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 this year’s contest. I went with an election year Black Buffalo:

2016 Roughfish.com button

2016 Roughfish.com contest shirt

The buffalo is based on a photo I took years ago of a fish I seined with Uland Thomas in a tributary of the Illinois River. I’ve never caught one on hook and line, but my secret reason for putting it on the button this year is that it will provide the mojo I need to catch one.

Two weeks until June. I’m starting to shake and I’m drooling just a little more than usual.

Here is the Bowfin I did for the 2014 contest (http://moxostoma.com/bowfin-for-june-species-contest/):

2014 Roughfish.com button

and here’s the Pumpkinseed I made in 2013 (http://moxostoma.com/2013-roughfish-com-june-species-contest/):

2013 roughfish.com Spring Species Contest button

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 is this: when I interact with a gar—hold it in my hands, feel its armor and muscle flexing and really look at it—I’m in contact with the Earth not as my familiar home, but as it truly is, stripped of maps, knowledge, and all the other baggage we pile up to create our illusion of understanding and control. A gar in hand is time travel, the Earth before names and ideas.

I know I’m probably reading too much into this, but something is definitely different about the gar experience.

Pseudo-poetic BS aside, gar are bad-asses. Muscle, teeth, armor, hunger, tenacity, and confidence add up to a fish that’s a hell of a lot of fun to catch. Small or large, they fight like crazy and no matter how careful you are, they can—and will—cut you. A truly spectacular, beautiful animal.

I have now caught all 5 gar species in the U.S. (and though I’ve caught all 4 that live in Illinois, I have yet to realize my goal of catching all 4 of them in a single day). Only the tropical gar (Atractosteus tropicus) and the Cuban gar (Atractostes tristoechus) remain, and I intend to meet both of them eventually. Until then, there is no chance I’ll lose interest in continuing to fish for the “local” gars at every opportunity.

Remember: compared to gar, all other fish are just bait.

July 12, 2014, Illinois River backwaters: My lifer spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) Spotted gar! Spotted gar would NOT hold still. Luckily I've got shaolin monk speed.


January 6, 2014, Tamiami Trail, FL: Caught a bunch of Florida gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus) Florida gar Florida gar


August 31, 2013, Illinois River backwaters: My lifer alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula), believed to be the first one caught in Illinois since 1966. (More about this fish here, here and here.)Alligator Gar


June 7, 2012, Mississippi River, WI: My lifer longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus), 47 inches long and about 17 pounds, caught on a hookless rope lure.

Longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus), 47" long, Mississippi River, WI, 6/7/2012 (on a hookless rope lure)


July 28, 2011, LaSalle County, IL: One of many shortnose gar (Lepisosteus platostomus) I caught the day I got my first one (8 landed in first 12 casts).

shortnosegar_7-28-2011_garvana

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.

A fancier take on the pyramid of lips. Available on shirts, cups, phone cases, etc. at the zazzle store.

Wear the insignia of that most selective branch of the Forces of Truth and Fishing: The Redhorse Army!

Show your allegiance with shirts, water bottles, phone cases, hat, etc.: http://www.zazzle.com/chinookdesign. (True roughfishers start young, so there are baby and kid sizes.)

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: Garman on "Outside" radio (340 downloads)

Thanks again to Dale Bowman for the coverage and permission to share the podcast.

Check out my previous podcast post for a link to my episode of the show and links to several other episodes with related content.

Contact our agents to inquire about optioning our stories for movies or television.

And please spend some time at garfishing.com and roughfish.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Garman shows how it’s done

Here’s the man in action, with a longnose from one of the spots he talks about in the show.

1: Bringing in a rope lured longnose. This gar was between 40" and 50" (don't recall exact length) and leaped repeatedly completely out of the water. Despite that, it had no chance of coming loose from the rope lure.1: Bringing in a rope lured longnose. This gar was between 40″ and 50″ (don’t recall exact length) and leaped repeatedly completely out of the water. Despite that, it had no chance of coming loose from the rope lure. As Garman mentions in the show, sometimes longnose gar have spots on their heads that lead people to mistake them for spotted gar. With a beak that long, though, it’s clear what this fish is.

Note that the rope lure is so well tangled in the gar's teeth that it can support the fish's weight.2: Wear gloves and be quick. Note that the rope lure is so well tangled in the gar’s teeth that it can support the fish’s weight.

3: Grab the beak with Bruce Lee speed and confidence. The fish will thrash around and if your grip is not solid, you'll drop it. A gar is a lever and has the advantage.3: Grab the beak with Bruce Lee speed and confidence. The fish will thrash around and if your grip is not solid, you’ll drop it. A gar is a lever and has the advantage.

Any fibers left in the gar's mouth could lock it shut and make feeding impossible. As long as you've got a glove on the hand that's holding the fish, you'll be fine. Take your time and do it right.4: Use needlenose pliers to get ALL the rope out of the teeth. Any fibers left in the gar’s mouth could lock it shut and make feeding impossible. As long as you’ve got a glove on the hand that’s holding the fish, you’ll be fine. Take your time and do it right.

Painting lines at known distances on your boat makes measuring a 4-5 ft. fish a lot simpler than trying to hold it still while using a tape measure.5: Measure the fish. Painting lines at known distances on your boat makes measuring a 4-5 ft. fish a lot simpler than trying to hold it still while using a tape measure, especially if you’re fishing alone or in a small boat.

