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Michigan and Kentucky Trip


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#1 mattknepley

mattknepley
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Posted 16 September 2017 - 11:10 AM

Warning: Lame descriptions and poor photography.

Within the first eight days of September fall my birthday, my wife's birthday, and our anniversary. Usually we are pretty low-key about it and don't make a fuss. But this year we did things much differently; we took a week and a half and traveled to her home state of Michigan to be with the Great Lakes as well as take in a Bob Seger concert and the U of M Wolverines' home opener at the Big House. Of course, we put in a little fish and bird nerding along the way as well.

Luckily for you all, I didn't take many pictures and when I did I really struggled with my camera. But there are enough here to give you an idea.

We spent a few days in a mom and pop cottage right on the shore of Lake Huron. (On the Au Sable Twp side of the mouth of the Au Sable River, Iosco County) The beach was sandy with lots of small rocks to sort through and collect. Many were very interesting fossils, mostly corals, and we did get one tiny legit Petosky Stone. As for fish, when the lake was calm schools of small minnow-looking fishes cruised the surface right at the shore. A couple swipes of the dipnet turned up these guys:

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I'm thinking the above fish with square spots at the caudal base are Spottail Shiners (N. hudsonius)but they look so different from my South Carolina I just am not sure. What about the fish at the very top center of the third picture; that caudal marking and coloration under the anal fin is different on that one than on my "hudsonius". Any clue what that is? I know these are bad pics, but hopefully the gestalt of them will bring some ideas. These were small, small fish (most of 'em) and the light was tricky and yes, I suck as a photographer.

At the very tip of the Lower Peninsula, on the Lake Huron side of the Straits of Mackinac, I found this forensic treasure. I'm pretty sure it's a Freshwater Drum ((Aplondinotus grunniens). I'm not as stringent in my life-listing requirements as, say, a Ben Cantrell; actually I pretty much use the "vulture approach" so I'm looking to add this to my list. The shape of the caudal, the dorsal spines, and the formerly scaled cheek are my reasons for thinking drum. Here's the thing, though. I do not understand Page and Burr's range maps for some Great Lakes fishes. There seems to be an inconsistency in maps for fishes that occur both in the Great Lakes and inland-type waters. The map for Freshwater Drum does not indicate them to be in any Great Lake (though they are, right?), while the map for Mooneye clearly indicates that species in both the Great Lakes and inland waters. (Even if my id is wrong, this map thing still puzzles me.) Further, Hubbs and Lagler (and Smith in his 2004 revision of their work) do not have drum anywhere near the Straits). Lastly, Bailey, Latta, and Smith (also 2004)have drum in Lake Huron, but no closer than many miles away in Thunder Bay. They do have them a little closer, just outside the Straits in Lake Michigan, but none of these records have voucher specimens. The works Smith were involved in agree on the Huron local, but not at all in the Lake Michigan locale. Still, it is no stretch to imagine them on Mackinaw City shores.

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I find the corpse of the "drum" interesting. It looked to be pretty well eviscerated and the eyes eaten, but no real damage to flesh. I assume wave action removed the scales; no human or critter would scale the whole fish to include the cheeks, gut it, and then toss it out without removing the flesh. Any other ideas? As for the habitat shot, it gives you an idea of the waters from which this fish washed up. This is one of the tiniest parts of the Great Lakes! The Mighty Mac stretches across the Straits to the Michigan Upper Peninsula; to the left is the Lake Michigan side, to the right of Mighty Mac is Lake Huron. The blues and greens of the upper three Great Lakes are amazing; colors to rival any tropical sea,only with a distinctly northern feel and as the bumper sticker says, "Unsalted and Shark Free!" I have several pics that actually do a good job illustrating a few of the myriad colors of Lake Huron, but they all feature LeDean (aka "wife") who would kill me if I posted any of them. :)

Returning to the Straits after a trip up to Lake Superior at Whitefish Point, we stopped on the Lake Michigan side of the Upper Peninsula to watch the bridge light up. Whilst we waited I got a chance to dipnet in a quiet area off the Straits. Found several minnnows I believe to be Sand Shiners (Notropis stramineus), and unfortunately a Round Goby, too.

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The next stop for any fishes was at Arenac County's Whitney Drain, aka the new mouth of the East Branch of the Au Gres River. Saw a large sucker-type fish riding down the respectable current; broadside to said current and chillin'. It was obviously in no distress. I'm guessing it to have been a Catostomus catostomus but maybe a C. commersonii. I remember it well enough that I am sure with a little more vetting I can accurately id it. I mostly mention it because I found its riding the current interesting and humorous. Unfortunately, the only other fins I turned up belonged to these guys...

