Warmouth

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The result of setting minnow traps recently in southern Illinois yielded some cool creatures, including these fine fish. Younger examples, like this one, can sometimes have a purplish sheen to their sides.

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A type of sunfish, Warmouth usually range in size from 4 to 10 inches, but can grow to over 12 inches in length and weigh up to 2-1/4 pounds. They prefer to hide around aquatic vegetation, stumps and snags, and under the banks of streams and ponds.

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This highly aggressive and hardy fish can live in polluted waters (such as the junk=strewn environment shown in the first photo where I caught mine), with low oxygen levels where other species of sunfish cannot survive.

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The primary diet of the Warmouth consists of insects, crayfish and other fish. It has a huge mouth and will attempt to eat just about anything that comes near it.

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Other local names for this fish are Molly, Redeye, Goggle-eye, Red-eyed bream and Strawberry Perch. This was my first encounter with this tough fish and I was glad to finally experience one in the wild.

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Green Sunfish

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While setting minnow traps in southern Illinois, I caught one of these fine fish. The Green Sunfish is not only popular with anglers, but it is also kept as a pet by fish hobbyists.

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Native to a wide area of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, this species prefers areas in sluggish backwaters, lakes, and ponds with gravel, sand, or bedrock bottoms.

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They can be found in very muddy waters and are able to tolerate poor water conditions. The waterway where I caught mine was littered with human trash.

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Green Sunfish tend to spend their time hiding around rocks, submerged logs, plants and other objects that provide cover. They eat aquatic invertebrates and insects that fall into the water; they’ll also consume smaller fish.

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Their average length is 3 to 7 inches. Though small, they are beautiful and certainly a cool creature to come across in my travels.

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Pirate Perch

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While checking the minnow traps that I set in southern Illinois, I discovered this fish which I’ve never seen before.

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Pirate Perch are found in clear warm streams, oxbows and marshes with low currents and tend to congregate where there is dense vegetation, woody debris, root masses and undercut banks.

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They are small, usually 4 to 5 inches, dark brown and can have a purple sheen on their sides. They often have a dark tear drop shaped marking under the eye.

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The Pirate Perch is the sole member of the family Aphredoderidae. What is noteworthy about it is the peculiar position of its anus, which is located near the anal fin when the fish is young but gradually moves forward, to the throat, as the fish matures.

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The reason why the fish’s vent was located at the front of the body instead of the back was revealed by field observations. It turns out that females thrust their heads into tangled root masses to lay their eggs and the males quickly follow suit, putting their heads in the same spot in the tangled root mass to fertilize the eggs. No other North American fish does this.

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Charles C. Abbott, a pioneer ichthyologist, is credited with giving this fish its common name, after observing that a specimen he kept in an aquarium ate only other fish.

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Monkeyface Prickleback

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While exploring tide pools in north-central California, I came across this wonderful little fish. It tends to stay near the coast, rather than roaming the open ocean, and is often found in rocky areas.

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Young Monkeyface Pricklebacks, like this one, feed on zooplankton and crustaceans, while adults are primarily herbivorous, mainly consuming red and green algae.

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These long, slender fish, grow to about 18 inches in length and possess the unfishlike ability to breathe and survive out of water while hidden under seaweed or rocks. This was one of many fun finds during my tidal pool adventure.

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Largemouth Bass

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This is an olive-green fish marked by a series of dark, sometimes black, blotches forming a jagged horizontal stripe along each side. Largemouth Bass are the most popular game fish in North America.

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It’s mouth size is legendary and allows it to consume smaller fish, snails, crayfish, frogs, snakes, salamanders, bats, birds, mammals and baby alligators.

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As adults they are tend to be solitary fish and are often the apex predator in their habitat. Largemouth Bass hide in water vegetation or under roots and limbs of sunken trees, and striking out at their prey from the shadows.

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This is an adaptable fish that can live in swamps, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, creeks and large rivers. Their average length is about 18 inches and their lifespan can be more than 10 years.

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This fish is known by a variety of regional names, such as the Widemouth Bass, Bigmouth Bass, Black Bass, Bucketmouth, Largies, Potter’s Fish, Green Bass, Green Trout, Gilsdorf Bass, Oswego Bass and LMB.

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What ever you call them, they are a lot of fun to catch!

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Pumpkinseed

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I caught one of Ohio’s most colorful sunfish while on a recent fishing outing. Though native to most of the northeastern United States, Pumpkinseed have been introduced into other areas of North America as well as Europe. Their native range extends further north than any other sunfish species in their genus.

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They have an orange-to-yellow belly and many small, brown-to-orange spots scattered over their sides. The coloration of the scales of the Pumpkinseed is one of the most vibrant of any freshwater fish. The ear flap features a distinctive red-orange spot at the rear edge.

