Sunday morning we set out on a scouting mission to see how the spring fishing was progressing in the southeastern part of Minnesota. We stopped briefly to investigate a promising new location (didn't fish it, but we'll be back later in the year) before heading to Peterson. The river was slightly high and a little off-color, and the riffles held no spawning redhorses. But knowing that pre-spawn fish are eager biters, we found some slower, deep water above the spawning riffle and cast out our lines.
Andy was first to connect, striking on a very light bite and hauling in a beautiful Shorthead Redhorse on his ultralight. The fish was leaking milt as it was being unhooked and released - so we knew the shortheads were in prime spawning condition. This made perfect sense, as the shortheads spawn earlier than all the other local redhorses. A good sign, and a trend that would continue throughout the day.
The next species to fall was the White Sucker. Andy caught this small white way out in the current. He'd been tangling with white suckers on fly tackle all spring, but this was the first while spin-fishing and brought our species count to two for the day.
Feeling left out, I climbed up on top of a big mass of flood debris to present a 'crawler to the deep tail of the pool. No fish were visible, but I had faith that there would be resting fish right above the fast water. Leaning back against a handy tree, I could flip my bait right into the heart of the run.
A few very light taps was all i felt before setting hooks into this tiny little fellow, a Northern Hog Sucker about eight inches long. These fish are pure fun, great fighters for their size and very unique critters. It's always a treat catching these guys, and to get one on my first serious open-water outing was great.
Suddenly Andy had a fish thrashing around by shore, and I jumped down from my perch on the debris pile to slip the net under it. It turned out to be a good-sized Brown Trout, hooked cleanly with a circle hook in the corner of the mouth. These exotics are fairly common on this stretch of the Root, and run large. We snapped a quick photo and let it go. The only other so-called "gamefish" we caught was an anemic-looking five-inch smallmouth bass.
The bites were very light all day long. Typically, you would get no more than a quarter-inch movement of the rod tip indicating a strike. Several times, we picked up to recast and found a fish already on, after no noticeable strike. This big Shorthead Redhorse was one of these fish, and battled me all the way down to the very top of the riffle. If he had gone downstream, I would've gotten pretty wet chasing him!
A fine Golden Redhorse in the hand. Beautiful, clean fish, goldens are a prime target. Although we didn't kep any today for the lack of an adequate supply of ice, we really appreciate the great eating these fish provide. Redhorse patties are the food of kings. Golden redhorses are very scrappy fighters, and the smaller ones often thrash and even go airborne during the fight.
After a flurry of redhorse activity, Andy scored again with this larger Northern Hog Sucker. The Root has a good population of these fun little critters. This marks the first time Andy and I have both caught a hog sucker on the same day. We released the feisty Pugamoo to fight another day.
Halfway through the day, I finally landed a White Sucker. This beauty probably weighed about 3 pounds, which is an above-average specimen. The white sucker spawn has not yet hit full swing, so we can look forward to better fishing for this species as the water continues to warm.
Another awesome redhorse battle comes to an end. I'm leading a big, tired-out Silver Redhorse into the net in this photo, after a gruelling battle on light line. The silvers fight more like carp, dogging deep and lashing out with powerful headshakes. This fish was a five-pounder about 22 inches long.
Andy caught this nice Silver Redhorse with our last nightcrawler. He's trying to control the fish while maintaining his balance on a steep slope. You can easily see the silver's distinctive convex dorsal fin in this photo.
All out of bait, I talked to another fisherman, who had two fine goldens on a stringer. A pickled fish connoiseur, he gave me instructions on how to make delicious pickled sucker slices. We headed home, crossing Trout Run (filled with anglers) and Money Creek, then the Zumbro and Cannon. The Root rarely disappoints. Bring on the Roundup!