written by Todd M. (Doc Flathead)
Last year in early August, my friend Alex and I decided to go on an all out micro round-up down in southern Illinois and south central Missouri, mainly to target Ozark area streams. Illinois, the starting point of the trip, proved to be a challenge. Most water in this region was stained and murky, or looked like the local dumping grounds. Not good sight fishing, which is very helpful when chasing the micros. We did catch some cool stuff including some nicely colored Orangespotted Sunfish, Western Mosquitofish, and a new lifer for Alex, the Gizzard Shad, caught on a size 26 hook and a wad of scum that was growing on the rocks.
A lot of people might think micro-fishing is crazy. Heck, I thought it was pretty nuts the first time I witnessed such a thing like fishing for minnows and baitfish. It is not something that needs to be super technical, which I like. For most situations all you need is a short fishing rod, some split shot, and small hooks ranging in size from 14, all the way to the tiniest of tiny 32. You can purchase these hooks at most fly fishing shops or online at outdoor retailers such as Cabelas. I like to use 1 to 2 lb. test fluorocarbon line. It is really the cheapest fishing I’ve ever done in terms of terminal tackle cost. If you’re in the more expensive spectrum of the sport, micro-fishing is catching on around the country, there are various vendors starting to cater to micro fishermen and women right now.
Our second stop was along Apple Creek, a gin clear steam in SE Missouri and along our route , we thought what the heck, might as well stop and give it a try. It yielded two species very common to lowland Missouri: the Ozark Minnow and Bigeye Shiner.
Next up was the Ozarks. Either of us could hardly wait to fish this region. The area is littered with so many great fishing spots, it was tough to know when to pull over and fish. But when you can see so many micros in a body of water from the road, it is a good idea to stop and give it a try. The first gin clear stream was teaming with micros of all different varieties. Here we caught Creek Chub, Hornyhead Chub, Orangethroat Darter, Bleeding Shiner, Northern Studfish, and really cool Slender Madtoms, which were coming out of holes in the bedrock, and feeding for a short while, then ducking back into cover, all in broad daylight. I would have thought being a Madtom this fish would be nocturnal.
On our way to more pristine Ozark waters, we pulled over and caught some Topminnows.
Finally reaching our final destination of previously fished proven waters, and our spot to sleep for the night, we got into a night bite on some cool species. In the dark, fishing with our headlamps, we caught Banded Sculpin, Ozark Sculpin, Greenside Darter and Logperch. The Sculpins were super cool, really aggressive little buggers. We caught a bunch of Sculpins on this trip. I also lost a Stoneroller on this trip. Not sure if it was a Largescale or Central. They can be a tough at times catch due to their diet of mostly algae scraped from rocks. Oh well, just gives me an excuse to go back to this area again.
I would totally recommend a road trip like this if you live in the midwest. It was an 8-hour drive from home for Alex and I, before we wet a line, which was worth the wait. The area has some amazing scenery and quiet backroads. And best of all its full of micros and just plain cool catches. It’s an excellent place to microfish with exceptionally clear streams and rivers, and, exciting watching new and different species of fish swimming all around you.