09 de abril de 2024

Cursed sunfish observations in the catacombs of iNaturalist

Recently, I wrote a simple query to examine sunfish (Lepomis) observations sitting at Genus level. My intent was to see how many hybrid sunfish were still unable to reach Research Grade status, and ID them if I was able. Boy, was I not ready for the horrors I was about to witness.

Its a complete warzone. Infinite longears without consensus due to splitting, greengills galore ID'd as every sunfish known, mystery YOYs, and of course the obligatory high-reflection-low-angle-surface-shot special all too common for other fish observations on this site. I think I'll try and parse through them but it'll take time, patience, and other user assistance due to dissenting IDs...

The query for any brave souls: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?quality_grade=needs_id%2Cresearch%2Ccasual&order=asc&taxon_id=49592&hrank=genus&lrank=genus&photos=true&place_id=any

Posted on 09 de abril de 2024, 05:46 AM by operculum_ben operculum_ben | 15 comentários | Deixar um comentário

02 de abril de 2024

PETITION: Return Notropis spp. to a monotypic genus!

For generations, the microangler has been burdened by taxonomy. No other group of fishes exemplifies this problem better than the so-called eastern minnows of North America, or Notropis spp. Historically, this genus was used as a repository for taxonomists as they organized “new minnow discoveries” in the field. Currently, the genus contains > 300 species which may seem beneficial or even fun for micro-anglers. However, when microanglers are forced to capture these fish for their life lists, they are often left frustrated and confused by their similarity within and among locations; this, among other factors, is clear evidence that all the different species in Notropis represent a single species. Below are my foolproof reasonings for why all these so-called species should have a taxonomic re-evaluation:

1) If they are all different species, why do they all look the same? These so called spottail (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/152150161), sand (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/140783517), and channel (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/130928912) shiners are clearly the same exact fishes caught at different spots! It gets even more ridiculous the further south you go. The wedgespot shiner (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/188546126)? Clearly just another sand shiner. The rocky shiner (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/186507336)? Again, just a nonsense name for another sand or channel shiner!

2) Taxonomists have used scientific names to confuse the public. Why else would they use a dead language, Latin, as the baseline for taxonomic names? This is especially true for the Notropis genus which is overloaded with ridiculous names. Adding more of these Latin names that people are unable to pronounce or write (because it’s a dead language) is clearly a tactic used to sow confusion among the public.

3) These fish are just glorified bait, so they shouldn’t be allowed to have different scientific names.

4) Taxonomists just name stuff so they can get credit. All the names in this genus represent nerds trying to cement their legacy and nothing more.

Based on this irrefutable evidence, I recommend re-lumping all Notropis spp. into a single species, hereby referred to as common notropis (Notropis nohopis, operculum_ben 2024). I’ll submit flags for curation as soon as possible.

Posted on 02 de abril de 2024, 12:05 AM by operculum_ben operculum_ben | 8 comentários | Deixar um comentário

22 de outubro de 2023

New Project: Juvenile Salmonids of North America

Juvenile Salmonids of North America is a new project I created to compile high-quality observations of these species at the juvenile life stage. I've been considering making this for awhile and finally decided to go through with it. Hopefully it's useful!

EDIT: I already notice that a major flaw with this in the inability to edit or amend the Annotations on another observation. If someone marks an adult fish with Life stage: juvenile, there's no way to fix it besides asking the user to change it...ugh.

Posted on 22 de outubro de 2023, 02:43 PM by operculum_ben operculum_ben | 1 comentário | Deixar um comentário

11 de julho de 2023

Minnesota North Shore Road Trip, June 2023

I’d like to thank everyone in the iNaturalist community who helped make this trip possible. I made most of my plans to stop and fish based on observations present on this site. I hope some of my observations serve the same purpose for others.