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It's too bad Round Gobies are such menaces to our native fishes. They're actually not bad looking and fairly interesting to observe.

The Bob Seger show we caught was in Saginaw. Our hotel was just off Tittabawassee Rd, and darned if it didn't have a ditch running next to it. When I saw an egret fly up out of the deep ditch, I grabbed the nets and scrambled down the steep, 7' or so banks. The thing was wall to wall fishes. Nobody new turned up for me, but it was still a fun diversion the morning after the concert. You almost couldn't pull up a net without Creek Chubs or Brook Sticklebacks. One funky-lookin' Green Sunfish made an appearance, too.

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It's hard to believe that above this ditch to one side is a growing suburban retail and hotel district while to the other is a large cornfield.

I know I promised Kentucky fishes, too, in the title, but it's noon on a September Saturday. I'm already missing kick off! So I'm cutting this "short", and will do the Blaylock section of the write-up later. Yes, Mr. B did put me in a fishy spot on our return trip to SC. Unfortunately, we couldn't actually meet. More later.

For now I leave you with this post as it is. I spent a good chunk of my youth near, or actually on the shores of Lake Ontario. I really miss the big, fresh water and the north in general. It is obvious when we are in Michigan that my wife is home. We really do love SC, and are glad to be here and plan to be here for a couple more decades. But we sure are hopeful life finds a way to get us up to Michigan on a regular basis until then...
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#2 Akpinion

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Posted 29 September 2017 - 04:14 PM

Those pictures are really beautiful. Michigan really is gorgeous. 

 

I was wondering, how much flow was in that creek by the hotel? From the pic it looks like a moderate amount? Do you usually find creek chubs in moderate flow? 



#3 mattknepley

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Posted 29 September 2017 - 06:06 PM

Thanks, Akpinion. I wish I had managed to get some really good photos. I did manage a couple, but nothing fish related...

There was a surprising amount of flow for how flat an area that creek was in. I think "moderate" would be a good descriptor. It seems to me Creek Chubs generally prefer a slowish to medium current.
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#4 Chasmodes

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 09:09 AM

Fantastic report!

 

I've caught freshwater drum in Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and Lake Ontario.  I would have guessed that they'd be common in all of the great lakes.

 

I saw a YT dive video of round gobies and there were thousands of them.  I always imagined that ever since we started catching them while smallmouth fishing that there were a few, but wow, what an eye opener.  I'll see if I can locate that video and share it here.  


Kevin Wilson


#5 mattknepley

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Posted 06 October 2017 - 05:06 PM

At long last, here's the Kentucky part of the report. Headed back to SC from Michigan we stopped at the KY Craft/Artisan Center just off I-75 in Berea. It is fantastic;so much cool stuff. Anywho, the wife and I spent longer than anticipated exploring the whole thing and decided to make a night of it in Berea. The following morning, knowing I was somewhere in Blaylock country, I gave the ol' Josher a call to see if he could hit the waters with me in an impromptu trip. Alas, he was unable, but he did put me on a nice fishy spot (with only one turn left out of the directions) that I thoroughly enjoyed for a couple hours. I believe the name was Silver Creek. I'm not sure the drainage, Josh will hopefully chime in.

I was netting solo, so probably missed a lot,but did turn up Blacknose Dace...
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and a cyprinid I should be able to id but can't...
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and another cyprinid I don't have nailed down...
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and lots of nice Rainbow Darters. Some had two brown, very pronounced saddles that reminded me in passing of Meramec Saddled Darters we saw at the convention...
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no shortage of Fantail Darters, and this female Rainbow had a different pattern...
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got a cute li'l Yellow Bullhead.
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Here's an over-exposed pic of the location. Nice depth and good current and cover. The backwater eddies of it turned up a topminnow I dropped before it got to the bucket and some gambusia, too.
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Thanks, Josh for putting me onto such a fun little spot. Really wish I'd had more time, and had been able to meet up with ya in person. Our paths never seemed to cross much at the convention...

Any and all help with ids for the KY fish, and MI fish from earlier in the post would be muchly appreciated.
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#6 Matt DeLaVega

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Posted 06 October 2017 - 07:04 PM

 Maybe central stoneroller, striped shiner and bluntnose minnow?


