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Missouri Multi-Mission - The Long winding Road

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Okay a crappy title. I thought about the next Mad Max movie after road warrior and that was Thunderdome, which I did not like and did not want my next marathon multispecies trek associated with that terrible movie. So I am back in Missouri on business. I scheduled my trip to fly into STL Sat morning. My plan was to drive down to Poplar Bluff and try again for the three other sunfish species that live in that area that I did not catch on my last trip. I did some more research and found a spot on the St Francis and a couple of spots along Clear creek (a tributary of the St Francis) that might have steekcolor shiners, wedgespot shiners and others micros. I also planned on going back to the pond in Poplar Bluff that I fished previously and a couple of spots in Mingo National Wildlife refuge to try for redspotted, orangespotted, dollar, and/or bantam sunfish. Being a smarter man this time, I had made hotel reservations in Poplar Bluff to break the trip into two days. that should give me less driving fatigue and better yet more time on the water trying for new species ;)!

First stop was getting onto Rt 34 off of Rt 67 above Silva Missouri and onto the St Francis. Ok I may have been smart about my housing arrangements, but not so bright on picking a common access point on an Ozark river on a Sat morning/afternoon in the summer. So it was crowded to say the least. I still went down to the river to check out what fish might be available. I saw bleeding shiners, northern studfish, lots of longear and bluegill sunfish, but no steelcolor shiners. I only saw one new species and it disappeared soon after I first noticed it. Decided against trying to microfish in a crowd with little variety available. Went to the first crossing of Clear creek and did not like the amount of traffic on the road that I would have to park along and the creek was not real impressive at this access point. I went to the next spot. There was a deep hole just below the bridge. The bank dropped almost straight down to the water. I saw lots of longear and green sunfish as well as blackspotted topminnows. I felt that I could catch a few fish, but more likely to lose a bunch in the bridge supports. Without having a good access down to the creek, I passed on this spot. The third access was where CR 312 crossed the creek. I turned right onto 312 and could not find the access that I had on the map. So I headed up to Sam Baker State park and tried a different access point of the St Francis. I scoped out a spot downriver from the boat ramp and had no people. I found a fair number of the ubiquitous longear sunfish, a couple northern studfish, and a giant school of bleeding shiners. Deciding that I was going to catch something, I got my rod together and put on a John Deer microjig to try for a dollar sunfish. First cast and have a longear in hand, then another, then a green sunfish, then a bluegill. Rinse and Repeat.

Longear Sunfish - St Francis.jpg

Green sunfish - St Francis.jpg

I never got out any real micro stuff since there weren't any fish that looked like new species. I looked over every longear sunfish carefully since the dollar looks a lot like the longear, but has spotting on the opercular flap that the longear does not. I didn't catch a dollar sunfish, but caught a dozen sunfish before I left.

As heading back I decided to head onto the road across from CR 312 which looked at first to be just a short cul de sac. Instead the road when on beyond the houses and into the thick woods. I crossed a trellis bridge and a pull off on the other side of the bridge. There was even a trail down to the creek :D. I saw what could be steelcolor shiners, longear sunfish, smallmouth bass, central stonerollers, and even a couple of logperch! It didn't take long to get my wading gear on and get down to the creek again with both my microrod and my other rod. I immediately went after the logperch using a #20 hook and piece of worm. They attacked it but the hook was too big. Before switching out the hook for a smaller one I walked down stream to try for the stonerollers. I ended up catching one of the minnows that I thought might have been a steelcolor shiner. Got pictures albeit not very good ones. I sent this onto a friend and he felt that it was more likely to be a blacktail shiner than a steelcolor. Both species do overlap in this area. Either way this was my first new life list species of the trip. 


I caught a few longear sunfish but nothing else of interest with that set-up. So I switched down to the #26 tanago hook and worm piece. I got the bait in front of the logperch and was able to finally catch one. The size and darker coloration of this fish makes me think that it might be a different species from the common logperch that I have caught previously. Wish that it was a better photo. My friend stated that the logperch in that area are not well defined in terms of hybridization or what species are present and he is working with folks in Yale to figure them out. He felt that this was likely a hybrid or an Ohio logperch, but I have not been able to find information on it yet and he is busy on his book to push him to do my research.


