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March Micromadness - 2018

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Finally got together with Daryk Campbell Sr to make good on a promise that I had made a couple of years ago. We finally nailed down a suitable date, time, and location to meet. What I did not expect was the drama at the Breaktime. Before Livie and I arrived, there was an altercation between a man and woman that we caught the tail end of and it ultimately involved the police. I'm glad that we were not blocked by the police and we were able to leave the parking lot and get to fishing. The sky was overcast, it was supposed to be in the mid 40’s. With the wind it never felt like it got above 38 deg.

Both Daryk and Livie got to try out their waders for the first time. Livie was actually wearing a pair of waders that My Betterhalf picked up at an estate sale on Friday. I had mentioned to Daryk that with the drought from last year and the cold winter that I was not sure what we would find. I still felt that we would get into some darters and minnows, but maybe not many bass or sunfish. As I suspected the water was running low and very clear. The clarity of the water took Daryk by surprise since he is used to fishing around St Louis and not having much more than a couple of inches or less than a foot of visibility.

As we were making a few casts, Livie started hand-fishing by catching a tadpole. After she released the tadpole, a small fish caught our eyes and after several attempts at catching two different ones Olivia hand-caught this slender madtom.



Since we really weren’t seeing many intermediate sized fish, I got the micro-rod with a #26 tanago half-moon hook and a couple of split shot rigged up with a tiny piece of red worm that I trimmed so that the hook point was exposed. That bait may last us all day. In the first section of the creek we did not see many fish, when we did it was important to get Daryk used to seeing the small fish, especially the darters. It didn’t take long until we found a darter that we might be able to get a bait in front of and actually catch it. I was able to get it to bite and Daryk was able to see the bait and the fish turn and take the bait before I set the hook. In the meantime Livie was fishing a white/chartreuse 1/64 oz plastic jig under a float and casting into the deeper water under the bridge. She found and caught several creek chubs.


I showed Daryk what characteristics to look for on the creek chub, like the dark stripe, large terminal mouth, and especially the dark spot on the front of the dorsal fin. As Livie released her fifth chub, I had her had me the rod so it wouldn’t get in her way. I really just did that just to get the hot bait. I made a cast of two and landed a chub soon after. I then handed the rod to Daryk and he got his first creek chub and the first fish of the day.



He and I went back to darter fishing and Livie back with the hot bait caught a bluegill sunfish (though it looks like there might be a little green sunfish in its genetics).


There was a lot of smack talk going around, but I finally landed another darter. Then Daryk followed up and caught two right in a row.



I initially thought they might be juvenile or female rainbow darters since those are really common in this creek. Looking at the edited photos, I noticed that the dorsal fin on those that Daryk and I caught had very few spines and were much shorter than the second dorsal fin. I now suspect that these were actually fantail darters and will have to get confirmation before I put it down as a new life-list species for me. A couple of these darters looked to be infested with flukes like some of the sunfish and bass.


We headed upstream to another deeper pool (only about 2 to 2 ½ feet deep) and started getting into bigger schools of minnows that I had expected to find earlier. Livie caught a bluegill on her first cast, then got hung up in a shrub on the far bank. I went across to get it out and passed through a school of hundreds of minnows, mostly bleeding shiners. Daryk and Livie waded across when Daryk spotted some turtles on the bottom. If JestersHK reads this he will recall that it doesn’t take long for Olivia to get after a turtle or two once they have been spotted.


She didn’t get one of the bigger ones because the water was too deep, but she did manage to push a smaller one into more shallow water and did catch it. We both think that it is likely a small river cooter.


Since we had a better angle on the fish in front of us, I switched out the larger plastic jig and tied on a 1/125 oz white head and light pink chenile grub body. Daryk caught his first hornyhead chub. There was no spot on the dorsal fin and an orange spot behind the eye. The bleeding shiners kept going after the grub and Livie caught one.



I switched the bait again to a #16 ribbed hares ear nymph and both Daryk and I caught bleeding shiners as well. Livie was hungry and we went back to the cars for lunch. After eating Daryk and I went back out and further upstream. I wanted to get into a few more darters. I know that there are rainbow darters, orangethroat darters, and my target species of the day, the greenside darter in this creek. In a small shallow off shoot, I spotted a male orangethroat darter we had spooked and had to tell Daryk where to put the bait until he finally saw the fish. This guy was tightlipped and would not bite no matter how Daryk got the bait positioned. Finally, we went to look for some others. Back in the main flow of the creek I spotted a male rainbow darter. Again, Daryk positioned the bait a couple of different ways to this fish. Eventually the fish turned and struck the bait and Dayrk caught his first supermale rainbow darter.


