December 31, 2012

2012 Florida Road Trip (Day 4)

While my sister and her boyfriend spent the day at Sawgrass Outlet Mall, Michael and I woke up at 6am to start our fishing day. Our first stop was the canal next to the Port Everglades Expressway. A friend of ours suggested this location to catch Spotted Tilapia, Mayan Cichlid and Yellow Belly Cichlid.

As soon as we started fishing, we found some Spotted Tilapia hiding under the dock.

Spotted Tilapia (Tilapia mariae) – new species #3

While I was catching more Spotted Tilapia to be used as bait, a Butterfly Peacock appeared out of nowhere to scattered the school. Unfortunately, the Butterfly Peacock, nor the Cobra Snakehead, came around to take our live bait.

We were having trouble finding Yellow Belly Cichlid. I stepped back for a second to analyze the situation, then decided to search the rock crevices lining the shore. My worm was immediately grabbed by a Yellow Belly Cichlid!

Yellow Belly Cichlid (Cichlasoma salvini) – new species #4

My thought was that with predators like Largemouth Bass, Peacock Bass and Cobra Snakehead swimming around, these small cichlids would not be caught hanging out in the open. It was great to figure out their hiding places and we caught many of them very quickly. Michael and I also caught some Mayan Cichlids, new to Michael, but I’ve caught them before.

After checking off our target species at this spot, we headed to a set of urban ponds connected by canals. Our major target here was the Jaguar Guapote. On arrival, we caught a few small Yellow Belly Cichlid to use as bait. It wasn’t long when Michael saw a dark fish refused his live cichlid. I tried the spot again with another live cichlid. As the cichlid swam under a culvert out of sight, my line went tight and I set the hook on a decent size fish. There was a flash of violet and I knew it was the Jaguar Guapote! We were not sure why it had refused Michael’s cichlid but taken mine. I thought that perhaps the fish had seen Michael and refused the bait, while I freelined the cichlid so it would swim under the culvert so it would be out of sight.

Jaguar Guapote (Parachromis managuensis) – new species #5

That was all the Jaguar Guapote we caught this day. Michael said he saw a couple more, and I might have seen another one, but the cold weather we experienced for the last couple of days must have turned these tropical exotic species into inactive mode. They simply didn’t want to play. We knew fishing was hard when Largemouth Bass were refusing to bite a lively cichlid!

We had to constantly watch where we step since any shoreline grass could hide a Water Moccasin. We got a little scare when this snake crept up on us, but luckily it was just a non-poisonous Brown Water Snake.

Aside from the cichlid and Largemouth Bass, there were a large number of Grass Carp in the ponds, as well as a small school of mullet plus a wayward Common Snook! It was quite the sight to see a 5-6lb snook swimming in this pond. There were a large number of plecos that ignored all our offerings, but we found a Brown Bullhead while deadsticking a worm. This southern population of the Brown Bullhead has very cool mottled marking that almost look like a camo pattern.

After fishing at this location for another few hours, we decided to return to Coral Springs to try fishing the canals in the area for Cobra Snakehead. Since the water was cold, late afternoon gave us the best possible chance to find active fish. The water must have been too cold. We did not see any snakeheads nor received any hits. I had one hit that might just had been a Largemouth Bass. We were fishing soft plastic frogs trying for a topwater bite. After searching 2 canals for nada, we ran out of daylight.

We had to return to my uncle’s house by 5pm anyways since we were meeting with my mom’s older sister for dinner that night.

Here’s my family and my sister’s boyfriend.

December 30, 2012

2012 Florida Road Trip (Day 3)

I spent the day with my sister and her boyfriend at Kennedy Space Center. We had a great time and it was a non-fishing day for me. It was a little cold and wet but we still had a good time. We dropped Michael off at Port Canaveral and he caught a couple of Bluefish, a Spot Croaker and a Gaffsailtop Catfish. At the end of the day, we drove to Coral Springs to spend the next few days at my uncle’s house.

