Friday, January 11, 2019

Florida: A Fish of a Lifetime

Dawn in the Swamp
Noah and I awoke on our last morning at our base camp east before our four day west coast stint intent on hitting our favorite ditch again before continuing westward. I wanted desperately to catch a brown hoplo. They had other ideas though, and were nowhere to be seen. Walking cats though, were present as always and a little bit willing. I took one on a Walt's Worm. I must wonder how many times a Walt's have been affixed to a fly angler's tippet in the state of Florida? I can't imagine many. On this trip I had already caught a swordspine snook and more than one walking catfish on one. But I was about to catch something much more special.

Clarias batrachus

The lake chubsuckers presented themselves as tantalizing targets on this morning once again, sitting motionless in the water column. But unlike previous visits to the ditch, for one reason or another some of them exhibited interest in my fly if I let it fall slowly in front of them. When I actually had one nip the fly I was taken aback. I kept at it, and sure enough....

Lake chubsucker are a very odd little fish. They demand clear, still water with extensive weed coverage. They are omnivorous: plant matter, algae, small crustaceans, and insect larvae make up their diet. Though wide ranging and fairly population-stable, catching a lake chubsucker on hook and line is very unusual. Doing so with an artificial fly? Basically unheard of. Though I cannot say it with the certainty with which I could my barrelfish, it is a distinct possibility that I am the first to do so. This odd little cyprinid is a fish of a lifetime. I still can't believe I caught it.

Lake chubsucker (Erimyzon sucetta)
 From that point it was pretty anticlimactic on my end of things. I caught some Mayans and some sunfish and a couple bass. No big deal.

Cichlasoma urophthalmus

Noah held out though and got a new species. We think this is a Nile tilapia, but identifying tilapia is a gigantic pain in the ass. If you think we are wrong, please do tell. If not a Nile, I assume it must be a blue tilapia.

Oreochromis niloticus?
Shortly thereafter, we began our cross state drive. On the other end, we would encounter redfish that continue to haunt my dreams and snook that do too, but in a very different way.

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Thanks for joining the adventure, and tight lines.

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