The member formerly known as Skipjack


#7 mattknepley

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Posted 07 October 2017 - 05:25 AM

Thanks, Matt. Ya know, I never once thought Stoneroller till you mentioned it, but I sure see it now. Not confident enough in my KY geography to know which basin I was in. According to Page and Burr I may have been right on the border of its range there. I think you're dead-on with the Bluntnose id. Thanks, man!
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#8 Matt DeLaVega

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Posted 07 October 2017 - 09:09 AM

In the area out of it's range in Kentucky, it is replaced with largescale stoneroller. I don't have a clue how distinguish between the two really. Duh! One has larger scales, but I don't think I could notice the difference. 


The member formerly known as Skipjack


#9 TimothyHD

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 07:32 AM

This is from wiscfish.org.  It is one of the best fish ID sites I've found, if only for fish on Wisconsin.

 

Lateral line scales

Stoneroller, Central 47-58

Stoneroller, Largescale 41-48

 

Circumferential Scales

Stoneroller, Central 38-50

Stoneroller, Largescale 29-38

 

These are the listed differences. Good luck! :blink:


Edited by TimothyHD, 08 October 2017 - 07:32 AM.


#10 Josh Blaylock

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 10:04 AM

Matt,

 

Glad you had a good stop at Silver Creek, which is in the Kentucky River drainage.  I do wish I had some advance notice and been able to meet up with you that morning.  That location is about a 3 mile straight line from my house, and about 5 on the road.  That's a nice little location with several different habitats.  I've been going there to get food for my Coosa Bass, since people keep stealing my minnow trap.

 

DLV appears to be right on the Id's.  However, I do often catch many Spotfin Shiners there, so it's possible you caught some of them.  You're topminnow was likely a Studfish, but a blackstriped topminnow isn't out of the question.

 

 

also.....I need to know.  Do you actually ever catch an adult fish, anytime...ever?  Or, is this just a fun game for your to post the smallest fish you find?


Josh Blaylock - Central KY
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#11 mattknepley

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 11:10 AM

Timothy- my eyes keep crossing every time I start getting to around 35 or so lateral line scales, forget about circumferential scales!

Josh- I'll sift through other photos and see if I can't find some cyprinids that don't look like the ones in the picture above to see if maybe Spotfin were in there, too. The topminnow was a Studfish, I'm sure, but with no photo to back me up I left the id generic. Definitely wasn't a Blackstriped. And yes, Mr. Smartypants, I do catch the occasional adult fish. It's just that Gambusia don't get that big to start with! Actually, there are some bigger fish at the beginning of this post. Even though one is dead... I keep hoping that somebody will help me with a couple of those; if I may bump that part of the thread as you have put the ids for KY to rest.
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#12 TimothyHD

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Posted 10 October 2017 - 07:25 AM

Matt, That makes it easy! If you get cross-eyed and have a ways to go, you've got a central, otherwise it's large scale! Easy-peasy.


Edited by TimothyHD, 10 October 2017 - 07:25 AM.


#13 Nightwing

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Posted 17 October 2017 - 05:49 PM

I'll pipe in on the first fish in the report.  Definitely a drum, and the conflicting habitat/location reports made me chuckle.  Lakes Michigan and Huron(really one large lake if you wish to get technical), at least on the Michigan coasts of both lakes...are full of drum, all the way to the straits.   No idea why the spotty and irregular habitation reports...I'd guess those were simply the places officially sampled or that have officially documented specimens?   Regardless, they are among the most common fish in the lakes.


Paul Willison
Kentwood, Michigan(Lake Michigan watershed).

#14 mattknepley

mattknepley
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Posted 17 October 2017 - 06:25 PM

I'll pipe in on the first fish in the report.  Definitely a drum, and the conflicting habitat/location reports made me chuckle.  Lakes Michigan and Huron(really one large lake if you wish to get technical), at least on the Michigan coasts of both lakes...are full of drum, all the way to the straits.   No idea why the spotty and irregular habitation reports...I'd guess those were simply the places officially sampled or that have officially documented specimens?   Regardless, they are among the most common fish in the lakes.


Thanks for the help, Paul. I honestly couldn't imagine a fish with that much swimming ability would not be present that close to the Straits in one lake and not be in the other. Yeah, technically I'd say you are right, Michigan and Huron are one big lake, but the uniqueness of its shape and the differing "personalities" of the eastern and western portion are enough that they just hafta be considered two separate "individuals." Any guesses as to the interesting condidtion of the drum's cadaver? Think wave action would be enough to do that?

Glad to see you on here again. Been a while since Nightwing has graced my forum crawling!
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."



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