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I never got around to writing a report until now, but back in June I found the time to wade fish a Feliciana parish stream with the long rod.  I made it on the water as the sun was rising and actually caught a bass on one of my first few casts.  The action was slow after that, but it was, and has always been, time well spent and a great way to beat the summer heat.

The usual suspects were around – spotted bass, longear sunfish, and bluegill, but I also had the pleasure of catching another shadow bass.  This was likely the biggest I’ve ever caught too.  He came off some submerged timber in the very middle of a deep bend in the creek I was fishing.  True to form, he hit a dead drifted crawfish pattern I was running behind a big hopper.  It’s always fun to catch these guys as they are pretty unique.

Google Earth tells me I fished maybe half a mile before I was ready to call it a day and turn around to head back home.  It never fails that when I’m fishing I think I’m covering at least a mile, but in reality it is always much less.  It’s funny how that works.  It makes you wonder about all the untouched water that lies beyond a mile or two from an access point?  How much better is the fishing if I put in the work to get there?

With the itch to take a trip and a weekend set aside, Blake and I set out for Arkansas after work one Thursday earlier this month.  We drove 7 hours to a campground in the Ouachita National Forest and set up our hammocks as fast as we could to maximize the time we’d have to sleep.  Just like everywhere else in the South, western Arkansas is hot in the summer, even at midnight.  Despite the heat I slept pretty well and woke up to a sweet lakeside campsite.

We aren’t much on fishing lakes so we headed on over to a nearby river where we met Jason who drove over from Little Rock to fish with us for the day.  This trip was all about smallmouth bass, a fish Blake has never caught before.  We were hoping to catch both the Ouachita strain and the Neosho strain on this trip – two unique forms of smallmouth found in Arkansas.  First up was the Ouachita, which are found on a few different rivers that run south off the Ouachita Mountains.

The river was beautiful.  I feel like I say that about every river, but this one seemed special.  It was a classic freestone river, with water as clear as any you’ll find in the South.  There was a riffle at our point of access that was too appealing to pass up so that’s where we started fishing.  The riffle was chock full of boulders and loads of bait darted around as we moved upstream.  Upstream of the riffle was a long pool and as we continued further it was clear this was the set up – riffle, long deep pool, riffle.  We caught a few sunfish (some were massive green sunfish), but it took a while before we figured out the smallmouth.

We got to a point where a tributary emptied into the river and it was there that Blake caught the first smallmouth on a RLD.  

Blake explored the trib a bit further and caught a few more fish, while Jason and I focused on the main stem of the river.

It was in the bubbles to the left of the run above that I finally caught my first Ouachita of the trip.  It hit a streamer almost as soon as it hit the water.

Blake met up with Jason and I soon after and we continued our way upstream.  As we got further from our access point the river got prettier and the fishing got better.  This is nearly always the case, but we tend to get caught up fishing a new river right where start wading because it just looks too good to pass up.

I tried several different flies out early to try and establish a pattern, covering the water from top to bottom.  What I ended up using most was a crawfish pattern tied on a jig style hook that Blake had tied for me prior to heading to West Virginia last year.  Blake had good success on a RLD, the crawfish loved it too.

Not wanting to set up camp again in the dark we parted ways with Jason and left the river some time in the mid-afternoon.  I really wish I had budgeted more time for that river, it was an awesome one, definitely somewhere you could spend a whole weekend.  We only saw a few other people when we were leaving too.  I’ll be back at some point.  Right now though we had to drive north to the Ozark Mountains and Ozark National Forest to make it into a watershed that held Neosho smallmouth.

Last weekend I wanted to get Marin out of the house so I asked her if she wanted to go see what fish lived in the “creek” at the nearby park.  That wasn’t reason enough for her to commit to going, but then I sweetened the pot and told her that we could play on the playground after we fished which got her to immediately put her shoes on and head toward the door.

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The “creek” is a drainage ditch that runs through the park near our house.  It’s not very long, I’m not even sure it has a name.  You can jump across it and not get wet in some places, at bends it slows down and deepens enough to make a pool.  Those pools will hold fish.  On a hot, cloudy February day those fish were hungry.  We caught several species of small sunfish, some on tiny nymphs, but more on dry flies.  I brought a 1wt and had fun making bow and arrow casts to the pools and watching fish explode on the surface shortly after the fly landed.  Marin had a blast holding the fish and releasing them back into the water.

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Dollar sunfish (Lepomis marginatus)

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Redspotted sunfish (Lepomis miniatus)

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Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

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Longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)

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Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

I was surprised at the diversity within this tiny trickle of a ditch, but really it shouldn’t come as a surprise as Louisiana is truly a melting pot for Lepomis species.  This was borderline microfishing but it was actually pretty entertaining, especially with ultralight fly tackle.  Marin loved it too, which is really all that matters.

I’m always looking to add species to the fish page here on the site and I know there are some smaller sunfish species found locally that have eluded me thus far, so I put in a couple hours with the fly rod on a local ditch on Friday afternoon to see what I could find.

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The bream beds were thick in one stretch of the creek and I caught quite the variety of sunfish in short time.

IMG_6578Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

IMG_6577Longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)

IMG_6579Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

IMG_6580Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus)

IMG_6575Hybrid sunfish?

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The ditch was very shallow, but full of life.  There were also redear on beds and bass and gar cruising around, none of which I managed to fool with a fly.  It’s not the prettiest place in the world to fish and it’s hotter than hell right now, but you can’t beat the diversity of species.

 

 

It’s been a while since I’ve got out and waded a local creek with the fly rod, so I did just that this past Saturday.  Ever the explorer, I hit a stretch of creek I’ve never fished.  In fact I’ve never really thought much about fishing this stretch until they recently opened a park along it.  I didn’t think it would be much different than other stretches of the creek I’ve fished or some of the creeks I’ve fished in the past but I was wrong.  This one was much tougher.

Most of the creeks I wade around here have big sandy spoil banks and shallow riffles that connect them, making wading a breeze.  Quicksand is about the only thing that can slow you down.  In fact, unless you get hung up structure or a tree on the other side you rarely have to wade deeper than your knees.  This one wasn’t like that.

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The hike in was fairly muddy and full of these guys.  Most you could avoid, but some had their webs a bit too low for comfort, so careful tip-toeing was required to negotiate around them.  I know they’re harmless, but they’re still a big spider.

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Then I cut through the woods, navigated my way through briers and poison ivy (I made a poor decision that morning and chose shorts instead of pants), then amble down a 20-30 foot muddy bluff face just to access the water.

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I caught a fish and took a picture just in case it was the only one I caught on the day.  Usually the wading part is no big deal once I get to the water.  Not here though, the bottom wasn’t as hard as the others, the water clarity wasn’t as pretty as the others and it had spots that seemed deeper than the others and soon enough I stepped off a mud ledge into a hole up to my chest.  It’s been a while since I’ve done that, glad it was super hot out.

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The wading wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the multiple downed trees that forced me to go up and down the bluffs just to get around them. Eventually though the wading got easier and of course the fishing picked up.

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Then it became a longear-fest.  If it wasn’t for the early bream and the world’s smallest bass that’s all I would have caught.  They were very aggressive, in full spawning regalia.

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I probably only covered 3/4 of a mile in five hours and didn’t catch anything bigger than my palm.  Scouting trips can be like that though, you really don’t know until you go.  Well now I know and I don’t think I’ll be going back.

Still beat sitting at home though.  Fishing trips always do.