that there isn’t any one path. There is contentment in doing exactly what makes you happy, no matter how crazy people may think you are.

So here I am. Staring up at a limestone bluff. A lush, deciduous forest bursting with life above it. Below trickles a slow, wandering creek. It follows the low spots of the rock bottom. On rare occasions, it narrows, creating deep holes teeming with life.

Unnamed Creek

There I stand. A four-foot collapsible fishing rod in my hand. A hook so small, reading glasses are required to bait it. An image belonging in a kids’ book: a man so obsessed with fish he would search even the smallest puddles. The truth is each of those puddles are magic. The longer you look into them, the more life you can see. Creek Chubs scurry about, fighting one another for any scrap of food. The other minnows mine the bottom, searching for the rare morsel that escapes the chubs.

Creek Chub

These scavengers are careful. They graze around each tiny rock. When you are still, you can get lost seeing the small schools systematically search each quadrant of the pool. Watching in amusement, my curiosity gets the best of me. I drop my comically miniscule hook to the bottom. The minnows scatter. (A reasonable response for a creature on the bottom of the food chain.) I leave the bait resting on the bottom. They feed in a pattern, and I know they will return to this area soon. I carefully watch my hook as the minutes pass. The first brave minnow returns and finds my bait. The tiniest tug on my line and suddenly I’m happily holding one of these bottom-grazing beauties. A quick glance and I recognize a familiar face. It’s a Bluntnose Minnow! They are thriving in the creek this year.

Bluntnose Minnow

My curiosity isn’t so easily sated. The occasional ghost of a larger fish dances around the Bluntnose Minnows. This fish is different. I stand there huddled over the creek, dropping my bait down over and over again. Pulling up one Bluntnose Minnow after another. I’m starting to question my sanity when a silver flash happens as my bait drops. Could this finally be it? A small, silver fish wiggles at the end of the tiny hook. I don’t recognize the fish. It’s something new! My 107th species of fish caught on hook and line. The Silverjaw Minnow!

I sit on the sand beside the creek and smile. Life is simple here. It is a place a where two-inch fish can make a person’s day. The sound of singing birds surrounds me, harmonizing with the babbling creek. A vibrant forest breathes. Time has no meaning in a place like this.

Silverjaw Minnow

A Blue Jay flashes, letting me know I have over-extended my welcome here. I wade down the creek. I walk slowly to see what minnows will make themselves visible. Creek Chubs dash left and right. The Bluntnose and Silverjaw Minnows retreat to the deepest pools as I pass. And then I see something unique and pure. The creek narrows to a foot wide. A single pool the size of a basketball cut into the rock floor. The water rips through here. A perfect habitat for an amazingly unique fish. I get down on my knees and shade my eyes with my hands. At first, all I see is the water rushing over smooth brown rocks. I focus harder. An odd, triangular shape points out of a crack between two stones. There it is. The queen of this creek. The humble Spottail Darter, perfectly camouflaged. This tiny pool is thriving. Darters are resting on the bottom against the rocks, just waiting for a snack to wash down. A wee insect floats down and one zips out from the bottom, the meal vanishing in a heartbeat. I get my fishing rod back out. How could I pass up such a perfect opportunity? My little hook touches the water and a darter shoots out of the rock. A quick picture and it is back safely.

Spottail Darter

Content with the time spent wading in the creek, I make the slow walk back to the car. The distractions of the ‘real’ world can’t touch me here. I smile as the Blue Jay scolds me one last time. One last long look at the limestone bluff. The trees a vibrant green contrasting against the blue sky. I close my eyes. One last deep breath of the pure forest air, imprinting every detail of this place until I return.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

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February, Fish and Crutches

February has been a very odd month for me. I usually looking forward to the late winter/early spring flooding, it always makes for a new and challenging environment to figure out. But this year I was bested by the season. To my dismay at the end of January I got very sick and stopped fishing. At the same time I strained my leg really badly. Because of being so sick my leg didn’t heal like it should. Once the doctors figured out how to treat what was wrong with me, we addressed the issues with my leg. When I started physical therapy I was missing 77 degrees of extension. I was totally dependent on crutches and was still weak from being sick. It took the whole month of February before getting back to feeling like myself again. I have worked really hard and regained my full range of motion and no longer need crutches.

With all that being said, I really didn’t manage to fish much until the last half of the month when I started regaining my strength. I started small. I would stop at a small creek and fish for Creek Chubs for a half hour (a fish that no matter the conditions is always willing to bite). And then would retreat back to the house to rest.

Creek Chub

As I got more confident walking around on my crutches I started parking my SUV close to lakes and walking short distances to try for bigger fish. I would rarely get further than 100 feet from my car, but that was usually far enough to catch a few fish. I would settle down in a chair or lean against something and fish until my leg started hurting too much. I was fortunate and would usually catch a fish or two before getting to that point. This helped me fight the cabin fever.

Largemouth Bass

I kept working on building my strength and got to the point where I could make one lap around a small pond on my crutches without getting too tired. This let me start fishing more moving baits and get a few White Crappie. A fish that I usually devote a large part of my February to, and I was starting to miss them.

