2020 Part 1 - Isolation, Frustration, and Celebration

It’s no doubt that in March of this year our lives changed completely. Wrenches were thrown into everyone’s lives. We were sent home from school and from work to wait for things to get better. Like most of us, my daily routine was completely gone. Just like thousands of college students across the country, I was forced to pack up my stuff from school and bring it all home. It was a sad day for sure. Coming home from that, I wasn’t sure where to go on afterwards. So, I chose to return to the one thing I knew had remained the same through all the craziness: fishing. Since it was March, the waters were just beginning to come alive in Iowa. The waters were high so I decided to focus on one of my favorite floodwater spots. After just a small bit of searching, I found the local roughfish honey hole. Redhorse, buffalo, and carp were all abundant. I managed to land 3 different redhorse species in Central Iowa for the first time I can remember. I caught several nice sized carp and smallmouth buffalo. Even the nice sized channel catfish wanted to be seen.


As a couple weeks had passed, I began to feel a weight coming over me. I had fallen into an unfortunate routine of fishing becoming my only way of escape. It had almost become a drug for me and I was no longer getting enough of it to continue to bring me as much joy. Because I still had nowhere else to really go, however, I chose to continue doing it. 

That wasn’t to say that I still didn’t catch fish. I did, but man, I just didn’t enjoy catching them. I dragged myself out to catch a few nice sized carp and some bass here and there. I lost a couple big flatheads due to unknown circumstances (bad luck, probably), and just kept getting discouraged while trudging along.


As spring slogged on, days slowly became warmer and I began targeting an old adversary again, my white whale, the blue sucker. I had spent many fruitless hours the previous spring seasons trying to find them. I had come up empty handed every time I had targeted them. Since they were not local, I would have to drive to another part of the state to find them. My first 2020 attempt for them came in mid-April, and it was a complete and total failure. I did not catch any fish at all, nor did I see any fish caught. That weight that I had shoved to the back of my head was again trying to take over, to tell me to give up on it all. Thankfully I still had enough to continue on and keep trying for them. Two more trips ensued with odd bags of fish, including almost 2 dozen quillback in a day (never thought I’d be complaining about quillback, right?), large wipers, and even multiple large redhorse and carp. On one trip I had even hooked and lost a blue sucker nearing 3 feet long. That one was a swift kick in the nuts. It hurt to drive home empty handed that day, especially when I had seen 5 other people catch them with no issue. What was I doing wrong? Was I not good enough? Did I not deserve to land one? These questions stewed in my head on the long drive home. I had put in too much time to come out empty handed this spring. They were just beginning their spawn, which meant I had very little time to catch one this spring. I was not going to wait until next year. I would go back for them again, as soon as I possibly could.


That next opportunity came in just a few days. It was a cold and rainy day in early May, not unusual for the time of year. It did mean one thing, however. The river would be higher than normal. On my 2 hour drive over to the place, I was in an insanely focused mood. Today would be the day. I had to tell myself that, over and over, to keep myself motivated enough to not turn my car around. When I arrived, the rain was picking up and the temperature sat at a nice and balmy 45. Perfect conditions, right?

Once I had finally parked my car, I was still skeptical. The rain had dampened the trees and rocks and it was starting to dampen my spirits. Still, I had already driven two hours, and I wasn’t going to go home without even casting for a little while. Walking down towards the river, I was very happy with what I saw. Spawning blues. There was one issue, however. They were all spawning in incredibly fast and shallow water. This was going to be a difficult one. Or so I thought. I decided my best option wouldn’t be stationary baits, but rather drifting baits past them repeatedly. I tied on a small-ish jighead and threaded a redworm onto it. On my first cast, I felt a fish pick up my drifting bait and run with it. I set the hook as powerfully as I could, I wasn’t losing this fish. After a brief but very spirited fight, I swooped my net around the fish. To my dismay, it was not a blue sucker. It was another bluish fish, though. It was a beautifully colored up smallmouth buffalo that was also there to spawn. I wasn’t too happy, considering he managed to bite in the middle of the masses of blue suckers. Oh well, back into the water we go.

After a few more minutes of casting, I hooked up again. This fish felt a lot bigger than the buffalo. After only just a few seconds of fighting the fish, it breached the surface. BLUE! My heartbeat quickly skyrocketed. I had the fish hooked, but I still had to get it across the heavy current. After carefully piloting the fish through the current, I was getting incredibly close. Now, between me and the fish, laid a minefield of sharp rocks jutting out of the water that I could get snagged on. I delicately guided the tired fish through these rocks, and with one beautiful swoop, my net had captured the fish. It was done.

The man fishing a few yards was probably pretty confused when I started yelling at the top of my lungs in the pouring rain. Thankfully, he wasn’t scared away because I needed someone to take a photo of the blue. It was an awesome fish. Built like a tank, and probably as strong as one too. It was a male, which I had confirmed by the white liquid all over my waders. The rain will wash that out, right? After ogling at the presence of this fish for a minute, it was time for it to return to the waters of which it came from. Thankfully it was raining, because the rain covered up the tears I was shedding watching the fish swim away. They were tears of triumph, happiness, and joy.

I fished for a while longer and landed one other blue sucker. I was in heaven that day, to say the least. After about 3 hours of fishing the rain began to finally chill me down to the bone and I decided it was time to get a warm meal somewhere and drive home. For the first time, I wasn’t driving home sad and empty-handed. After 60+ hours of fishing, 20+ hours of driving, and a lot of dollars spent on transit, I had won.


Spring is also the season of thunderstorms, and for someone who stormchases, I loved being able to drive around the region and see the sights and new species. While chasing in southern Iowa, I stopped to fish because I had arrived at my target area a little early. After casting around for a while, I managed to hook another new species- the Sauger! Made a day with crappy storms just a little better!


After that little surprise, I headed north to spend a few days targeting some big fish in Iowa’s own great lakes. Up at Lake Okoboji, we would be after some more toothy predators, walleye and the rare mutation of pike, silver pike. I managed to land one larger silver pike.


Other fish we landed here were big pumpkinseed, suckers, carp, walleye, and even a muskie caught by my dad.


Soon, those colder and rainier days of May began to transition into our warmer days smelling of the coming summer. WIth the warmer temperatures, more different fish began to show up. I finally bagged my first flathead of the year in late May, and also managed to nab a black buffalo and a carp with the longest barbels I'd ever seen.


To cap it all off, it's safe to say spring was odd. I spent a lot of time on my own, and had a rough time trying to find fish sometimes. But, I still managed to finally conquer my white whale after literal years of trying! I managed to put some friends on some local fish to help take our minds off of everything crazy going on in the world. I hope you all did well this year, and are still doing well.  I will finish up and release the other couple parts to this as I get the motivation to do so, so don't worry.... -Casey


Species List:


Cast_and_Blast's picture

That is a great story and achievement. Loved reading about your Blue Sucker chase. Congrats! Thanks for sharing!

SDfisher's picture

Thanks for sharing your adventures! I enjoyed reading it and congats on the great catches! Keep it up and keep posting!

Marc Ohms

BradleyR's picture

Great summary man, thanks for sharing! I'll be keeping my eyes out for part II!

drawer.bli's picture

That blue still has me in awe... what an incredible fish