It doesn’t matter if the winter was brutal. It doesn’t matter if the winter was mild. The groundhog could have seen his shadow or not, it doesn’t influence it. It may have rained hard the previous week, or it could be a two-month long drought. Regardless of the weather, this magic, or maybe we can call it madness since that seems to be one of the things we are lacking during this current state of being, happens.
For me and my neck of the woods, it all comes together on a small shallow creek in my hometown.
Every March, more specifically, the middle of March, a golden fish ends its spawn near the base of a dam. Bottlenecked as there is no where else to go, they splish and splash amongst the low water where pebbles and rocks are embedded in the creek bed. By doing so, they handle their mating, bouncing off the top of each other, rubbing side to side, and overall creating havoc in the creek.
The redhorse sucker fish isn’t an overly popular fish to seek. And I have no idea why. There are six main species of redhorse in North America; the shorthead, black, greater, golden, river and silver varieties. The one I am most accustomed to because of this annual pilgrimage is the silver redhorse sucker.
A quick glance from the untrained eye and you would thing this is a carp. The golden scales, and the robust body hints that way. The mouth gives it away though, as underneath a very pronounced snout which gives the fish its name of redhorse, or sometimes called horse fish, the mouth forms what looks like a sucker.
The lips are puffy, enough so that it would make any Hollywood starlet envious, and are perfect for bottom feeding. Primarily feeding on things such as crawfish, worms, and small river clams, they really aren’t as picky as you may think. Perhaps due to the mouth being angled below the head so they can’t really see what they are eating, presentation doesn’t matter much.
Legal to bowfish or fish outright, early on I bowfished a bunch. The shallow water and the tight groups make for easy targets for the most part. Over the last few years I have ventured to catch more using hook and line however.
Being accustomed to fast flowing rapids in creeks, streams and rivers, they are monstrous fighters. They will take your line wherever they wish. Sometimes they will just drop back and ride the flow of the river making the battle long and hard. Sometimes they flip and flap and jump and dive while muscling their way upstream in the currents, stripping line at will in their flight.
And they get big.
In fact, I caught my largest one on this spawn. A little over 10 pounds of muscle and scale. Bright red fins, with a gradient to orange and then gold and then silver. After a strong fight in which the redhorse finally granted me the win, he grunted his disproval.
How did I identify it as a male? Because by natural instinct he released all of his stored fertilizing fluids so that the specie can go on. Not to worry, I let him back in so that he could continue his life’s venture though.
These little quirks of nature in which fish you would never think of as swimming in the shallows that only come around for a couple of weeks each year, on a perfect calendar mind you, is one of the great things about the outdoors. There is so much to discover and experience; this bit of nature’s March Madness.