///

Over the winter I began planning a road trip up the north shore of Lake Superior for new lifer microfish. I came up with a list of 8 or 9 species and a variety of different spots to hit from Duluth to Grand Marais. The final destination, Grand Marais, was of particular interest to me because of the somewhat hard to come by species (i.e., ninespine stickleback, lake chub); plus, I had never been to the area and it looked gorgeous. The number of observations at Grand Marais also gave me the impression it was teeming with life. During my time in the UP, I rarely saw juvenile or small fishes in the nearshore zone of Lake Superior, regardless of habitat. Sometimes I’d see what I think were juvenile logperch or lake chub on the sand beaches, but that was infrequent. Needless to say, I was preoccupied by the idea of catching stickleback on Lake Superior.

Fast forward to late June, and I decided it was a good time to leave central Wisconsin albeit the somewhat shaky weather forecast for the north shore. The winds seemed amicable, but scattered thunderstorms appeared unavoidable. I left in haste with a car packed full of fishing gear and some clothes Tuesday morning and headed straight for Superior, Wisconsin.

JUNE 27, 2023

My first goal for this trip was to catch a ruffe and (western) tubenose goby on the St Louis River. I knew there were ruffe present in decent numbers and I was informed that tubenose goby were also relatively abundant (see USGS page). I began my mission at the upper end of the river, figuring I’d work my way downstream. I first attempted under the Oliver Bridge on the east shore and was met with a swarm of angry, nest-guarding rock bass that were just barely out of sight due to the turbidity. I quickly moved across the river and picked up the micro gear for tubenose goby, but only found an assortment of johnny darter and other familiar fishes by the boat launches and creeks.

I moved two a few other spots but was met with either limited or questionable access. Somewhat defeated, I made my way over to the Superior fishing pier and decided to chuck some worms out deep for ruffe and whatever else would swim. After some welcomed bycatch, I was able to catch a ruffe casting out with a small piece of worm on a size 12 long-shank hook. It had been a while since I had held one of these odd invasives. The lightly speckled dorsal fin called back to the sauger and walleye, while the body shape resembled more of Moronid. They are interesting looking fish, and I admit that I know very little about them aside that they have sporadic distribution in Lake Superior river mouths and embayments.

After landing the ruffe, I moved to the Park Point Boat Launch in search of a tubenose goby. I was able to catch round goby, and in retrospect my failure to catch a tubenose was likely due to the habitat I chose to fish. Tubenose goby prefer macrophytes as cover, but I had been spending my time fishing sparse rocks over sand. Eager to move north and avoid an inbound storm, I thought it’d be wise to catch another new species that was in route to the north shore. I made my way to the Twin Ponds, just north of Enger Park, and was able to catch a goldfish floating a redworm in a few casts. With two new species under my belt, I decided to call it a day as the rain began to come down in buckets.

JUNE 28, 2023

My plan for Wednesday was to work my way up slowly to Grand Marais, fishing every nook and cranny I could for whatever was present. I started at McQuade Harbor early in the morning, looking for signs of life in the marina but found nothing moving between the rocks. I then shot up to Two Harbors, eager to find a ninespine stickleback but found nothing along the boat launch and oredock shore. At this point it began to rain consistently and I was starting to lose faith on new species for the day, so I decided it’d be best to fish rivers with a worm and float.

This part of the trip is sort of a blur, mainly because it was so haphazardly planned. I remember stopping at a handful of random rivers based on vibes alone and nothing else. The first river that passed the eye test was the Beaver River. The smooth rocks were slick from the rain and mud and I nearly fell into the river multiple times just making my way down from the parking lot. I arrived to the plunge pool in one piece but only was able to catch common shiners. I wasn’t sure what to expect at this spot, but it certainly wasn’t common shiners.

I moved on to the Baptism River and hastily bought a state park pass to fish the mouth of the river. I climbed down some steps and floated a redworm right at the mouth of the river, letting the seiche dictate where my bait would land. Using this technique, I was able to catch a steelhead parr headed for the lake and a white sucker. In retrospect, it may have been a good idea to throw a worm on the bottom here as I’m sure the suckers (perhaps white and longnose) would have been active with the slowly increasing flows. Either way, I was happy with what I caught and was eager to move on.