December 29, 2012

2012 Florida Road Trip (Day 2)

We woke up early only to find a very cold and rainy morning. Behind the winter storm that delayed our trip, a cold front followed and the temperature plummeted to about 5C in Orlando that evening. My sister had planned to visit Universal Studio and Michael and I had planned to fish in Tampa again, however, the rain didn’t let up until 10am. While my sister and her boyfriend got ready, Michael and I checked out a little pond behind my cousin’s neighbourhood. We found a number of sailfin catfish that were unwilling to bite worms. After I dropped my sister and her boyfriend at the theme park, it was a little too late to fish Tampa. I joined Michael at the pond trying to find a way to catch the sailfin catfish. We did catch a few small Bluegill Sunfish and Michael caught his first Golden Shiner.

After lunch at my cousin’s house, my cousin suggested that we should try the lake close to their house. Among the common freshwater species was the potential of finding Florida Gar, a species new to both Michael and I.

My cousin and his daughter Ava came to fish with us. Ava was the superstar that day when she found a 13” Black Crappie. These crappies were schooled under the dock and we caught 3 more between 12-14” that day!

My own jumbo crappie!

A nice Black Crappie photograph for my lifelist

There were also some very massive (by Ontario standard) Bluegill Sunfish.

Michael cut up a small sunfish to use as gar bait to be fished on bottom and got a fish to take the bait. However, the hook didn’t set and left us wondering if it was a gar.

While we didn’t find any gar that day, I caught a pair of Redear Sunfish. I caught a suspected juvenile Redear Sunfish in Virginia but didn’t count it since the identity could not be 100% verified. The Redear Sunfish was one of my top target to catch so it was nice to check it off so early.

Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) – new species #2

Later, I caught a 6” Golden Shiner and suggested to Michael to use as live bait. A while later, the Golden Shiner got picked up and it was a Largemouth Bass. Michael said it was at least 3.5lbs…but I said it was between 2.5-3lbs.

That was it for the day of fishing. We took the 4 crappies and one big bluegill back to my cousin’s house and had a Florida shore lunch…it was so good!!!

December 28, 2012

2012 Florida Road Trip (Day 1)

Back in the fall, my sister and I considered the idea to spend Christmas break with our family in Florida. Soon, we roped in my sister’s boyfriend and my fishing friend Michael to join us on the trip. Since we were all on limited budget, we decided to do a road trip to Florida instead of flying.

We had planned to depart Toronto at 5am for a long day of driving ahead. However, when a winter storm blew across much of the US and part of southern Ontario to create treacherous driving conditions, we had no choice but to sit at home to wait for the highways to be cleared of snow. Finally, the roads were plowed by 12pm and we headed on our way to Orlando. We alternated drivers every 3 hours and drove straight for 24 hours. We were hoping to arrive in Orlando around noon on Dec 28h so my sister and her boyfriend can spend most of the day and evening at Magic Kingdom. However, a traffic jam slowed our progress and an afternoon storm also interrupted the day. In the end, my sister gave me the OK to head to Tampa to do a little fishing with what was left of our day.

As we were headed to Tampa at 3pm, the sky darkened and looked to threaten our chance to fish. Indeed, about 30 minutes from our fishing location, it started pouring! Oh boy…what a way to start this trip.

Luckily, the rain let up a bit on our arrival. It allowed Michael and I about 30 minutes to find our target species. Jack Dempsey was established in a little creek and we quickly found them hiding among vegetation. They were willing biters and often rush out of the dense vegetation to grab our worms.

Jack Dempsey (Cichlasoma octofasciata) – new species #1

Rio Grande Cichlid should also be established in the system. We didn’t find them this day. Before long, we lost daylight and had to continue our way to Orlando. It started raining again and we had never seen so many accidents! There were collisions and cars spun out. Even a transport truck drove into the ditch! Being Canadians who driven on snowy roads or blizzard conditions, we laughed about how poorly Floridian handled the little bit of rain and the slightly wet road conditions.

We arrived at my cousins at 8pm and went out for some Korean food. Since we had a long day of driving, everyone went to bed pretty quickly after dinner.

November 23, 2012

When grown men fell to 1-inch fish

People often say big fish are difficult to catch. We would argue that it is the smallest fish that drives grown men insane.

