Blue Suckers for NANFA 2017 Convention in Missouri

I was asked to design the t-shirt for this year’s annual meeting of the North American Native Fishes Association in Missouri (June 8-13, 2017, Meramec State Park). To register for the convention: http://www.nanfa.org/convention/2017.shtml There’s even something on the back, in case you’re being followed: The first batch of orders has shipped! To order a shirt (or a bunch of them): http://www.nanfa.org/cart.shtml#MOshirt (all proceeds go to NANFA, not me). They come in M, L, XL, XXL and XXXL.… Continue reading

2016 Roughfish.com June Species Contest

June is my favorite month, and has been ever since I discovered roughfish.com and the annual Spring Species Contest. This will be my 9th species contest. I won’t win (probably) but I’ll catch a lot of fish. If all goes well, I’ll beat all my previous totals by catching more than 30 species between 12:01AM June 1st and 11:59:59PM June 30th. For the third time, I was allowed to design the button (and shirt) for… Continue reading

Iris Catches the Unicorn

As parents, we want our kids to be better than we are and to do better than we have done. The other day I got a little taste of this idea in action. My daughters have fished as long as they’ve been able to hold a fishing pole. Both of them love it. But Iris, age 9, has developed a fishing addiction that rivals my own. All winter we talked about the fishing we’d do… Continue reading

Illinois Native Gar in the Legislature

Final update, June 2016 The resolution passed the House and Senate unanimously and the DNR has resumed (or will soon resume) the stocking of Alligator Gar in Illinois. Fingers crossed that there will be research into whether limits on gar killing are appropriate in some locations. Update, April 19 The Ag & Conservation Committee has adopted the resolution with a 13-0 vote. Thank you to everyone who registered support for this legislation. All our names… Continue reading

Gar Peril! Iowa, 1912

A man with a fish stuck in his eye.

Browsing old newspapers for interesting fish stories, I uncovered a very brief item of massive importance and interest. That this has remained hidden so long may be evidence of a cover-up (though there is, as yet, no way to know how high this goes). There are, in this single sentence, more stories than young Edward himself might have wanted us to find. If you have ever seen Jeremy Wade get so worked up over the… Continue reading

Halloween Fish Geekery

A few years ago, I created (in photoshop, not pumpkin flesh) a Norther Hog Sucker jack-o-lantern. I’ve felt like a bad person ever since, knowing that a real fish geek would have carved a real fish pumpkin. No longer! This year I bought a pumpkin with the right shape, I kept it inside so squirrels wouldn’t damage it, and I studied gar anatomy. Last night, I hooked up the electrodes to the lightning rods atop… Continue reading

Shortnose Gar Bonanza! (includes underwater video)

  The Spot There’s this spot. It’s on a river. Tough to get to: a long hike in wet grass, a rocky downhill, slipping in mud and stumbling and rolling on loose stones. Poison ivy everywhere. Trail barely visible unless you know where to look. Then you get to the river, where you slip and trip some more, and lots more poison ivy. Most of that is not exaggerated much. You won’t like it, even… Continue reading

Shorthead Redhorse Spawning in Living Color

Spring is the best season. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Anyone who claims fall is better is secretly paid to say it. Among the surest and most exciting signs of spring are the annual spawning runs of various fish in local waterways. The arrival of White Bass (Morone chrysops) in large numbers makes for exciting fishing. Though futile from a reproductive standpoint, the runs of Coho Salmon and Steelhead (Rainbow Trout) up Lake Michigan… Continue reading

State Record Shorthead Redhorse Caviar

I have asked myself many times what I would do if I happened to catch a record-sized fish. I suspect most of us who fish obsessively have thought about this. There are really only two choices. You either kill it, take it to a certified scale, fill out paperwork and get the record, or you photograph the hell out of it, measure it every way you can think of, then release it and bask in… Continue reading

Black Horse, Blue Sucker

 The following was first published, in an abridged form, in American Currents, (http://www.nanfa.org/ac.shtml and see my post about AC and NANFA here) Vol. 40, no. 1 (January, 2015). This online version will evolve as I find new information, new images, and additional sources. Fishing in the Public Domain Unlike features such as scale or ray counts, the names of fishes—scientific and common—are susceptible to the same forces as any human creation. What initially seem like… Continue reading