I remember skipping past quite a few rivers and checking out the Sawmill Creek area due to all the finescale and northern redbelly dace observations around Wolf Ridge. The access to other stretches of this river were either poor or a marshy, buggy purgatory and I scrapped the idea of chasing dace here after an hour or so burning gas and daylight. I decided to check out the Fall River instead, as it was near Grand Marais and looked pretty cool from the map. The hydrology of this stream was super interesting; flashy is an understatement. The steep banks were lined with crumbling slate that harbored only a trickle of water. I could only imagine what it would look like after snowmelt and spring rain. I decided to fish below the falls instead and was met with major resistance from the terrain. After slipping, “mountain-goating” in sandals and being devoured by plants and bugs, I made it to the base of the falls slightly scathed but undeterred.

About 100-200 feet of the Falls River was accessible to Lake Superior. Essentially, the waterfall created an impassable barrier with a prominent plunge pool but the stream outside of this was inches of gushing water over colorful, palm-sized rock. Even with the limited amount of stream available, it was evident that potamodromous salmonines successfully spawned in the stream. I poked around at the edge of secondary pool by the footbridge and saw a decent amount of micros milling around. I tied on a new size 30 dry fly hook and was quite pleased with what I found. I was able to land my first northern redbelly dace and a few angry sculpin. I had a hard time getting the other species present to bite; I think there was a mixture of different dace and possibly lake chub hiding there. Either way, I was pleased with what I found and decided to move on to Grand Marais.

At this point, the rain is intermittent and would have made sight fishing difficult. I decide to poke around a few streams for trout and was met with mild success dipping worms in extremely shallow pools. At these particular spots I was terrorized by mosquitos. I then went towards the Grand Marais lighthouse, thinking I would scope out the spot as I was excited to see what it looked like. The fog was thick but upon walking on the trail, I saw dozens of small fish poking in and out between slabs of rock despite spurts of rain. I immediately turned around and tied on a half moon tanago hook and made my way back over to the concrete trail. The first fish I identified and targeted was ninespine stickleback. I could see the striped pattern from the water’s surface and figured they had to be ninespines. They were curious but not super aggressive, swimming up to the bait and staring at it before taking small tentative bites. I think catching this fish was the highlight of the trip for me.

I made my way down the trail and found lake chub in swarms. These fish were relatively spooky but also willing to take a bait. I was surprised at the sheer amount of them weaving in and out between the rocks, especially since this was the first time I’d seen one in person. Among the rocks and lake chubs were also threespine stickleback. I got the impression that most of these fish were guarding nests or territories, as they would zip around small areas and were brightly colored. I struggled getting them to bite despite their aggression, but got one uncooperative individual. In the past, I have only seen them as steel-colored, so the light blueish green and red accents across the body were interesting to observe. Despite the poor weather, I was able to squeak out the three new species I wanted from this spot and decided to call it a day.

JUNE 29, 2023

With the previous day being a resounding success its only fair that this day was a complete and utter failure. I woke up in the morning and returned to the lighthouse, hoping to get some more micros and better pictures since the rain had subsided. However, it was much too windy and small waves were breaking against the concrete. Even though I probably could have found a few nooks protected from the wind with fish milling around, I decided it wasn’t worth it and thought I’d fish my way south. I think the first place I stopped was the mouth of the Temperance River, which was (unsurprisingly) high and muddy from downpour overnight. A large school of suckers were hanging out about 10 yards away from the waterfall where the deeper water began to slow down. I was able to catch a white sucker and a longnose sucker using a size 4 octopus hook with a third of a nightcrawler. I also had a small Corky float above the hook, as I figured this could reduce snagging if the bottom was littered with branches. This was the only spot of the day where I caught fish.

I must have hit 5 or 6 different streams or rivers but I could not get anything to bite. No trout, no creek chubs, no suckers. Nothing anywhere. I decided to shoot for the moon and attempt surf fishing at a few spots, but that was a lofty goal doomed to fail. The most promising of these spots was the Silver Bay breakwall, but I saw no surface activity or fishing moving anywhere in the clear and calm water. I also figured casting a swimbait and spoon off the Two Harbors lighthouse was worth a shot. It seems like one of those areas where you could luck into coho salmon or lake trout if the water temperature is right, but I was also skunked there. In 12 hours of fishing, I had caught two suckers. Not every day can be a winner.