It was the possibility of catching a fish like this one that led him to contact me in the first place. I know that he now has the equipment and the confidence to now go out and catch darters like these wherever he can find them. I look forward to seeing his photos in the future.


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          Good report and pictures John,

 Congrads Daryk on your catches of course to you and Livie too.  Oh and be sure to tell Livie it was fun she being the go between while we were texting and I was giving you a ration of crap on your guys way home. She's a good sport besided her and I didn't want you on the phone as you were driving back to FollyVille with corned beef and cabbage waiting  :) ,


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I really had an excellent time.  I got to meet Livie in person, and meet John again.  Upon arrival at the creek, John handed me some parting gifts.  The tiniest fishing hooks that I could have imagined, but even then, tinier.  He also gave me a bag to hold and picture the fish caught.   Livie told me how the bags are acquired, and explained how to respond to the clerks who inquire about the "party".   We proceeded to get ready for the water. As was stated above, I finally got to use some waders I bought from another member on here. They worked beautifully. Once we got into the water, John and Livy where showing me how to tie these little bitty hooks ,  and John was showing me the massive amount of worm that he used. I asked many questions, and John was more than happy to answer. They were showing me fish after we got in the water and fish that they could see right off. I seen movement, but could not focus on individual fish. After a few minutes I was able to focus on the fish. Livie jumped right In after a mad Tom, and got him. She showed that she was not afraid to get wet or dirty as she caught him with her hands. While John and I talked, prepping me for what I would be looking for and how to do this micro fishing business, Livie picked up a pole and brought in a few fish. We proceeded to chase fish, and John could tell right off what they were just by how they were moving. John and Livie had the best focus of anyone that I have ever met. They could see these tiny fish, when just the head would protrude out of the rock.  It took me awhile sometimes to see what they were showing me, but towards the end of the day I felt very accomplished by their teachings. I told John once of the story of seeing a very colorful fish that resembled a tropical aquarium fish when I was a teenager. John then told me what he thought it was, a rainbow darter. I have heard of darters, but never thought I would chase after them. I looked the picture up and believed that he was right. He told me that he could show me how to catch one, and said if we could meet up one day he would really enjoy showing me. Yesterday was the day and I am very proud to say that after 20 years I was able to catch the fish that I tried to catch with my hands in front of my girlfriend at the time and failed.


Livie is a true sport, she enjoys fishing and even more, she enjoys turtles. Especially turtles named Greg.   


Thank you John and Livie for inviting me to fish with you, and for teaching me a new way to fish.  I really think this will steal alot of my time on lunch breaks, and I I am very grateful for the knowledge that you have shared.  

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No problems Daryk. It was our pleasure. I'm glad that we were finally able to get together on the water. Just remember that there are lots of clear water creeks throughout the Ozarks. From now through June is the best time to catch those colorful male darters. Get on Tenkarabum.com for the microfishing hooks and get the Owner or Gamakatsu smallest tanago halfmoon hooks. And also remember that Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays if you need to get another catch bag ot two ^_^

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18 minutes ago, Quillback said:

I was doing a little reading about those rainbow darters and apparently they are a fairly easy fish to keep in an aquarium.  I am tempted, just don't feel like investing the time right now.  

I've thought about setting up a tank myself and didn't invest the time to get one set up. We had an aquarium discussion last year and darters were a fairly common aquarium fish. Sculpin were fine unless you wanted other smaller fish in the tank :huh:! I'd have to go back and look for those posts. 

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I think you're right on the fantail darter ID.  Looks like one to me; the rows of tiny dark spots that look like lines is typical of them.  

I've kept darters in my aquarium many times over the years, but they feed almost entirely on tiny live aquatic insects, and it isn't easy to train them to eat fish food.  Eventually some will get hungry enough to eat the small frozen critters (brine shrimp?) that you can buy in pet stores...they come in little cubes and you have to thaw and separate them before putting them in the aquarium.  And since every other minnow or small fish in the aquarium loves them, most don't even make it to the bottom where the darters can get them.  For the most part, I haven't had much luck with keeping darters healthy in my aquarium.  

Madtoms, however, make terrific aquarium fish.  Though they'll spend most of the time hiding when the lights are on, they are very hardy in the aquarium and will eventually stop hiding and roam around.  I've caught them when they were an inch long and kept them for years, until they got to be 6 inches long, longer than they probably ever get in the wild.

The sunfish is definitely a bluegill/green hybrid.

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