1917’s Sweet Smell of Spring in Minnesota: 2 Million Pounds of Dead Buffalo & Carp

DEAD FISH, BUFFALO LAKE, MARTIN COUNTY, SPRING OF 1917. Estimated 175,000 pounds smothered in this lake alone last winter. Game Warden Altenberg of Fairmount made a careful survey of the lakes of Martin county and found loss of fish in twenty lakes, the following, Martin, Charlotte, Cedar, Buffalo, Fish, North Silver, Iowa, Tuttle, Susan and East Chain, suffering most heavily. Mr. Altenbergy estimated the total loss from smothering of fish in Martin county last winter,… Continue reading

Modoc Sucker Delisting: Public Comment Period Extended

Anyone with scientific or other evidence regarding the health of the Modoc Sucker as a species has a very brief window during which additional comments may be submitted regarding the FWS proposal to remove the species from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife. De-listing was proposed a year ago (February, 2014). See my post about it here. The proposal states: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to remove the Modoc… Continue reading

Garz! (In hoc signo…)

A neon sign that says "GARZ."

Passed this sign the other day on the way to a river with a good population of Shortnose Gar (I still can’t get used to the idea that it’s now the accepted practice to capitalize common names, but I’m trying). The plan was to catch some. The sign seemed to promise me success. (In hoc signo vinces, right?) The obvious promise was broken.   As long as I’m posting signs of the coming of The… Continue reading

Mapping the Paddlefish (because someone had to do it) [updated Sep. 2016]

I needed a map showing the range of the Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula, also known as spoonbill catfish, among other things), one of North America’s most striking animals. Despite a lot of searching (online and in books), however, I couldn’t find any map that was both up-to-date and of sufficient quality. I also couldn’t find any single listing of the species’ current status in all states where it is found, nor the regulations governing if/how it… Continue reading

Like native fish? Check out NANFA.

The North American Native Fishes Association (http://nanfa.org) is dedicated to native fish conservation, science, education, promotion, and appreciation. It publishes American Currents, a full-color quarterly journal (of which I am an editor as of a couple issues ago) that is mailed to all members. The annual convention, held in a different part of the country each year, brings together scientists, anglers, photographers, aquarists and other fishy people for several days of collecting fish, snorkeling with… Continue reading

Gar Accomplished: all 5 US species

Contact with gar fires me up in a way no other group of fish does, and I know I’m not alone in appreciating these fish. The reaction they ignite in me is located somewhere deeper than the feelings touched off by more recently arrived fishes like trout, bass, or even suckers. It’s been said before by others who have found themselves addicted to these fish: they’re dinosaurs, dragons, pure predators, living fossils. For me it… Continue reading

The World of Suckers (1909) and the Growth of Suckerism

Cover of the World of Suckers by Lionel Josaphare (1909)

Suckerism is not a circumstantial folly but an active emotion. Lionel Josaphare All hail the great unacknowledged scholar of suckers and suckerism, Lionel Josaphare (1876–?), whose work belongs on the shelf with your other fish books. It even includes valuable information missing from all those old Jordan & Evermann books and your $250 copy of Becker’s Fishes of Wisconsin. Though they covered a great many species, they apparently ignored quite a few. According to The… Continue reading

Bowfin for June Species Contest

I got to draw the button (and t-shirt) again this year for the roughfish.com June species contest. Last year I did a pumpkinseed. This year I made a bowfin. (Last weekend I was fishing with Garman and asked what kind of fish he thought I should draw. He said a bowfin would be cool. I ran with it.) To enter the contest, get an account at roughfish.com, buy the button and/or t-shirt, wait til 12:01AM on… Continue reading

Some new fishy hats and shirts

Sturgeon logo hat

There are still more in progress, but I did add a few designs to the zazzle shop. These are all based on woodcuts from 1833. All are available on just about any size and color of shirt, including baby onesies and men’s and women’s styles. Who can forget the iconic sturgeon logo of the famous (imaginary) Sturgeon Mfg. Co., makers of heavy equipment that built this country?   Everyone loves bullheads. This one’s good to… Continue reading

Illinois Gar Summit I, Feb. 2014

Illinois Gar Summit I, 2014: Bill Meyer, Olaf Nelson. Solomon David and a cenury-old (plus) Alligator Gar in the deepest recesses of the Field Museum in Chicago.

