August 24th – Sunfish Slamming
I woke up early to have some time to fish in the nearby pond which was supposed to have Redear Sunfish. It took me a while before I found any fish at all, but when I did they all turned out to be Bluegill. I kept one for bait but otherwise failed the Redear mission.
We drove back into DC where we were going to try a little more Snakehed fishing. It was high on both our lists so we wanted to make at least a small effort even if our chances were slim. Unfortunately, the spot we had planned to fish had a construction yard blocking the access. So we gave up and went to a Blue Catfish spot.
We cast out two lines each baited with the cut Bluegill I caught that morning. It didn’t take long before we had our first run… man these fish hit hard. Unfortunately the fish dropped the bait but almost instantly the second rod went off! I set the hook and knew I was into something sizeable. In the excitement of fighting the fish, the first rod started being dragged into the water again, Alex set the hook but unfortunately ended up snagged. I finally landed the fish and was super happy to lift up my lifer Blue Catfish! It also had a pretty cool whisker mutation, kind of like split hairs.
The bites went on like this for a while until the tide slowed down. The action was insane but our hookup ratio was terrible, I was unused to cutbait so think I had cut it too thick and it was stopping the hook from catching on anything. It probably took 10+ missed runs before Alex landed one of her own as well.
Satisfied with our afternoon of catfishing, we made our way up to Philly. Guess what, traffic was terrible here too, the drive took over 4hrs. Alex wanted to visit a harbour park but it was impossible to find parking cheapr than $17US :o No way were we about to pay that, so I dropped her off and did a quick check-up on my car while I waited. We also had the mandatory Philly cheesesteak, they’re pretty good.
Leaving Philly presented us with surprisingly little traffic, so we made good time as we headed to the New Jersey Pine Barrens for some very special species. It was dark by the time we arrived, and I wasn’t sure how that would affect my targets. As it turns out, it couldn’t have turned out better. The Mud Sunfish I wanted were crazy aggressive and it didn’t take long to land my first one!
Next up were the 3 “micro-sunfish” of the Enneacanthus genus. I was seeing small Sunfish all around but it took a little time before I was able to differentiate the species with my headlamp. I located a number of Banded Sunfish and lifted up my first one in no time!
The Bluespots took a little more time to find. Probably about 20 minutes later I gave up and tried going for what I figured was another Banded Sunfish. To my surprise, the fish I lifted up was my Bluespotted Sunfish! Only the Blackbanded left now…
This last one proved difficult. I figured they would be easily recognizable in the water but I was unable to locate any save a very small individual that I knew was too tiny even for the smallest of tanago hooks. I was somewhere around the spot where I had caught where I caught the Bluespotted when I saw the desired stripey fellow. I tried convincing him to take a small chunk of worm for about 10 minutes before I realized his mouth was just too small to take the already miniscule bait. So I cut it in half, the smallest bait I’ve ever used… after a little bit of tempting the fish, it nibbled the bait and I lifted out the Blackbanded Sunfish! I couldn’t believe my luck at having completed the slam in one outing, and at night!
After that fish it was getting close to 1AM so was definitely time to find a WMA and get to sleep for the big day ahead of us.