Michael and I had a mission to try fishing for darter species for the first time. We fished a stream that were reported to have Johnny Darter, Fantail Darter and Rainbow Darter. I had seen some darters in the past during the summer, but since this is now mid-fall, it was uncertain if we would see any of them today.

We got to the stream as the sun was just below the tree tops. We took a look at a couple of areas where I've seen them before. With the colder water temperature, the darters were not using the shallow gravel flats where they were common in the summer.

We started to present our bait in slight deeper water with a bit of current, check around any rock crevices where darters might hide. For an hour, it was just a complete failure.

Finally, I suggested to check out a deeper pool with flat bedrock bottom, a bit of gravel and sand covering that bedrock, and a few boulders distributed around as cover. We found a lot of Silver Shiners, Striped Shiners, and Northern Hogsucker in this pool. We spent a bit of time trying to figure out just what kind of minnow population was there. There were a couple of minnows with a black stripe that we couldn't identify without catching them. Michael also saw some diamond shaped minnow that he said looked more like barbs. We didn't catch any of them though.

Silver Shiner (Notropis photogenis) is a Species At Risk in Ontario, but they were very abundant in this creek.

Here's a look at our photograph holder turned micro photo tank.

After a while, I started to search for darters again in the head of this pool. I saw a few darters and a couple of them were slightly larger in size with multiple bars. They could be Johnny Darter or Fantail Darter; but I wasn't able to get them to bite. There were some smaller darters and one hit the tiny bit of worm but couldn't hook it.

Later in the day, Michael and I decided to move downstream to search another spot for darter. On the way, I spotted a darter sitting on top of a rock. We fished for this darter for a while and Michael and I both got bit by this fish. Michael even managed to hook it for a bit until the hook came out. So close!

The fish lost interest after getting hooked. I said it's funny we're so concentrated on one fish when there could be many more around us. Michael started looking and we noticed all the little darter around us!

At one point, Michael was fishing amongst a small group of 4 darters. They were crafty bait thieves and after cleaning the hooks a few times, they lost interest and disappeared. We were constantly talking to the fish, asking for them to hit and take the hook in the mouth. We looked for some new fish, some of which shown interest. When they would suck and spit the baited hook quickly, we cursed them. When they cleaned our hooks, we cursed some more.

The water was so cold, even with 3mm neoprene waders. I forgot my wool socks today and my feet were completely frozen to the point it was tingling the whole time, like needles prickling every second all over your feet. But we couldn't really move around too much to warm up since any big movement would drive the darters away. Michael and I just numbed ourselves to the pain and concentrated our minds toward the little fish.

Finally, I found one lone darter sitting out in the clear and presented my bait in front of the fish. It quickly pounced on the bait. At that moment, the wind picked up and the ripples on the water blocked our view of the fish. Once the wind died down, I couldn't see my bait, so I tried to pull my rig up to see if I had any bait left. I saw the fish attached to the line and was excited for a moment until the fish came off just as it broke the surface! Argh! More cursing...

The wind started getting worse and worse and ripples constantly obstructed our views of the little fish and their activity. When I found a new darter, I was lucky enough to have a moment of calm as the fish bit my baited hook. This time, I let it chew on the bait for a while longer. The fish was twisting and turning and I figured that it had already took the hook far enough and perhaps hooked itself. did hooked itself!!! This time, I tried to remain calm and collected until I had the fish lifted up, filled the micro photo tank with water, and put the little fish in the photo tank.

Finally, I caught my first Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum) - species #277!

This one is likely a female. Although the male spawning colours does fade in the fall, but I doubt their colours fade this much.

Meanwhile, Michael was trying to precisely present his bait to some darters at his feet. The rod became useless and he was reduced to hand-lining for darters. It was at that point we realized we should be institutionalized. We're probably suffering frost bite on our feet, yet we're hand-lining for 1-inch fish...we've gone crazy.

After an extended photo session of the little beautiful darter, it was released unharmed and healthy. I returned to fishing and immediately found a smaller darter. I thought maybe it was another species of darter. This darter went for the bait and it did the same twist and turn on the line...and up came my second darter of the day! Unfortunately, it was another Rainbow Darter. This one may be a juvenile. It was this SMALL.