After months of hopeful but vague discussion about getting together to talk gar (and other cool fish), three of the most gar obsessed citizens of Illinois finally managed to meet at the end of February. Solomon David, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Shedd Aquarium (and see primitivefishes.com), hosted Bill Meyer (founder of garfishing.com and the Gar Angler’s Sporting Society [GASS]) and me for a full day of fish nerding. We enjoyed a tour behind the… Continue reading

New Work on Species of Western Mountain Suckers (Pantosteus)

A new paper does a lot for our understanding of the several Mountain Sucker species in the genus Pantosteus. It elevates Pantosteus back to genus and elevates some old species. It divides Bluehead Suckers into two species: P. discobolus (in the Colorado Basin) and  P. virescens (in the Bonneville and Snake basins). It divides mountain suckers into P. platyrhynchus (in the Bonneville and Snake basins), P. jordani (in the Missouri Basin), P. lahontan (in the… Continue reading

Modoc Sucker no longer endangered?

After almost 30 years on the endangered species list, the Modoc sucker (Catostomus microps) is up for delisting, according to an article from the Klamath Falls Herald and News, by Lacey Jarrell (found on the Oregon Public Broadcasting site) (see also this excellent post on the Introduction to Fisheries blog). The species, which lives in a small area of northern California and southern Oregon, was listed by the state of California in 1980, then federally… Continue reading

Redhorse Army, show your allegiance!

There is a new redhorse design for sale in the zazzle store, created in response to a few people who told me that they like the pyramid of redhorse lips, but don’t want to have to explain it all the time. This time the word REDHORSE is prominently featured (along with an unblinking redhorse eye). I don’t know how much it will help, since I’m asked all the time what “redhorse” means. Wear the insignia… Continue reading

J. K. Rowling: Closet Roughfisher? Secret Gar Message Hidden in Harry Potter

J. K. Rowling loves gar. Big gar. She probably thought no one would notice this subliminal plug for the dark art of fishing for big gar, but roughfishers are good at noticing things where others see nothing. (From Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone.) Make the gar nice and long, indeed.   Continue reading

Another Gar and Roughfish podcast to download (not me this time!)

Want to hear what it means to talk without ambiguity about something you really love? Doing his part in our ongoing effort to storm the halls of fishing power and supplant the trout and bass overlords, Garman appeared recently on the same public radio outdoors show I was on a couple weeks ago. He is much more entertaining than I was. I promise. Download it here: Thanks again to Dale Bowman for the coverage and… Continue reading

Gar and suckers (and me) on the radio (and iTunes) today

As if the newspaper article about my deviant fishing tastes and the alligator gar I caught wasn’t enough, today a radio show is being broadcast on the same subjects. I was actually allowed to sit in a recording studio and talk for half an hour about my thoughts on fish, fishing, and more. After a week of imagining all the stupid things I might have said and strange sounds I might have made, I’m relieved… Continue reading

Moxillumination

Sunshine and a cooperative little shorthead. Is there a word or term for that zone of both rays and barely-formed scales, or for the stage of scale formation where they are more hints than scales? If not, there ought to be. Suggestions? This little channel catfish (8 or 9 inches at most) also had a healthy glow when x-rayed by the sun. Continue reading

Gator Gar in the Newspaper!

If you have access a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times from Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2013, ignore the front page (mass shooting, corruption trial, food festival) and skip immediately to page 65. (If you happen to be my mom, I’ll send you a copy.) The headline: “Gator (gar) in the house.” Try not to look at the small mugshot. Focus on the words and the bigger photo. It’s also online: http://www.suntimes.com/sports/outdoors/22773269-452/brookfield-man-lands-first-alligator-gar-in-illinois-since-1966.html Who would have guessed that… Continue reading

Underwater/overwater shorthead

(Click on the photos to see them larger.) Since this shorthead redhorse decided to lay in the shallows getting its breath back after being caught and released, I knelt down to get some photos. I was still set up for macro (extension tube), so I couldn’t get the whole fish and it was just luck that any of the shots had areas that were in focus. Sand moving by in the current and landing on… Continue reading