JUNE 30, 2023

I concluded my trip by giving tubenose goby one last shot in Duluth. Sadly, I was not able to find this fish in some of the more vegetated areas of the estuary but the wind and water clarity were making this task difficult. I decided to fish the Billings Park Pier one last time before calling it a trip and make my way back to central Wisconsin, stopping at a few different micro spots on the ride.

Overall, I was able to get 6 new species on this trip, a few of which would have been really difficult to come by elsewhere. I was hoping to get 10 new species by hook and line this year and I’ve already met that goal, so the new benchmark is 20. Now, I’ve got to figure out how to catch a trout-perch…

Posted on 11 de julho de 2023, 04:18 PM by operculum_ben operculum_ben | 27 observações | 1 comentário | Deixar um comentário

30 de abril de 2023

2023 Sea Grant Great Lakes BioBlitz

I'll be uploading more frequently to add observations to this project. I've made it a goal to observe fish every day for the project's duration, or at least as many days as possible. April has been pretty tough for multispecies fishing in Wisconsin. The water was high and cold for most of April and that at least made for some good days of steelhead fishing. Right now, the currents are settling down and the wintery spring is slowly fading. I'm looking forward to catching some new micro species (particularly longnose dace and the weirdly hard to catch trout-perch), especially because I have a photo tank to test out. Hopefully I will also be able to land a Wisconsin muskellunge once the season opens.

Posted on 30 de abril de 2023, 01:02 AM by operculum_ben operculum_ben | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

07 de março de 2023

untitled

I was looking for something else when I stumbled upon this forum post:
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/how-do-we-increase-inat-fish-observations/2912/18

I didn't start using this site that long ago, but when I did there were less than 200k research grade fish observations in North America. Now, there are about 535k...which all things considered, is still not that many.

If you are an angler and you are also tentative to upload fishing catches, remember:
1) you can obscure your location by either keeping coordinates private or creating a wide accuracy range
2) you don't have to post trophies or limits, therefore you shouldn't be worried about burning spots
and
3) there is a decent chance that info on waterbody or location quality is online (i.e., fishery surveys, online videos / forums, social media posts, fish stocking databases, creel surveys) thus there's likely little harm in posting fishing photos from your favorite lake on this site.

Just my two cents, and how I've been operating on here since I've started.

Posted on 07 de março de 2023, 06:13 AM by operculum_ben operculum_ben | 3 comentários | Deixar um comentário

25 de fevereiro de 2023

The grind.

Sorry for the lack of uploads. This ice fishing season has been incredibly tough for me. Generally my goal is to upload one representative species from each place I fish, and I can barely even accomplish that task this year. Some of the more interesting trips I've attempted have ended as duds (e.g., ice fishing steelhead on less than ideal river ice) and only a few of my many local trips have ended in fish filets.

For the first time in awhile, my motivation for ice fishing is next to zero. As soon as the river ice starts to decay, its straight to ripping blade baits for walleye.

Posted on 25 de fevereiro de 2023, 04:45 PM by operculum_ben operculum_ben | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

27 de novembro de 2022

Coho Fishing in Wisconsin: Reflection

I think I'll try to make some journal posts occasionally to talk about fishing or fish. It seems like a good creative outlet. I hope you enjoy.

///

When lake surface temperatures plummeted and upwelling began around the river mouths in late September, I knew that any day salmon would start to enter the Lake Michigan tributaries of Wisconsin. This year I wasn't interested in catching chinook salmon but I was instead determined to catch coho salmon. I had caught coho before in Lake Superior and Lake Huron, but I never had been able to pour much time into coho exclusively in Lake Michigan. The coho in Lake Michigan also turn brilliant red unlike those in Lake Superior, but perhaps the most alluring part of Lake Michigan coho is that they get HUGE.

