As I’ve written before, I belong to the roughfish.com community. Every year, we have a contest in June to see how many species each person can catch. Some people try really hard to win (there’s a custom rod in it for the winner), but the vast majority of us use it as an opportunity to test our knowledge and push ourselves to be out as much as possible.
My goal last year was 20 species, since I was newly moved out to Minnesota and was dealing with depression, mistakes, and adjusting to my surroundings. I achieved it with 21 species (if you’re curious, here are my entries from the year: http://www.roughfish.com/contest-entries/68318/65506 ). As it was, that was only enough for 18th place, but as far as I am concerned, it was a successful year. That said, I knew I could do significantly better and felt like I cheated myself by not getting out more – I only fished on 6 days that year.
This year, I decided to up it by 10 species. I would have gone for 40, except that I flew home to WA for my sister’s High School graduation for 10 days at the beginning of the month, and knew that I wouldn’t be able to fish much, if at all. Every year, my sub-goal is to beat my fishing Sensei, Tony, but I know that unless I put up 40+ species, it probably won’t happen. Still, it’s fun to banter about it with him.
Every year, we have a contest image that we have to display in order to get credit for the species (to prove that you caught it that month). This year was an amazing design:
‘Spadeface’ is an affectionate nickname for Shovelnose Sturgeon (pictured on either side of the Spade). Needless to say, I was excited to get going.
June 1 came on a Thursday, and I had a therapist appointment beforehand. I was somehow able to put aside thoughts of my fishing plans for the entirety of my session – I really needed it! After it was over, I practically RAN to my car, and drove to one of my favorite little creek spots.
My friend Greenwood (Fishingdude14 on Roughfish) gave me this spot in confidence that I would keep it secret, and within 5 minutes of my first visit there I knew exactly why. It was in the middle of a wealthy suburb of Minneapolis, and was completely chock full of massive bluegill and plenty of respectable largemouth bass. Notably for me, however, it also holds huge numbers of small Green Sunfish, Black Bullhead, and even some Pumpkinseeds. I’ve also seen someone catch a Walleye there. It’s a really cool spot, and is rather small.
The downside of this spot, however, is that it is almost impossible to fish when the water is high. We had gotten a LOT of rain in the last few weeks of May, but I was hoping it would clear out by the time I got there.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. When I arrived, I immediately noticed that it was raging – faster than I’d ever seen it move. We’re talking whitecaps here, people. I would post the video I took, but out of respect for Greenwood, I am keeping it to myself. Just trust me – this spot was unfishable by traditional means.
Not to be deterred on this, the first day of the contest, I switched tactics from bottomrigging in the middle of the pool to bouncing a small (size 14) hook around in the rocks close to shore. I knew that there would be some Green Sunfish and maybe a few Black Bullhead or other sunfish around, and didn’t want to leave emptyhanded. I’m going to show you a picture of a size 14 hook so you understand the insanity of what happened next. I could only find a picture of a fly, but I was using just a hook with a tiny nub of redworm (leaf worm/trout worm/red wiggler).
After poking around some rocks in the immediate vicinity of shore (think less than 3 inches away), I moved my bait to a more open area between some bigger rocks closer to the torrential current. After a few bounces, I see something big and orange come from the edge of the current, inhale the bait, and immediately run back towards the current.
It happened so quickly and unexpectedly that it took me a moment to realize that a carp had taken my bait and was running straight into the torrent. Unfortunately for me, this was one moment too long, because by the time I tightened up my drag and tried to pull the fish back to the eddy, it was in the current.
Now, I could tell pretty quickly that the fish itself was not very big – probably 15-20″ and under 4 lbs. But when you’re dealing with as much CFS as I was ripping past me, the size of the fish really doesn’t matter very much. I struggled with the fish, trying desperately to pull it out of the current before it ran down into the culvert under the bridge, but it was too much. I ALMOST had it right before it hit the culvert, but I couldn’t exert enough force with my ultra-light (UL) rod and 6 lb test to lift it up into the eddy and I had to give in and let it slip back.
As I was fighting this fish, I had moved downstream on the rocks and was now standing halfway into the creek, perched precariously on a slippery rock. By now, my rod was bending in half (not an exaggeration, I assure you), and I was wondering whether my rod, line, or hook would give out first. For about 5 minutes (you lose track when something like this happens), I sought control over the fish. I would gain line on it and pull it towards me, and just as I thought I had gained some purchase, it turned around and swam away, putting me back to square one. Just when I thought it was only a matter of time before I tired it out enough to land it, I pulled and the hook popped out (hardly surprising, since it was such a small hook under such tremendous pressure).
Normally, I would utter a few choice swear words at the fish (hey, it’s part of the game and they know it!), but I was just too dumbfounded by what had just occurred to be upset in any way. It’s not like I can’t easily catch a Common Carp somewhere else.
All of this happened in the first 5 minutes of the contest.
After re-baiting, I resumed my rock-poking, still shaking from the experience. Pretty quickly, I had miniature specimens of two of my target fish:
Green Sunfish (Species #1)
Black Bullhead (Species #2)
I tossed around halfheartedly for Largemouth Bass, and after losing a swimbait in 3 casts and not catching anything on my float rig for 30 minutes, I threw in the towel and moved downstream. The surprise carp had reminded me that I had a really solid Carp spot just around the bend (it had actually been featured in ‘Easter and a Cure for Mental Duress’ as the spot where I caught the psychologically re-aligning carp).
I got set up at the second spot, and within 5 minutes I hooked and lost another carp. Not a big deal, just a bit atypical. They’re usually hooked pretty well, and are hard to lose unless they wrap you around something or you set your drag too tightly for one of their runs and they snap you. Setting aside my moderate frustration, I set back up again (bottom/carolina-rigged half nightcrawler, size 6 octopus circle hook, 1 oz of weight – this is my standard setup for most fish), and within 10 minutes I had lost another one. Mentally berating myself for rushing things, I had to consciously calm myself down. As it was getting dark, I managed to land my contest Common Carp (man, they sure fight hard at this particular spot – he had me worried for a bit there). It was slightly bigger than the one I had caught there previously (probably about 23″- a respectable fish)
Common Carp (Species #3)
Satisfied, I packed up and went home to begin packing for my 10 day stay at home.
It was a good start.