Gar fans, take a look at these sites

Two gar- and bowfin-related sites I found a few days ago are worth looking at if you’ve caught that particular sickness. Both are run by Solomon David, currently a postdoctoral research associate at the Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation & Research at the John G. Shedd Aquarium and jointly at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology. (I took that text straight from the About page of one of the sites.) Tropical gar at… Continue reading

Catching gator gar, making history

In 1966, at the very southern tip of Illinois, a 7 foot, 150 pound alligator gar was caught on hook and line. There are no records of any being caught (by any method) in the state after that. 1966. Three  years before I was born. No one had been to  the moon yet. Computers that couldn’t even send offers of cheap Canadian pharmaceuticals or display low-resolution pornography were the size of Econoline vans and required… Continue reading

Insects, ice, turtles, bones and other macro obsessions

Ant combat. 5/30/2013

It’s not close to overtaking fishing, but my obsession with photography is definitely in the race. Last winter I accidentally discovered a world of beautiful abstractions inside large blocks of ice that formed in the back yard, and when spring finally came and ice was no longer an option, I re-discovered a fascination with insects. Despite not yet having a true macro lens, and despite my dSLR being a few rungs below where I’d like… Continue reading

The 2013 roughfish.com June Species Contest is upon us!

Let the wild rumpus begin! To enter, go to http://www.roughfish.com and sign up. There is even a kids’ division. You have to have the button to participate. It has to be in the photos of the fish you catch. The winner is the one who catches the most species of fish (freshwater, must be species that get over a pound) in the month of June. It won’t be me, and I’m fine with that. Last… Continue reading

A blue sucker in the hand is worth 100 in books

I have held blue suckers. A bunch of them.   (There are more photos below. Read on or scroll down.) It turns out that if you start a site devoted to catostomids, and you’re very polite to the right people, you might find yourself spending a sunny May day on board a boat in the Wisconsin River with a net in your hands and hundreds of suckers (of many species) and sturgeon (of two species)… Continue reading

Juvenile quillback carpsuckers on hook and line

Multi-species angler Ben Cantrell managed to catch a couple of juvenile quillbacks (Carpiodes cyprinus) recently (late March, 2013), and since I have never seen any this young—in person or in photos this clear—I asked if he would let me post them here. (Edit: Ben has since written up this story on his own blog, along with other fishing successes. Check it out for some great fish and photos: http://bencantrellfish.blogspot.com/) These were caught in an area… Continue reading

Two brothers, two days, two Illinois state record redhorses

This story is a few years old (the following is based on Dale Bowman’s report in the Chicago Sun-Times on May 14, 2008, linked below), but it’s a beauty: Brothers Andrew and John Chione were fishing the Fox River west of Chicago in 2008 for carp, catfish and anything else that would bite. On April 24th,13-year-old John caught a 25.5 inch, 6.71 pound silver redhorse, got it weighed on a certified scale and had the… Continue reading

Goldfish under ice

Goldfish under ice.

This gallery contains 5 photos.

The winter tends to be a time of increased artistic output for me since I can’t fish or garden when water and/or soil and/or air are frozen. This year the area of creativity that’s getting the most sustained workout is photography. Though I am not particularly fond of ice fishing, I do like ice itself quite a bit. These fish (I’m calling them goldfish, though some may actually be koi (i.e., common carp) were active… Continue reading

December Redhorse Dorsal

a dorsal fin

Got out fishing in a favorite creek today, and though it’s December 2nd, for a while a long-sleeved t-shirt was too warm. For the first time in months, a sucker was caught. I’d really hoped to get one more before snow, ice and holidays derailed my fishing. The rock bass were on fire, including one that missed becoming the new Illinois state record (1 pound, 10 ounces) by only a few ounces. Largest rock bass… Continue reading

Recovery and protection of the Robust Redhorse

Judging from the photos I’ve seen, and from the gorgeous tuberculate specimen depicted by Joseph Tommeleri (see the factsheet pdf mentioned below), the robust redhorse is an awesome fish. They get big, they live a long time, and they have come back from extinction. For more on robust redhorse see The Robust Redhorse Conservation Committee website (http://www.robustredhorse.com/) and download their 2 page fact sheet. This video gives a very brief account of the efforts of… Continue reading