I then joined Michael to look for more fish for him to target. Strangely, the fish seemed to have disappeared. We were not sure what changed, but after thinking about it a little, we concluded that perhaps the sun has to do with it. We started finding the darters at about 2pm after the sun was hit the water for a while. The darters might have came out to sun themselves. Once warm enough, their activity level might have increased enough to feed. But when the sun dropped below the tree tops at 4pm, the darters disappeared.

We were fishing on the left side in this picture...maybe we should have checked the right side of the stream at the head of the pool where I saw some earlier at 2pm.

We stayed on the creek until 5pm looking for darters but found none. We did catch some more Silver Shiner, Common Shiner, Striped Shiner and what I thought was another new species. However, looking at the pictures at home, it might just have been a juvenile Striped Shiner.

It was a great day on the stream, a little nice break after a few days of solid work.

November 17, 2012

Urban new species

As I check off many of the standard size species in Ontario, it is getting harder and harder to add new species locally.

Yet, within the urban landscape, there remains many little creeks and rivers where micro species opportunities exist yet to be explored (by me).

After a few weeks of work and other obligations, I finally had a few morning hours to explore a little urban creek that a forum member, Nick, had caught some interesting micro species.

Similar to many creeks and rivers in Southern Ontario, this little creek is populated with many Creek Chubs. This species of minnow often greatly outnumber all other minnow species in the same body of water. It will make it difficult to find my target species, the Western Blacknose Dace, among all the Creek Chubs. There is also a remote chance to encounter a Redside Dace, which is locally endangered in Ontario.

Many of these minnows are quite small. I choose to use New Half Moon tanago hooks snelled on 2lb mono tippet to have a chance hooking these little fish. Although I didn't have an ultralight or tanago rod, I made it work with a medium spinning rod.

Early in the morning, the water temperature might have been too cold. The fish were extremely shy and easily spooked. Many times, our approach to the stream side caused the fish to vacate the area. We needed to stay still for a few minutes until the fish settled down and returned to the area. Even so, any splashes created by the landing of a tiny float or split shots would send the fish running again. In the end, it was best to gently lower the rig ahead of a school of minnow and wait for them to find they bait on their own.

Once the sun climbed higher in the sky, the fish got a little more active. We also found a nice little pool where the fish were a bit more cooperative. It didn't take long to catch some Creek Chub. I finally had a chance to test a micro species photo tank that Michael made for us.

Now I am able to photograph these small minnows with good focus, good lighting and with fins fully spaded while keeping the fish in the water to increase their post-release survival!

Unfortunately, this pool was filled with Creek Chub. My forum friend Nick did catch a Western Blacknose Dace though.

After spending an hour at this pool, Nick suggested to check out a previous spot fished earlier in the morning - a spot where he believed there were more Western Blacknose Dace.

This time, the fish were a little more active. They were hiding tight to an undercut bank where shoreline brush had grown over the bank. It was a little tricky positioning the rig in the right area, but once it was in the area, fish would respond. I quickly caught two very small Creek Chub, but also saw two larger minnow inspected and attacked the split shot.

Luckily, I noticed a minnow with a different appearance gobbled up my tiny chunk of worm. Finally, it was a 2.5" Western Blacknose Dace (Rhinichthys obtusus) - my new species #276!

The photo tank allowed for great closeup picture!

It was a great test run of some micro fishing gear today. Catching a new species made it all the better!

October 22, 2012

Wishing upon the Orionids for a Lake Sturgeon

Acipenser, a genus of sturgeon, are magical creatures. Long-lived, slow growing and ancient, these great fishes have suffered assault from humans across Canada. Development of ravines degraded water quality while channelization, dredging and damming contributed to loss of habitat and spawning site. In Ontario, the once plentiful Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) had suffered a dramatic and rapid decline due to overfishing. Only in Northern Ontario do pockets of Lake Sturgeon continued to survive in sustainable (and even overpopulated) numbers. Southern Ontario Lake Sturgeon are rare if not of mythical status. Here and there, reports of the odd sturgeon were caught at the Lower Niagara River, the French River, Lake Nipissing, Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River. The simple fact that these wonderful gentle giants are so rare had us jaw dropped for what had unfolded over the weekend.

