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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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