Northern Illinois Greater Redhorse, April 2012

How often do you get to meet a new fishing buddy, discover half a dozen excellent multi-species fishing spots within an hour of home, sample the fish resident in those new locations while learning a bit about handling several different types of seines, learn a bit about photo tanks and fish photography, and see and handle dozens of new fish species, including one that’s listed as endangered in the state? Not very often. In April… Continue reading

New World Record Buffalo (and maybe a World Record Gar) in Texas

Lots of amazing fish being caught in TX recently. David G. and his brother got into some monster fish, including big alligator gar, huge smallmouth buffalo and what might have been a world record longnose gar at 61 inches and an estimated weight (based on length and girth) of 49.6 pounds. The world record, which some say is probably a hybrid longnose/alligator, is 50 pounds and change. The brothers G didn’t have a scale, so… Continue reading

Flannelmouth sucker, on a fly, in Colorado, in February

Angler with flannelmouth sucker on Roaring Fork River, Colorado

I spend a fair amount of time reading about fishing—in books and online—and, as I’ve noted elsewhere on this site, I’m weary of the preponderance of trout writing and trout photos. As I’ve also said, I am a big fan of trout and trout fishing. I just don’t like to see fishing limited to a few types of fish. I’ve wondered if the many bloggers and authors posting amazing trout photos have shots of other… Continue reading

Largescale Suckers on the Fly, Montana, January

Bitterroot River largescale sucker

The lucky SOBs highly skilled anglers over at False Casts and Flat Tires got a surprise gift from the Bitterroot River recently, and I’m jealous: a bunch of 20″ largescale suckers (Catostomus macrocheilus) and some trout to keep them busy while waiting for another sucker to bite. I can’t go home to Montana and catch fish like these now, so I’m grateful they chose to post excellent photos (and give me permission to post them… Continue reading

Cowardly pike, sportless walleye, evil gar, holy trout & virtuous whitefish

Looking for Insults I tend to get pretty angry when I find anti-sucker (and other roughfish) sentiment on the web or in current publications. By now, shouldn’t everyone know better? In older sources, however, I make a point of looking for insults, dismissals, diatribes and condemnations of the fish I like. It’s fun to read. While I wouldn’t expect old books aimed at a popular audience (how-to-fish manuals, fishing guidebooks, memoirs of fishermen) to cover… Continue reading

The Boy’s Own Guide to (sucker) Fishing (1894)

The boy's own guide to fishing, tackle-making and fish-breeding (cover)

Here’s a first: A book that doesn’t malign suckers and doesn’t just mention them in passing or as bait but has an entire chapter about sucker fishing gives suckers pride of place with the first chapter recommends fishing for suckers recommends eating suckers and says they’re as good as trout instructs the reader on proper methods of worm cleaning There are some slights against suckers, but nothing major and far outweighed by the positives. Plus,… Continue reading

Suckers, eels and other vermin

Title page of an old book showing fishing gear

From page 217 of The Book of Fish and Fishing by Louis Rhead, 1917: For big trout, lying low in deep pools, more particularly the brown trout, the worm should be sunk to the bottom; it is sure to be taken quick, if the worm is actively alive. Of course, suckers, eels, and other vermin are liable to take it, if left in one position for any length of time. To prevent such annoyance, keep… Continue reading

Redhorse prints finally available!

I have finally managed to align all the planets and get printing started. These are giclee prints on heavy matte paper. This is not a thin, glossy poster that a teenagers would tape inside a locker. If you have a wall, a hammer and a nail, you might even consider putting it in a frame and hanging it next to pictures of your kids and Cranky Aunt Ethel. Now available through Etsy.com, if you’re into… Continue reading

Tiger Trout print

Now available through Etsy.com, if that’s the way you’d prefer to get it. Tiger trout prints are available. Giclee prints on heavy, matte paper. Colors are vibrant, printing is crisp and clear. I’m really happy with how these turned out. (The dark blue border is part of the poster, not a mat or frame.) Two sizes: large (32″ wide x 15.8″ high) and medium (24″ wide x 12″ high). The larger version is $50 and… Continue reading