In the spring, I visited my friend Eli as he helped me accomplished my first Greater Redhorse. He had mentioned, under a quiet breath, that he knows of a fall opportunity for constant channel catfish with a possibly of a special whiskered bycatch. He suggested a visit in mid-October to “try” for my first Lake Sturgeon.

We treated these animals with utmost respect by gentle handling, short photography session and an unrushed, careful release. We used heavy gear to bring these fish quickly to hand such that they are in prime condition for release. We kept the fish in the water at all times possible except for a quick lift for a picture. In all cases the sturgeon swam away strong as soon as we put the back into the river.

My recent fishing protégé, Michael, had been quietly expanding his own lifelist. Looking for someone to share the adventure (and costs LOL), I invited Michael on this quest for the mystical creature. There were also additional target species that Michael could benefit on this trip, including walleye, sauger and redhorse species. What unfolded was nothing short of amazing.

On Friday, we left Toronto for the land unknown. After a very long drive, we finally arrived at our promise land. The weather was threatening with strong wind and heavy rain. The wind reminded gusty and the rain came down steadily. Adorned in rain gear, we struggled to fight the wind and driving rain to set up camp. In anticipation for a long night of tough fishing, gear and food were well prepared, if not over prepared.

We finished set up by late afternoon. Perhaps the Fish Gods were favouring our quest as the rain stopped not long after we began fishing. The water level had risen a bit and the current was rather strong. Our terminal tackle choice also had to consider the amount of sticks, leaves and grass that drift down this ever-moving conveyor belt of water as it flow southeastward toward the Atlantic Ocean. We were using heavy freshwater rods, large baitrunner spinning reel or conventional reel with a clicker, and heavy mono or braid line. Although Michael and Eli used 2oz sinkers, I preferred a 3oz bank sinker to anchor the line on the muddy and sandy bottom. Even so, a clump of eel grass often entangled the line and dragged the rig downstream. Since we were after channel catfish and remaining hopeful for the right kind of bycatch, we used whole nightcrawler to entice our whiskered friends. We used clip on bells to help signal bites in the darkness. In addition, we borrowed a couple of rod pod and bite alarm from Andrea for this event since we were prepared to fish three straight nights to accomplish our mystic goals. The loud alarms were our insurance policy in case we felt asleep at 4am and the mythical creature decided to bite.

Fishing was fairly slow on Friday afternoon. I started the action with a medium perch. Michael bested me an hour later with our target Channel Catfish.

Just as the light was fading, Michael was checking his rig when something felt like a snag during mid retrieve. The “snag” magically turned into a Silver Redhorse that didn’t fight much on Michael’s rig. Michael was beaming since this was his first Silver Redhorse.

Once dark, we started to catch a few more channel catfish. Most were in the 1lb range and not very photogenic. While waiting for something bigger, Michael was reeling in his line to check bait when he noticed his rig was not coming in smoothly. Indeed, at the end of the line was the smallest Burbot I’ve ever seen. We did not expect to catch any Burbot here and it was a welcoming surprise for Michael as he checked off one more species!

A little later, Michael had a small bite that turned into his first ever Walleye. 

Action was pretty lame for me since they were mostly small bites with the odd channel catfish. By 8pm, my friend Eli arrived and proceeded to put on a clinic. He set up on his favourite rock and quickly caught some better channel catfish in the 2-3lb range. At about 10pm, he had this knowing but relaxed stance as he held the rod in hand to sense a steady, vibrating bite. When the hook set finally came, the rod doubled over and a great fish surged. Somewhere in the darkness, we heard a sizeable breach as the fish identified itself. Yes…this is our target “bycatch”. Michael and I held our breath as the mythical creature soon came to colour in the shallows. I had the honour to tail this wonderful juvenile, being careful of the sharp scutes on the tail and back of this young specimen.