I caught a few other small fish, but nothing new. I grabbed my other rod again with the John Deere microjig and caught a few more longear sunfish. Although a pain when you at trying for a new fish, they are still one of my favorite Ozark fish. They are just so colorful!


Since it was getting late and I only had about two hours before dark, I made my way down to Mingo. I followed the road from the map that would get me to a spot where I could try for a bantam. The road ends at a private property. I found a guy nearby and found out that I needed to get into the refuge on the other side of this guys property. I finally got into the refuge and found a spot to fish. Nothing. I found another spot at ditch 11 and this was a gar hole! I put on a gar fly that @BilletHead had given me. I had several large and small gar blowup and grab my bait. I just could not land any. At one point I had a big fish explode on my bait and it fought hard. It was a large carp and it simply spit the bait out as I got it near the bank. The darkness and the mosquitoes drove me off the water.

Somewhat discouraged, the next morning I headed to the local park to fish the pond that could have redspotted and possibly dollar sunfish as well as all of the locals. I took both rods with me and set my microrig next to a bench near the pond while I fished the John Deere. I caught longear sunfish, green sunfish, largemouth bass, and bluegill sunfish, but no dollars or redspotted. I went to the bench and my rod was gone :angry:! So much for microfishing. After about 25 fish they had pulled the chenille off of the jig. I cut it short and kept fishing. I went around the pond to the incurrent stream and saw more sunfish. At this time there was little to none of the chenille on the jig any more. I caught a couple of green sunfish then my first redspotted sunfish, then another, and another... all on a bare hook!

Redspotted Sunfish (2) - McLane Park - 14Jul19.jpg

With a new sunfish species on my list, I headed back to Mingo and another go at the bantam sunfish. I planned on trying down near the spillway first. As I drove there I saw a large lake. On the maps it looks like a brushy field due to the extensive amount of vegetation in this shallow lake. I drove along the bank for pockets in the weeds that I might be able to pull out a fish. Very few existed. I did pull over and walked the bank. I immediately saw small fish and what looked like a small bullhead, possibly a black bullhead which I have not caught before. Got the gear out, put on the #26 tanago hook, and never saw that fish again. I did know that there is a topminnow species in this area. Topminnows have a bright patch on their heads. Blackstriped and blackspotted topminnows have a triangular patch. Plains topminnows have a line from the head down to their dorsal fin. I saw a couple of fish that had a similar bright patches on their heads - likely starhead topminnows! Long story short, it took almost 30 mins to find and recognize the starhead topminnows, find one large enough to take the hook, not get spooked, and bite the bait. I did get it done with my first and only starhead topminnow!



I put on a larger hook, but still wanted to fish worms to try for some bantams in the lake. The weeds and wind prevented me from fishing the lake effectively. At one spot there were literally hundreds of mosquito fish feeding near the weeds. running out of time, i headed for the spillway. I left on the worm and caught one sunfish after another in an overflow pool near the spillway. The first was a longear, then a green, then a green, bluegill, warmouth, and even a juvenile redear sunfish.


Never a dollar or a bantam sunfish. Time ran out and I had to head back to Columbia. Only 565 miles on this trip. and got into Columbia around 9:15 pm. I caught new species, had a great time, but still need to get back and get those two species on the line and in hand. Oh and I had a great brisket dinner at Kettelhut BBQ in Festus!

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4 minutes ago, snagged in outlet 3 said:

Are you saying someone stole your rod??

Yes sir! Sucked big time! I just wasn't paying attention figuring it's just a bunch of joggers.

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Awesome trip, hope you enjoyed our small town.   I am not much for Kettlehuts,  but most seem to like it.  The fishing trip sounds like alot of fun.  I am really sorry to hear about the rod.  

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