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Pumpkinseed prefer clear, non-flowing water with dense submerged aquatic vegetation. This species resides in places where it can find underwater shelter to hide. Adults are usually 5-8 inches and less than half a pound, but they can reach 10 inches and 1 pound.

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They are much more common in lakes and reservoirs of Northern Ohio than in Southern Ohio. Pumpkinseed eat larval insects, some adult insects, snails, and occasionally small fish.

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This fish is also referred to as Pond Perch, Common Sunfish, Punkys, Sunfish, Sunny, and Kivver.

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Channel Catfish

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While doing a little summertime fishing, I hooked one of these fine creatures. Channel Catfish are North America’s most numerous catfish species. In the United States, they are the most fished catfish species; their popularity for food has contributed to the rapid expansion of aquaculture of this species.

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Like other catfish, they have no scales, a single bony spine in each pectoral fin and the dorsal fin, and 8 barbels (whiskers) around the mouth.

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Channel Catfish live in a diverse array of habitats, including four of the five Great Lakes (Lake Superior excluded), inland lakes and medium to large rivers. Adult catfish typically inhabit deep pools with log jams or rocks for cover during the day and move into shallow water at night.

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They are capable of living more than 15 years, and individuals up to 24 years of age have been reported. In ideal habitats, Channel Catfish often grow to over 30 inches and weigh more than 10 pounds.

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Like all catfish, they will eat pretty much anything. Their diet includes insect larvae, crayfish, mollusks, small fish and clams, snails, worms and seeds. Channel Catfish mainly feed at night, and use their barbels to find food in the deep, dark water. Their impressive size and high quality flesh make these catfish deservedly popular as a sport fish.

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Western Mosquitofish

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This small fish is dull grey or brown in color with no bars of bands on the sides, it has a rounded tail and an upturned mouth. This species is not native to Ohio, but was stocked in western Lucas County in 1947 and now lives in scattered locations throughout the state. Females (2 to 3 inches long) are two or three times larger than males and more stocky.

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The Western Mosquitofish feeds primarily on zooplankton and invertebrate prey at the top of the water column. As its name implies, one of its main food items is mosquito larvae. It is well known for its high feeding capacity. Consumption rates of 42–167% of their body weight per day have been documented.

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Because of their reputation as mosquito control agents, they have been stocked routinely and indiscriminately in temperate and tropical areas around the world. In the United States the first known introductions of mosquitofish took place in the early 1900s. It is commonly found in Lake Erie and even sold as a bait fish.

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They prefer ponds or very slow flowing streams with clear water and abundant aquatic vegetation. This species is one of the few freshwater fish species that bears live young. The Western Mosquitofish can spawn from May through September with females carrying an average of 40 young.

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Western Mosquitofish

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This a little gray fish with a short body, upturned mouth, and a flattened head. This species is not native to Ohio, but was stocked in western Lucas County in 1947. Mosquitofish are small in comparison to many other freshwater fish, with females reaching an overall length of almost 3 inches and males at a length of 1-1/2 inches.

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The name “Mosquitofish” was given because the food item of this fish often consists of large numbers of mosquito larvae, relative to body size. They eat a variety of other zooplankton, mainly insects and their larva.

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Mosquitofish are livebearers with females carrying an average of 40 young. Because the young are born live they are already able to swim around and feed much like the adults.

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They prefer ponds or very slow flowing streams with clear water and abundant aquatic vegetation. Mosquitofish are often introduced as a biological control for mosquito larvae. As a result they can be found sporadically throughout Ohio.

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The Western Mosquitofish is one of the few commercially available fish that are native to North America. They were originally found in the Mississippi River and in the streams and rivers of Illinois and Indiana. They are a very hardy aquarium inhabitant and do well in a variety of situtaions. I’ve had one for well over a year and a half and it is a neat native species to keep.

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Southern Flounder

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I did a bit of fishing when visiting South Carolina earlier this month and caught one of these cool creatures. This fish likes to reside on mud, and to a lesser degree, sand bottoms in relatively shallow water. Southern Flounders commonly enter fresh water and have been found 100 miles up rivers.

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The body is very compressed laterally and right side is white and eyeless. The left side has both eyes and is olive brown in color with dark and white spots.

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Flounders are known for their unique and spectacular transformation from a normal-looking fish with an eye on each side of the head to both eyes on the same side of the head. Movement of the right eye to the left side of the head begins when the fish is a to ½ inch in length and is complete when the fish is ¾ inch to 1 inch in length. During this time, the left side develops its dark color and the right side turns white.

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These fish are well adapted for ambushing quick-moving prey such as fish or shrimp. Their flattened shape allows them to become nearly invisible on the bottom. Their brain has large optic lobes to provide them with good vision, and they have large mouths and strong teeth.

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Typically Southern Flounder range from 15 to 18 inches, but the fish can grow to as large as 33 inches. It was an awesome experience to meet one of these fish “in person.”

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