Michael and I were hopeful about our prospect. Every strong bite we received appeared to be the “right kind”, but we were disappointed a few times when channel catfish revealed themselves. Eli, being the sturgeon whisperer that he is, hooked up to another mythical creature an hour later. This fish jump in the distance and we already knew it was bigger than the last fish. However, when the fish jumped close to shore and sounded like an air dropped cinder block, we knew this was no baby.

Wow! This one is just about mature.

We started pestering Eli for information. Were we missing some subtle technique in bait presentation? Were we fishing at the wrong depth? Should we aim for a certain structure in this large flow body of water? Apparently, Eli said it was just a random shot of luck. Somehow, after the entire weekend, Michael and I still cannot be convinced that it was dumb luck.

At about 11:30pm, Eli had to leave. Michael and I stayed behind and got ready to settle in for the long night. We had a scattering number of hits where most were small channel catfish. It was not until 1am when Michael received a sizzling run and a confirming jump. Yes! Michael had accomplished a feat of mythical proportion!

To be completely honest, I was a little jealous. Before this trip, Michael and I agreed that whoever caught the first sturgeon would relinquish all future bites to the unaccomplished angler, such that our cooperative fishing aimed to maximize our respective chance for each of us to catch this wonderful creature. Now it was all up to me to man two rods.

A couple of times, slightly bigger channel catfish would get us excited. There were even ones that would thrash on the surface and had us fooled.

We were planning to fish the entire night. However, rain and lightning soon spoiled our party and we had to pack and sat the storm out in the truck for an hour. Well, we took the opportunity to get an hour of shuteyes.

Return back to the shore at 5am, we continued to catch a few channel catfish. Again, these larger channel cats had us hoping they were the right kind.

Soon, the day broke and the bite slowed. I did find a fine specimen of a Silver Redhorse that made me rather happy.

This Silver Redhorse had an unwanted hitchhiker. I often say there are no ugly fish…but the Sea Lamprey quickly changed my mind.

Kind of a cute face I guess...

…but lips no one would want to kiss!

I debated whether to count the Sea Lamprey as a new species on my list. You can’t fair hook a lamprey, so you can never target them and fair hook them. But what if you had a live fish on your hook and the lamprey was attached? Hm…
By 8am, we had already been up for 26 hours except for the short hour nap. We decided to call it a “day” and crashed at Michael friend’s house.

At 2pm, we woke up once again ready to fish. We explored some areas for a sauger but there were none to be found after 2 hours of fishing. The small Smallmouth Bass, a couple of big Rockbass and a couple of Pumpkinseed Sunfish kept us from getting bored, but we were yearning for more.

Finally, we decided it was time to return to our magic land at 6pm. With our bellies filled, we set up once again with the understanding that all bites are mine. However, Michael did manage to add another new species to his list, one that even Eli in his 12 years of fishing had never seen in person out of this body of water. The Yellow Bullhead is the least numerous of the three bullhead species in the region. Encountering one is a rare event. This was turning into an even more mythical trip!

I soon took every single hit including another wonder Silver Redhorse, among a few smattering of channel catfish.

Eli once again arrived at 8pm. After setting up, we sat around chatting. Eli got up to look into the darkness as I stared skyward admiring the constellations. Our of the corner of my eye, I saw a bright streak descended and disappeared behind Eli’s head.

“Shooting star!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah, a bright one too.” Eli confirmed.

I swiveled my head toward the southern sky to wonder if I could find the origin of this celestial event. I just happened to look in the right direction when a second meteorite (or perhaps space junk) burned up brightly in the atmosphere.

“Another one! You know what I had wished for, right?”

“Haha, I think I had an idea.” Michael chuckled.

As soon as he finished his sentence, the bells on my rod shook with two violent rings and the bite alarm immediately beeped with a furious tone. The fish was already taking line out of the baitrunner on the hit. I grabbed the rod with lightning speed and the rod turned into a full arc. Woah!

