Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Channel Catfish Attempt

The start of the contest meant the annual rite of the channel catfish trip. The previous summer, I had landed my personal best of ~12 lbs. As this spot has always produced for me, I thought of it as sure-fire for my contest channel.

Thus, on a fine afternoon my friend Alex and I headed to the locale armed with cutbait and bottom and float rigs.

A northern watersnake holding his prize catch of the day greeted us.

A yellow bullhead meets an unfortunate fate

While the action was hot, we initially had trouble connecting with takes. While tossing out bigger cutbait on sliding sinker rigs, I also placed a smaller suspended bait under a float right next to shore by some overhanging brush.

Lo and behold, that rig was the first to go off. There's no adrenaline rush like seeing a float trotting off and shooting underwater, whether that be fishing for bluegills in a creek or casting livebaits for pike.

I tightened up, and realized quickly that I was connected to a very solid brown bullhead—my biggest ever, actually. It didn't take long for me to get it in, but I did baby it a little since the fish was hooked by a tiny flap of skin. Absurdly enough, this bullhead completely cleared the water twice, almost tailwalking—a behavior I had never observed nor heard of any catfish species doing.

I do believe that this brown bullhead is my personal best for this species, which is always a good achievement. Furthermore, it added to my tally for the June contest.

Later on, while we were still lacking any sign of channel catfish, I was messing around with freelining chunks of bait by a ledge when I inadvertently tangled my line with an angry watersnake (there was no shortage of snakes in the area that day). After a struggle in getting the creature free, I realized that a fish of decent caliber was on the other end of the line. I passed the rod to Alex, so he could have a go at it.

In the meantime, another bottom rig went off with a hard hit, but upon reeling it in I knew it was  a small bass. Landing the bass quickly, I then netted the channel catfish which Alex had at this point brought to shore.

A double header! Quite ironic, after going so long without any sign of life.

While Alex had caught a channel catfish, I had yet to do so and I still needed one for the contest. As a last resort, I send out some smaller rigs with half a nightcrawler on each instead of half a bluegill, and quickly picked up my smallest channel ever, a cute and oddly blue-colored specimen. A species is a species!

With that we decided to call it an outing—a personal best and two more contest entries were  more than enough, although we never did encounter a behemoth catfish.

Start of Summer

In accordance with tradition, June began with my annual participation in the Spring Species contest. Although I have yet to have winning aspirations (this year especially), it's always fun to see what local species I can scrounge up within a month. 

Of course, I had to kick things off with the obligatory golf course session, which provided 2 species in short order, the largemouth bass and the bluegill. While I would have loved to stay and have fun with these guys, the big bull bluegills in particular, I had some other easy fish to check off the list.  

To find some more, I headed down to the outlet of the pond, the tiny creek through the golf course. Creek chubs came easily with a small jig.

Followed by a pretty, albeit small, pumpkinseed. A species is a species. 

The green sunfish took slightly more effort. Technically an invasive species in New Jersey, they are definitely established in the local creek but for some reason never attain large sizes or numbers, as they are outcompeted by the various other Lepomis species occupying the same niche. Eventually, though, I found a small one in the shallows and sightfished it with a jig. Since greens have proportionally larger mouths than their Lepomis counterparts, this tiny specimen had no problem inhaling my presentation.

It fit the button perfectly, replacing this years contest mascot: the mooneye.

A trip to another section yielded further staples, the redbreast sunfish and the rock bass. 

Those targets, caught relatively fast, would end my contest endeavors for the time being, since I had other matters of interest to pursue.

Most infuriating of which would most definitely be my (many) futile attempts to capture a creek chubsucker on hook and line. These notoriously spooky and finicky fish showed zero regard to any of my strategies, and not for lack of effort on my part.

To save you from the incredibly exciting tale of me perching motionless in the summer sun for hours on end, I'll cut to the notable bits, of which weren't especially notable.

Suffice it to say, the closest I got to a creek chubsucker was a half-eaten dead individual.

And from a angling standpoint, I found it amusing to catch a tiny green sunfish on a blade of grass I accidentally hooked. 

My futile efforts towards the creek chubsucker did yield several enjoyable finds: a green frog and a northern watersnake, two commonplace inhabitants of the local microhabitat.

And while no catches were particularly exciting in any fashion, the effort was a good way to kick off the summer by returning to my roots.