Seriously. What could be more fun than that? Now catch another one.6: Smile! You have a dinosaur in your hands. Seriously. What could be more fun than that? Only one thing: catching another one.

longnose gar close-upClose up with 100,000,000 years of predatory efficiency.

 

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 to be able to say that I didn’t curse, belch, forget the names of my children, or otherwise completely screw it up. I’m still waiting for a scientist to correct my pronunciation of moxostoma, since I’ve only heard one or two people say it out loud. So chime in, scientists. There’s still time for me to be embarrassed.

Download:

It’s available through iTunes, or right here: Talking gar, suckers, fishing, family and more on "Outside" radio/podcast (278 downloads)

(Thanks to Dale Bowman and WKCC for permission to host the file on this site.)

iTunes users can find it here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/olaf-nelson-loves-native-fishes/id424644694?i=168720244&mt=2

While you’re at it:

Previous episodes of “Outside” with a focus on gar and roughfish include:
An interview with Solomon David of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago (iTunes link)
An interview with Nathan Grider about the reintroducation of alligator gar in Illinois (iTunes link)
An interview with Nick Doumel, the (another) Brookfield Angler (iTunes link)

I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting. I’m grateful to Dale for hosting a show in which mentions of gar, redhorse and other rough fish are common enough that I can’t remember them all. Anyone interested in fish and nature more generally will probably find episodes of his show worth downloading, particularly those who live in IL, IN, WI and MI.

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 ID confirmed by an Illinois fisheries biologist. Pretty cool? The next day—the VERY next day, and in the same area of the river—his15-year-old brother caught a 21 inch, 3.74 pound shorthead.

For my money, however, the best part of the story is that they knew what they had caught. It’s a rare fisherman who knows the difference between redhorse species. In fact, most probably don’t know there are multiple species of redhorse and can’t reliably see the differences between redhorses and other suckers. I’ve watched clearly skilled anglers kill suckers in the mistaken belief that they were carp. But when John caught the record silver, he knew what it was and he knew the existing record. Bowman quotes him as saying “‘We go through a lot of DNR magazines and remembered the record was around 5 pounds.'” Icing on the fishcake is Andrew’s comment regarding his record shorthead: “‘I knew it what it was. We caught the species before. I knew what the record was.'”

Bowman shares my feelings about this: “What I find most interesting is how sharp the brothers were. They knew the species of redhorse (something I normally have to look up)
and that they were Illinois records.”

The Illinois shorthead record is beatable. I’ve caught specimens longer than and very close to the weight of Andrew’s fish. Hook an egg-laden female during the spawn and you could fairly easily have a state record fish.

To see the photos and read the whole story, see http://blogs.suntimes.com/bowman/2008/05/oh_brother_record_shorthead_su.html

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

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 fish that they’re not posting in the belief that no one is interested. Then, last month, the guys at False Casts and Flat Tires wrote about the largescale suckers they caught in Montana.

Yesterday this arrived:

Angler with flannelmouth sucker on Roaring Fork River, Coloradoflannelmouth suckerThe date: Feb. 13, 2012. The place: the Roaring Fork River, near Glenwood Springs, CO. The fortunate angler is Tom Gart and the guide is Kyle Holt of Taylor Creek Fly Shops. The fly: a #18 BH pheasant tail.

The fish: a  Flannelmouth Sucker (Catostomus latipinnis). It is good to see such a healthy-looking specimen, as their range and numbers have decreased due to loss of suitable habitat and competition with introduced species. They are not listed in Colorado, but Nevada lists the flannelmouth as a sensitive species and Utah lists it as being of special concern due to declining population.

The caption accompanying the photo on the Taylor Creek facebook page reads: “We all knew that Tom Gart was a sucker for winter float trips on the Roaring Fork but this is getting out of hand. Thankfully that’s one heck of a sucker! I don’t care what they say, that’s a cool fish! Gotta love the exotics.”

The fish is a native, of course, not exotic, unless by exotic he means “impressive, out of the ordinary, surprising and awe-inspiring.” It is one heck of a sucker.

No word on how Mr. Gart felt about this catch, but I hope he was suitably impressed with himself.

Taylor Creek’s Kirk Webb reports that they catch quite a few suckers. He wrote, “There’s plenty around here….and we all love them as much as the trout.” That’s the kind of attitude I like! If I could afford it, I’d buy a plane ticket and book a trip right now for flannelmouths, blueheads (and an occasional trout).

Thanks to Taylor Creek Fly Shops for permission to post their photo. I asked them to let me know if they find more shots like this. If they do, I’ll post them here. In the meantime, check out their photos on facebook. There’s even another sucker photo among them (not this same sucker).

Taylor Creek’s website is http://www.taylorcreek.com and their facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000439370575

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

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, it teaches the proper method of fishing with an unbent sewing needle.

Less important chapters include: Pickerel Trolling in Spring • Bait-fishing for Trout • Fishing for the Sun-fish and other “Boys’ Fishes” • Fly-fishing for Trout and Fly-making • Fly-fishing for Bass, Perch, Sun-fish, etc. • Minnow-fishing for Trout • Bass Fishing with the Minnow, etc. • Fishing through the Ice • Breeding Trout, etc., in Winter

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

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