I felt three big thumping headshakes as the fish ran off on the first run. Before I could even control the fish, it had already run into Eli’s line to my right. We were both fishing with braid and this turned into the scariest fight I had in a long time. My nerves were a big mess as I tried to play the fish gingerly to avoid any extreme rubbing of our tangled braids. In the dark, it was difficult to determine which line was over and which line was under, especially when the intersecting point was way out far. As if this was not difficult enough, my easing of the fight allowed the fish to run into Michael’s line. Now we had 2 lines of 50lb braid crossed with a 30lb mono. My chance of landing this fish looked more bleak by the second. Fortunately, the gentle hand on the rod helped to bring the fish close to shore rather successfully. With the tangle within headlamp illumination range, Eli and I managed to free our respective line. Michael’s line was still crossed with mine, but at least now I had more control of the fish. We were still wondering if this was a big channel catfish at this point since the fish did not jump and I couldn’t really feel the fight as well with the tangled line. Eli grabbed the net and got ready. He soon sound excited when he had first to glimpse the shark like tail of the sturgeon. With a little bit of tricky maneuvering of two lines, we finally had the sturgeon in the purse.

As soon as the fish was landed, I said to Michael and Eli “After seeing the shooting stars all I said was ‘Lake Sturgeon, Lake Sturgeon’. Unreal!!!”

Truly, I am not a very superstitious person, and wishing upon a star was often done humourously. As if catching a Lake Sturgeon was not spectacular enough, I managed to “wish” up my first sturgeon with double shooting stars. This made the catch even more unbelievable as this magical circumstance was likely a once-in-a-lifetime, happily-ever-after fairy tale!

Stardust Sturgeon…my first Lake Sturgeon. (Acipenser fulvescens)…species #275 with a story to be told for a lifetime.

Simply, simply unbelievable…speechless…jaw dropped…

I found out that the two meteors were part of the Orionid meteor shower. That's the first time I've seen meteors from this shower!

I was so fulfilled after that everything else was just cherry on top. We caught a few more small channel catfish when Eli almost had a rod yanked into the river. These sturgeons were not shy at all!

Again, Eli left at 10:30pm not long after catching his sturgeon. Michael and I stayed a little later until 2am for a few more channel catfish including this nice one by Michael, and I got a nice Brown Bullhead.

The next morning, we picked up Eli at 10:30am to explore a river for River Redhorse. This is a species I’ve hunted for the last couple of years but yet to accomplish. The river looked primed and according to the fishery report, good number of them had been collected in the river in the spring and in the fall at this time of year. However, after a day of trying, we ended up with a measly perch for each person. I’ll have to return again next spring when the River Redhorse congregate in the shallow riffles for their procreating events.

Eli had a dinner arrangement before he could join us for the last evening. Michael and I started early to find a very slow bite. In fact, we were pestered by small fish that proficiently nipped away our bait. If the small fish were not biting, it was likely crayfish that kept stripping our hooks bare. When Eli arrived, we only had a small walleye and two channel catfish to show for. The small fish were such a pest that Michael caught a rock bass that pulled the clicked and pulled drag. We all thought it was a decent size catfish on the hit.

However, in true form, Eli came to show us just how it was done. A little under an hour after he arrived, Eli noticed that his line went slack and he tightened the line into yet another mythical creature. There is no way you can convince me that it was just dumb luck. Eli has to be doing something right!

It was an exceptionally slow night. Perhaps the fish we well fed on Friday night and they were content. Even the ever-present catfish failed to keep us constant company. By 11am, Eli called it a night. Michael and I persisted until 2am hoping for one last sturgeon but it was just not to be. In truth, I had rather preferred it this way since my one and only Lake Sturgeon would put on more of an exclamation mark in my angling history. The only real exciting catch after Eli left was Michael’s second ever Burbot. Burbot often hug bottom and this one was infested by leeches. We tried to help the Burbot, but the leeches would not let go.

Overall, the weekend of fishing was nothing short of fairy tale epic proportion. For such a difficult to find creature, Eli had this spot dialed in and we just happened to hit the conditions just right. Michael and I were both delighted that each of us had checked off the Lake Sturgeon with a respectable specimen and I was even happier that Michael managed to catch 4 extra new species. We caught enough Channel Catfish to feel several families, but we decided to release all of them. They were truly fun to fish for, but for a total cost of under $100 for the weekend, there is nothing remotely close I would trade for such an experience for that price.