Pacific salmon (referred to as Oncorhynchus spp.) have an interesting and controversial history in the Great Lakes Region (for a historical overview of these species in the Great Lakes, I suggest reading Crawford 2001). Historically, coho were stocked to serve as a biocontrol for invasive alewife and provide a novel sportfishery while lake trout stocks had collapsed. Currently, in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan tributaries, natural recruitment of Pacific salmon is very low and most populations are maintained with extensive stocking. The stocking records are a great jumping off point for finding where these species (and brown trout) will be; finding places that have been stocked for at least 5 years ensures that the area likely has good returns, and that multiple year-classes of fish will be present.

I began my salmon fishing season at the Sheboygan River in early October. I figured only chinook would be present at this time, but I was very wrong! Generally, the chinook run starts well before the coho salmon run, and subsequently the peak of the chinook run is generally earlier. I believe an early cold-snap and rise in river flow brought the coho up the river sooner than I expected. Certain holes were loaded with piles of coho that I could not entice to bite on anything. Spoons, spinners, crankbaits, beads, and even spawn were unable to convert any of the jumping coho into biters! Quite frustrating. I sadly left with only one small chinook landed, but I was eager to return.

The following weekend I returned to the Sheboygan River and was still greeted with masses of chinook and coho in very low water. I decided to fish some of my favorite deeper spots with spawn and beads, but I was only able to catch more chinook. The coho seemed unwilling to bite any egg-style presentation so I decided to move around and throw a spinner. Within my first few casts, I hooked and landed a large male in the same spot I had caught multiple chinook.

At this point it was mid day and I decided to go north to the Kewaunee River to try my luck on some new water. Although there were many anglers that day, I found that getting away from the crowd helped me encounter many aggressive fish that would follow my spinners right to my feet! I landed two or three before leaving and quickly realized that egg imitations might not be the best presentation for these fish.

The following weekend I returned to the Kewaunee River to find coho waiting for me. They were still holding in "deep" pockets and were incredibly aggressive. Spinners continuously outperformed spawn, which at this point still hadn't been touched by a single coho. Although color didn't seem to matter, my personal favorites were black and orange spinners as the fish seemed to chase those to the shore more often than my other colors. I also had many chases on firetiger (chartreuse with orange, black, and green accents) but that spinner was stolen by a rock. One thing that shocked me was the size of these coho; it seemed like every one I caught was bigger than the last! They certainly dwarfed any coho I had caught previously.

I decided to end my coho season on more new water the following weekend, and went even further north to the Ahnapee River. Although I was unfamiliar with this location, I figured using what I had learned on the other two rivers would help me catch fish. After trudging through the woods and getting stuck in thigh-deep muck I was able to find coho similarly stacked up in deeper pockets of water. Again, they would not touch eggs but they were eager to chase and destroy spinners.

I had a great season fishing for Lake Michigan coho and learned a lot about fishing the Lake Michigan tributaries for salmon and trout. Even when the water was very low (near or at base flow), there were still salmon in each river I fished. Low water tends to make fishing difficult because it can make fish wary, but it also concentrates them. When the salmon are in the river and water is low, look for deeper pockets of water or more importantly deeper water surrounded by shallow gravel. Salmon will sometimes vacate their redds and move into nearby deeper holes if they feel threatened or exposed. These hyper-concentrated fish can be frustrating to target, but be alert and keep switching presentations until you figure out what will make them bite.

Keeping away from the crowd also seemed to increase my hookups. Salmon that have been pestered or snagged by anglers over and over can become difficult to catch. Also, constant angler movement in the water or near salmon redds likely makes them more cautious and probably decreases fishing success. I recommend exploring the river until you find a group of fish that seem active (i.e., jumping and chasing each other) away from crowds. This is easier said than done on some rivers.

Keep an eye on the USGS river gauges scattered throughout the state when planning to fish the Wisconsin tributaries, and also be willing to explore and hike especially when the water is low. Now I hope I can land some big brown trout before the rivers freeze up...

Posted on 27 de novembro de 2022, 07:01 PM by operculum_ben operculum_ben | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário