July 23 – Catfishing and dragonfly hunting

Sometimes I am asked if I fish for the well known giant catfish in the Mississippi River, and the answer is that I don’t, at least not often.  This kind of fishing is a specialty that takes years of learning to master, and I haven’t been willing to put in the time.  Fortunately, I have a relatively new friend that has put the time in to learn these skills.  Plus, he has all the necessary equipment.  He generously offered to take me out one day recently for a day on the river.  I am sworn to not reveal his secrets, however.  We started before sunrise, got bait, and scouted for locations.  We tried a few likely locations, but couldn’t raise a bite.  We were targeting blue catfish, which grow to be the largest of all the species in the Mississippi.  The world record 124-pounder was caught downriver near Alton just a few years ago (2005).  We weren’t counting on anything in that size range, but we were prepared.  Finally, around noon I got a hit on one of my rods.  When I picked it up, I couldn’t believe the pull it was giving me.  Part of it was the force of the river current on the fish.  I had to pump it in like it was a marlin.  It was a blue cat, thankfully.  At 17 lb, it was not exceptional by any means, but it was still the biggest catfish I’ve caught ever.  My goal is to catch one over 30 lb, which is the minimum for a Missouri master angler award for that species.

A fighting belt might have been appropriate.  My one and only blue cat–so far.

My buddy caught a small flathead catfish, and that was our take on the day, though we released them both.  It got pretty hot out and we hit the road.  One of the fun things we did was drive the boat around below the dam and make the Asian carp jump.  They really come out with a lot of force.  I’m glad none hit me in the head.  It was fun to watch around the outlet for the hydroelectric dam the current makes the little Asian carp jump against the wall.  A group of American White Pelicans hangs out nearby, presumably picking off the ones that stun themselves.

As I did last year, I had the good fortune to go to Shaw Nature Reserve to teach high school kids about dragonflies.    The afternoon I arrived was overcast, and I had little opportunity for photography.  I went out anyway to see what I could find.  I got some interesting effects just by using all the camera setting tricks I could think of and holding the camera very still.  The dim light resulted in an almost ethereal quality.

Male blue dasher Robber fly

The first day it rained on us right away.  I had neglected to bring my rain jacket, and got soaked.  However, the sun came out and we all dried out and got plenty warm.  We saw two new species, the jade clubtail and the red saddlebags.  I was photographing everything in sight, of course.  The second day, it was just plain hot all day.  Click through to see the complete “greatest hits” collection.  I was happy to get some dragonfly behaviors recorded (feeding, mating, oviposition) in addition to standard portraits.

Black swallowtail Halloween pennants mating

Zebra swallowtail.  I’ve been waiting ~5 years to get a shot like this Slaty skimmer

Male eastern pondhawk eating male eastern amberwing Blue dasher ovipositing

Male eastern pondhawk eating a pearl crescent Yellow-billed cuckoo. A long wait for this opportunity as well.

I found this conehead while mowing the lawn.  He was a great subject for the insect studio.

Neoconocephalus

I spent one afternoon collecting wasps at the rental house.  There was a colony of Great Black Digger Wasps nesting under the porch.  What luck!    I got about 10 data points out of them.  They forage on katydids, and they have a hard time getting them through a crack in the concrete.  So various birds have learned to steal from them, mostly house sparrows and robins.  They also steal from each other.

Sphex pennsylvanicus with its prey, a bush katydid (Scudderia).

 

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