I recently moved from Northern Indiana to Holly Springs, NC and have been banging out some lifelisters. It has been awesome fishing many of the area's rivers, creeks, and coastline. My son, Tyler, has also caught the lifelisting bug and we have been on a few expeditions over the summer. I thought I would share a recent highlight.
Tyler has been wanting to catch a bowfin/dogfish for several years. He has had several hookups and broken lines in that time period. We decided to fish the Lumber river in southern NC, a blackwater river known for harboring a number of different sunfish species (Bluegill, Redear, Dollar, Bluespotted, Spotted, Black Banded, etc.) We launched our canoe and paddled upstream checking out likely spots to fish. What a beautiful river! Huge Cypress groves, black gum, and tupelo trees lined the bank. It was like slipping back to some prehistoric age. As we moved along, I heard the sound of a motor behind me. We moved over to let them pass, a couple of guys in a john boat. The odd thing was that they had landing nets but I didn't see any fishing rods. They moved up ahead to a back eddy, and splash, threw something like a cable into the water. The dude in the back of the boat starts cranking something... Yep, they were telephone fishing. Great! There goes my chances of fishing for calm, undisturbed fish. Oh well...
We continued upstream and the shocker boys were out of view. As we came to a bend in the river, we glided toward a large deadfall. The water was fairly shallow and the bottom was very visible, sandy. Tyler yells "Flathead!" and points to the left of the canoe. I glance over to see a dark shape moving from the shallows, under the canoe, into the deeper section of the bend. Then I catch some more movement, and see a nice bowfin move in the same direction. Dogfish! I shout back to Ty. We grin at each other, and make plans to get Tyler's first Bfin.
We catch a couple bluegills and turn them to fish chunks. Tie off a tree at the head of the hole and drop two lines downstream. A few minutes pass and Ty's line goes slack. "Check that line to see if a fish is on" I suggest to Ty. He grabs the rod and tightens up. Oh yeah, there is one on there. The rod bends over, the drag screams, and the water is boiling! My adrenaline is through the roof, as I coach Tyler to get the fish near the canoe. Now, the canoe does have stablilizers on it (strongly recommend to anyone fishing from a stationery canoe), but it is still tricky to land big fish from it. After quite a bit of back and forth, the fish is getting close. I think it is a bowfin, but could be a big cat? Ty lifts the rod, and a huge head comes out of the dark water. It's a bowfin, and a good one! Close to double digits. After I tuck my eyes back in my head, I reach out with the landing net to secure the catch. Now I pride myself on taking my time with fish at the net, always careful not to blow it and bump the fish at this crucial juncture. Well, what does dad do? I totally panicked and blasted the fish in the head, it spun and dove directly under the canoe. SNAP!!! My jaw dropped and heart sank. I looked at Ty. He says "I'm sorry dad" I say "Ty, you did great, I blew it". "We'll get another one" he says confidently.
Less than 5 minutes later, he slams into another one. The water boils and the drag sings. This time I untie the canoe and paddle to a shallow sandbar. This one is not getting away. Ty battles away, and finally the bowfin lays on its side and slides into the net. YES!!! We high five, and the heavens let loose. A pop up rain shower dumps buckets of rain on us. Who cares! We hoop and holler like madmen as we celebrate Ty's epic catch. There are some moments in fishing that you will always treasure. You know you are raising a "roughfisher" when your boy rejoices over a bowfin. I couldn't be prouder!
We also managed to get some other lifelisters: dollar sunfish (both), golden shiners (Ty), and my first spotted sunfish!
What a blast.