White Crappie

A week later and I was able to start putting some weight on my hurt leg. This opened up some new possibilities, though I was still limited to walking very short distances. The temperature had risen temptingly high and I just couldn’t stay inside anymore. I really wanted to catch something different, I was reaching my limit of catching the same bass and crappie over and over again. This led me to going on the search for a Warmouth!

Warmouth

By the end of the month I was finally free of my crutches and was ecstatic to be walking around (even if it was with a limp). This opened up the possibility to walk to different habitats and target different species of fish. I started with trying to target Black Crappie, and somehow instead managed to catch some gorgeous hybrid sunfish.

Hybrid Sunfish

But with a little persistence I was able to get the Black Crappie to play a long too!

Black Crappie

Having successfully caught the fish I was after I tied on a microfishing hook and decided to explore around and see if I could find anything new. To my surprise I ended up finding a new population of Blackspotted Topminnows! *Correction: After doing more research and sampling a larger size of this population it was determined that these were simply Blackstripe Topminnows that had more pigmentation above their lateral line.*

Blackspotted Topminnow

Along with the topminnows, I also found a number of juvenile sunfish. The coolest being this small Green Sunfish.

Green Sunfish

Seeing the little sunfish starting to move shallow I knew it was time to start shifting my focus more towards panfish. This seemed like a good excuse to tie on a jig and just explore around. I ended up settling on a new favorite ultralight jig that perfectly imitates a small crayfish. It even outperformed my usual minnow imitation jigs!

Bluegill

The final goal for the month was to catch a respectable Redear Sunfish. Luckily I know a few ponds that have strong populations of them. As a reward for making so much progress in physical therapy I reward myself with making a trip up to one of these ponds after work one day. There I was greeted with a good number of Largemouth Bass, Bluegill and most importantly some big Redear Sunfish.

Redear Sunfish

As February ends I can’t help but be incredibly thankful for all the people who have supported me through the last few months. I am incredibly lucky to have so many people willing to drop everything and help me. I have a new found appreciation for my health and am so grateful to be able to spend time outside again.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

Lake Spillway Fishing

Most people go to Ferdinand State Forest with the purpose of fishing in the main lake. I am not one of those people. You’ll see me walk right beside the lake and down the dam wall and stop at the small creek formed by the spillway. I have been laughed at countless times for fishing in this little creek, but I have yet to be disappointed by it. It holds large numbers of chubs and bass in the spring and crappie and panfish through the summer and fall.  The lake only thawed out this week so the water levels were high and water was terribly muddy. But this pushed a lot of water through the overflow and had the creek at decent level. The set up was simple, an ice fishing float tied on 18 inches above a jig with a piece of night crawler. With a fairly decent current at the top of the creek, the fish were congregated around the edges of the deep pool. It seemed I was reeling in a fish every minute or two, they were all small (the largest being around 9 inches) but they all produced that kid like excitement of watching a float dance and then shoot underwater. My prize catch this round was a small Longear Sunfish, it was amazing how few panfish there are in the creek this time of year (of the 70 fish I caught in the creek only 4 were panfish). The most photogenic of today’s catches:6tag_200216-2213586tag_200216-2214306tag_200216-2215506tag_200216-2216286tag_200216-2216476tag_200216-221758

So next time you are exploring a new lake don’t forget to check for a spillway, because often times this is where a good number of fish will be congregated. Tight lines

A Rainy Days Fishing

A large storm front was moving through today, leading to 7 hours of rain. Seeing this forecast I though the fishing would be incredible (like any good fisherman any excuse to go fishing is a valid excuse). The rain was supposed to start about noon, so I quickly found a spot to fish at and not be miserable. I ended up at Pigeon Creek for many reasons: Setting up under the Diamond Avenue bridge would give me cover from the rain, the creek is surrounded by woods so there would be a little bit of a wind break and there storm drain outlet there so I thought the fish would be feeding on everything that was getting washed out of it.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this creek and have found 2 lures that tend to catch fish pretty consistently: bucktail jigs and inline spinners. This spot is littered with snags, so I choose to work a little higher in the water column working a small rooster tail. On the third cast I caught a small bass. Shortly after this the rain started and the bite totally stopped. I saw a few small schools of shad swimming in the shallows, but there was not a single sign of any other fish. I didn’t have a single bite on lures, minnows or nightcrawlers so I decided it was time to move on.

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By the time I got to Burdette Park it was raining fairly hard so I bundled up in rain gear and set up my rods on the lower lake. The lake’s water level was significantly lower than I had expected, so I only worked the areas by the lily pads. This was probably the smartest thing I did today, I caught quite a few nice sized bluegill and rock bass. After a while the fish started getting smart and stopped biting, so I relocated the creek that feeds into the pond. I started working this area with minnows and had no interest so I switched to the last of the worms I had with me. I hooked a bluegill, warmouth or rock bass on each cast. The true spectacle that I caught from the creek the bluegill below

1024151535     I was amazed that with a scar that deep that his spine hadn’t been severed. This crane attack survivor was thriving and was the biggest bluegill I caught in the creek. All the fish after him were too small to even warrant a picture. Hopefully this storm front means that the temperatures will drop back down and the big fish start feeding again.